Nearly 8 percent of the U.S. population has diabetes, a condition that causes high blood sugar levels and a host of related health problems. The majority of people suffer from type 2 diabetes, a form that can develop at any age and, according to the Mayo Clinic, is often preventable.As it stands, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, and while nearly 18 million people have already been diagnosed, another 5.7 have not. Another 57 million suffer from pre-diabetes, a condition that puts them at risk of developing diabetes, and its related complications.
In India there are 60 million diabetics as per some estimates. The diabetes incidence is increasing at an alarming rate not only in cities but also in villages.
Diabetes is a “slow subtle killer” usually with initially little to no pain. From the onset it can oh-so-slowly rob you of your quality of life without much notice … at least at first … even for years! Often it progresses so slowly that by the time many people realize how far and how bad it has become it’s simply too late.
As the American Diabetes Association explains:
“In type 2 diabetes, either the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells ignore the insulin. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose for energy.
When you eat food, the body breaks down all of the sugars and starches into glucose, which is the basic fuel for the cells in the body. Insulin takes the sugar from the blood into the cells. When glucose builds up in the blood instead of going into cells, it can lead to diabetes complications.”
Glucose builds up in your bloodstream because your cells have become resistant to insulin, and your pancreas cannot produce enough to lower the sugar in your blood. While the reasons this happens are not entirely understood, lifestyle factors, including inactivity, also play a role.
You may not experience any symptoms, especially if you have pre-diabetes, but some signs you may have the condition include:
- Increased thirst and frequent urination
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent infections
- Blurred vision
- Slow-healing sores
After these initial symptoms, long-term complications can develop. People with diabetes are at an increased risk of:
- Heart disease and stroke
- Nerve damage, which can lead to a loss of feeling in your limbs
- Eye damage (diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among 20-74-year-olds)
- Kidney damage (diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure)
- Foot damage (including infections and damage that may require amputation)
- Bone and joint problems, including osteoporosis
- Skin and mouth problems
- High blood pressure
A Simple Way to Drastically Lower Your Risk of Diabetes …
Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition and one that can be difficult to manage, so your best route is prevention. Fortunately, healthy lifestyle choices can help you to prevent type 2 diabetes, and even reverse the disease if you have pre-diabetes.
What is one of the most important lifestyle choices you should make? Get regular exercise.
Exercise can have a significant impact on your risk of diabetes. It can even help fight it if you already have it. In fact, according to a study from researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia, exercise can prevent and fight type 2 diabetes in as little as 15 minutes a day!
“Many people can fight type II diabetes through diet and exercise alone,” John Thyfault, professor in the MU College of Human Environmental Sciences’ Department of Nutritional Sciences, told Science Daily. “It is important to ward off diabetes early. Exercise has proven to be effective at all levels. At any stage of type II diabetes, from an obese child to a person dependent for 20 years on insulin injections, exercise could have a dramatic effect on improving insulin sensitivity.”
In the study, diabetic rats had significantly increased insulin sensitivity in certain muscles following acute muscle activity. The findings, researchers say, would likely translate to people as well.
“In relation to a person with type II diabetes, this would mean that they could lessen their dependence on insulin therapy to control their blood glucose levels or potentially control glucose levels without any drug by just increasing their daily activity levels in addition to the right diet,” Thyfault told Science Daily.
Other studies, too, have found exercise benefits diabetics. In a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, those who exercised using aerobic activities and resistance training had improved blood sugar control. Further, according to the American Diabetes Association, exercise improves blood glucose management by making you more sensitive to the insulin you make, as well as burning glucose (calories), both of which lower blood glucose levels.
The effects of exercise are truly significant. In 2001, a National Institutes of Health (NIH) study of over 3,200 Americans at high risk of diabetes found that walking 30 minutes a day and losing a bit of weight cut diabetes risk in half!
What Type of Exercise Should You be Getting?
A well-rounded exercise program, one that incorporates aerobic activity, strength training, stretching and core work is best. Try to devote at least 30 minutes of each day to some type of exercise at least five days out of the week.
- Your “Commitment”: Making a promise to do something, whether it is a workout, seeking better health or just being a better person.
- Your “Perseverance”: Establishing a perpetual belief that “If I try, I will succeed.” You build toward your goal one solid step at a time.
- Your “Self-Control”: Coming to the realization that you are responsible for everything you do. How you react to the events happening in your life is the only outcome of any event that you can consciously determine.
- Your “Integrity”: Not examining the result, only the effort made. It is the level of honesty in the quality of effort you give to the execution of whatever you strive to do — it has to be the best you can do.
- Gaining, Getting, Giving “Love”: Openness and respect for yourself, others and what life has to offer. It is the willingness to explore and interact with people, to listen, learn and share, and to always set the best example possible.
Further, an excellent addition to any exercise routine, simple as it may sound, is stretching. A few well-performed stretches can do wonders for your body and your mind.
Healthy Eating is Important, Too!
A healthy diet and exercise go hand-in-hand when it comes to managing and preventing diabetes. The types of food you eat can affect risk factors within your control even beyond diabetes, such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and obesity.
So make sure to incorporate vegetables, fruit, whole-grain and high-fiber foods, low-mercury fish, lean proteins and other nutrient-rich foods into your daily diet. Also strive to get your food from healthy sources, such as a local farmer’s market, where you can find organic produce foods and grass-fed meat.
As you incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet, remember that variety is the spice of life! The more different varieties you try on a regular basis, the more interesting, tasty and healthy your meals will become!