A new study has confirmed one of the key concepts of the BaleDoneen Method: Not only does optimizing your cardiovascular wellness help you avoid heart attacks and strokes, but as an added benefit, it can also prevent type 2 diabetes. The researchers tracked nearly 6,000 people who were initially free of diabetes for up to 27 years and found that those who had heart-healthy habits during middle age had the lowest lifetime risk for developing the blood-sugar disease.

The study, which was published in European Journal of Preventive Cardiology in October, also reported that even in people who were at high genetic risk for diabetes, following an ideal cardiovascular lifestyle reduced the likelihood of developing it by near 60 percent. But what, exactly, are the most effective lifestyle measures to keep diabetes at bay? Here are seven proven steps to slash your risk by up to 85 percent — even if you are already prediabetic.

  1. Lose a few pounds. Being overweight or obese is the leading risk factor for type 2 diabetes. A recent study of more than 3,000 prediabetic patients reported that a modest drop in body weight — as little as 3 percent — trimmed the risk of progressing to full-blown diabetes by 38 percent, and a weight drop of 10 percent reduced it by 85 percent. What’s more, the researchers reported that the effects of weight loss, achieved through a healthy diet and exercise, were superior to those of medication for the prevention of type 2 diabetes and its many dangerous complications, such as heart attacks, strokes, dementia, vision loss, chronic kidney disease and a long list of other devastating conditions.
  2. Battle belly fat and keep diabetes at bay with interval training. A large waistline (above 40 inches for a man and above 35 inches for a woman) doubles risk for heart disease and more than triples it for diabetes. If you have insulin resistance (the root cause of 70 percent of heart attacks and almost all cases of type 2 diabetes) or metabolic syndrome, the best way to combat these problems is interval training, in which you alternate short bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity. In a study of overweight people, this type of workout resulted in weight loss, a slimmer waistline, lower blood sugar and improved insulin signaling. The BaleDoneen Method and the American Heart Association advise at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (such as brisk walking, biking, jogging or swimming) at least five days a week, plus strength training at least twice a week. Consult your provider before starting a new workout to make sure it’s right for you.
  3. Dial down inflammation and torch body fat with intermittent fasting. Most people think of intermittent fasting (IF) as a weight-loss plan because it helps your body burn fat. However, a recent analysis of the science of IF published in New England Journal of Medicine found that it has many other benefits, including revving up your metabolism, lowering blood sugar, decreasing belly fat and reducing chronic inflammation — effects that cut your risk for a wide range of health problems, including obesity, dementia and cancer. As we recently reported, IF also helps reduce or even reverse insulin resistance and may add years to your life. There are a few variations of this eating plan, with the most common being the 16/8 approach, which involves fasting for 16 hours a day and limiting your daily eating to 8 hours. During that time, you can have three small meals or two slightly bigger ones. It’s crucial to focus on healthy foods in moderate portions.
  4. Partner with your dental provider to upgrade your oral health. About half of adults ages 30 and older have periodontal disease (PD), a chronic oral infection that can lead to tooth loss. Also known as “gum disease,” PD has been shown to raise blood sugar levels and is linked to increased risk for developing the type 2 form of the disease. Here’s more motivation to take great care of your teeth and gums: A landmark, peer-reviewed BaleDoneen study was the first to identify oral bacteria from PD as a contributing cause of cardiovascular disease, the leading killer of American men and women. Check out our easy, four-step plan to optimize your oral health.
  5. Stress less. Having a moderate-to-high level of stress more than doubles risk for developing type 2 diabetes three years later, according to a 2017 study of more than 12,000 middle-aged women. The researchers theorize that by repeatedly activating the body’s “fight-or-flight” response, chronic tension may increase levels of inflammatory compounds and impair the metabolism of glucose. One of the best ways to tame tension is mindfulness, which has been shown to have powerful cardiovascular benefits. In people who already have diabetes, small studies suggest that mindfulness can lead to improvements in body weight, blood sugar control and blood pressure and may also enhance psychological well-being.
  6. Control your blood pressure. In a seven-year study of more than 4 million initially healthy people whose average age was 46, those with high blood pressure were 77 percent more likely to develop diabetes. Nearly half of U.S. adults (46 percent) — many of whom are undiagnosed — are considered to have high blood pressure under recently updated guidelines. If your blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg or higher, talk to your provider about how to reduce it. Treatments include lifestyle changes, and in many cases, medication.

Sleep well. Many studies have shown that people who sleep seven to eight hours a night have the lowest risk for type 2 diabetes, while slumbering for five or fewer hours — or more than nine — raises risk for the disease by up to 52 percent. Chronically skimping on slumber is linked to reduced production of insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar, and also increases risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression and other chronic disorders. To make sure you get the restorative rest you need for optimal health, try our five natural ways to sleep better.