Imagine a utopia for glucose-a neighborhood where normal, balanced blood sugar is a way of life, a neighborhood where...

• There are many opportunities to be physically active

• Local sports clubs and other facilities offer many opportunities to get exercise,

• It is pleasant to walk

• It is easy to walk

• You often see other people exercising jogging, bicycling or playing sports

• There is a large selection of fresh fruits and vegetables available

• The fresh fruits and vegetables are of high quality

• A large selection of low-fat food products are available.

Well, scientists conducted a survey asking thousands of people if they lived in just such a neighborhood. Their answers-published in the Archives of Internal Medicine-have produced new insights into the causes of diabetes.

Reducing risk by 38%

Researchers from the School of Public Health at Drexel University in Philadelphia analyzed the survey responses of 2,285 people, aged 45 to 84, who checked "yes" next to any of the above nine descriptions that fit their neighborhood, and checked "no" next to any of those that didn't fit.

In the five years after taking the survey, those who lived in healthy neighborhoods-neighborhoods where opportunities to exercise are abundant and fresh, low-fat food is available-were 38% less likely to develop diabetes.

Walk and eat well

Even if you live in a healthy neighborhood, you might not do what is best for your health, says Amy Auchincloss, PhD, the study leader. She recommends...

Personal action. "Choose routine activities that involve physical exertion-activities that will help you be physically active, even when you don't feel like it," she says. "Walk rather than use a car if the traveling distance is less than two miles. Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator."

She also says to minimize your purchase of processed, prepared foods, opting instead for fresh.

"To prevent diabetes, eat more 'anti-diabetes' foods, which include whole grains, fruits and fresh vegetables-particularly dark green leafy vegetables," agrees Christopher Ervin, MD, a specialist in public health and former director of programs for the Georgia Diabetes Coalition. "And walk as often as possible starting with 15 minutes a day, and gradually working your way up to one hour a day."

• Social action. "There are community groups and planning organizations that you can join to help advocate for making your city or town healthier," says Dr. Auchincloss.

"Many cities, for example, have public transportation advocacy organizations that also advocate for improving infrastructure for safe walking and bicycling." Examples...

• Transportation Alternatives. 111 John Street, Suite 260, NY, NY 10038. 212-629- 8080,

• Smart Growth Network. Maryland Department of Planning, 410-767-7179, www.

Similarly, says Dr. Auchincloss, many organizations advocate for more fresh food in urban areas. Two such organizations...

• The Food Trust. One Penn Center, Suite 900, 1617 John F. Kennedy Blvd., Philadelphia, PA 19103. 215-575-0444,

• The Prevention Institute. 221 Oak Street, Oakland, CA 94607. 510-444-7738, www.pre

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