How to avoid diabetes

It's the "it" disease of the 21st century -- and if you don't know someone who has it now, just wait.

Odds are, you will soon.

"It" is diabetes, and new diabetes statistics from the CDC show it's on the rise in nearly every state -- and most of the increases are as super-sized as the nation's growing collective waistline.

In Oklahoma, for example, diabetes statistics shot up by 226 percent between 1995 and 2010. In Kentucky, the increase was 158 percent.

I could give you the rest of the diabetes statistics, but we'd be here a while: The disease rate shot up by 100 percent or more in 18 states, and 50 percent or more in 42 of them, according to the CDC.

In total, close to 19 million Americans have now been diagnosed with diabetes, while 7 million more are believed to have the disease and not know it.

Don't expect these rates to slow anytime soon, since another 80 million people have pre-diabetes, or the elevated blood sugar levels and other risk factors that will lead to the disease in up to 30 percent of them within five years.

That means the diabetes statistics could actually double by 2018. And if the current trends continue, a third of all Americans -- more than 100 million people -- could have the disease by the middle of the century.

Not next century... this century.

Diabetes means more than a lifetime of checking blood sugar levels and an endless supply of meds. It means a higher risk of serious and deadly health problems -- including an early death from heart disease.

If you don't have the disease yet, the time to act is now. There are three simple steps you can take starting today to stop yourself from becoming one of these diabetes statistics.

1. Lose weight. Obesity is one of the biggest risk factors for diabetes -- and the same diet of processed junk foods that will expand your waistline will also cause your insulin levels to spike and fall until you develop insulin resistance. You can make dramatic improvements to your diet, improve your blood sugar control, and kick-start your weight-loss program all at the same time with step number 2.

2. Avoid high-fructose corn syrup. This sweetener has become one of the most common food additives in the United States, in everything from bread to salad dressing. But studies have shown it may cause more weight gain than regular sugar and increase your risk of diabetes at the same time. I'll have more on this link later in the week, so keep an eye on your inbox.

3. Be sure to get enough vitamin D. It's one of the nation's top nutritional deficiencies, and people with low levels of the sunshine vitamin have a higher risk of diabetes. Your own needs will vary, but most people need a supplement with between 2,000 IU and 5,000 IU per day.

There's more to it than that, of course, and there are some nutrients and even specific foods that can help cut your risk.

For example, one new study finds that black tea drinkers have a lower risk of diabetes than people who drink little to no tea. Green tea has also shown to help lower the risk.

If you're one of the nation's 80 million prediabetics, speak to a holistic physician who can help you come up with a comprehensive plan to avoid the disease. And if you're in the southern California area, make an appointment to see me at the Stengler Center for Integrative Medicine.