6 Common Habits That Spike Your Diabetes Risk, Experts Say


Eating a healthy diet is probably the lifestyle choice that is most associated with decreasing your risk of Type 2 diabetes. "Everyone knows… to eat healthfully," says Sarah Rettinger, MD, an endocrinologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California. Ditching sugary, fried, and processed foods and committing to a healthy diet that includes berries, fatty fish, and dark green leafy vegetables is important for decreasing your risk of Type 2 diabetes.

In fact, many other daily habits can help you avoid or manage the common condition—and plenty of others that shouldn't be part of your routine at all, because they spike your risk of diabetes (among other potential illnesses). Read on to find out about six habits you should drop, now.

READ THIS NEXT: If You Notice This in the Bathroom, Get Checked for Diabetes, Experts Say.

Skimping on sleep
Jay Yuno/iStock

"​​One in three US adults isn't getting enough sleep, and over time, this can increase the risk for Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression," warns the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And if you already have diabetes, "too little sleep negatively affects every area of your management, including how much you eat, what you choose to eat, how you respond to insulin, and your mental health," says the site.

"Night and day can blur, especially with exposure to screens," says Rettinger, adding that our circadian rhythms need to be reinforced. "Try to wake up at the same time every morning, even on the weekends," she suggests. And if you're dealing with chronic insomnia, there are a lot of different ways to approach the issue.

Sitting too much

Making physical activity part of your daily routine is important, but a sedentary lifestyle can still pose health hazards to people who exercise. "Even if we are exercising, long periods of sitting can create metabolic changes—increasing blood sugars, and decreasing muscle strength and cardiovascular health," Rettinger cautions.

In fact, AARP reports on a "large study of more than 475,000 people, published in 2021 in Diabetes Care, [which] found that replacing just 30 minutes a day of sedentary behavior with physical activity was associated with a 6 to 31 percent lower risk of Type 2 diabetes."

"To break the sedentary habit, start by noting how much time you spend sitting," recommends AARP. "Then look for ways to reduce that amount."

Rettinger suggests simple activities such as going for a stroll, walking up and down stairs, or doing some jumping jacks. "Anything to get your heart rate up a bit, or to make you a little out of breath," she says. "Over the course of a day, these mini-breaks really add up."

Zhang Rong/iStock

"People who smoke are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes," says Rose Lin, MD, an endocrinologist at Providence Saint John's Health Center.

"The more cigarettes you smoke, the higher your risk for Type 2 diabetes," the CDC says. "People who smoke cigarettes are 30 to 40 percent more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than people who don't smoke." The CDC also warns that "people with diabetes who smoke are more likely than those who don't smoke to have trouble with insulin dosing and with managing their condition."

And let's not forget that "Smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, lung diseases, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis," as per the CDC. "Smoking also increases risk for tuberculosis, certain eye diseases, and problems of the immune system, including rheumatoid arthritis."

For more health news sent directly to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Lack of socializing

"Positive human connection lowers our cortisol (stress hormone) levels, and decreases anxiety and depression risks," explains Rettinger. Socializing has also been found to potentially reduce the risk of dementia. In addition, the authors of a study published in the journal Diabetologia explained that "Depression is the most widely studied psychosocial risk factor for diabetes, and loneliness and depression are suggested to have a reciprocal relationship."

"Our findings suggest that loneliness increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes," the researchers concluded.

Drinking in excess
Drazen Zigic/iStock

Drinking alcohol impacts your blood sugar, as well as your ability to make healthy lifestyle choices. It also has potentially negative effects on your heart and brain health.

"Drinking heavily has both a direct and indirect impact on insulin resistance which is the hallmark of Type 2 diabetes," Lisa McAdams, MD, told WebMD. "People who drink heavily tend to consume a lot of calories which may cause them to gain weight [and] being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes."

McAdams warns that "alcohol may also directly increase your body's resistance to insulin, making it more difficult for your body to process the sugar in your blood."