When people are diagnosed with Diabetes, their reactions range from, ‘So what, another pill,’ to, ‘My life is over.’ We’re going to examine the serious complications of the disease, the available treatments and, most importantly, how you can personally reduce the complications and medicines through diet and exercise to lose weight. Since Type 1 Diabetes occurs in childhood, with medicine and diet control required for survival, the focus in this article will be on the more common disease, Type 2 Diabetes.
What Is Type 2 Diabetes? This is a disease where the body has been overfed with carbohydrates (carbs) for so long, it develops a weird kind of reaction to them. Insulin is a chemical your body makes, to turn carbs into energy in your cells, but, when you’ve been overdosing on carbs for a long time, your cells become resistant to the insulin and can’t absorb the energy. Your cells begin starving even though there’s more than enough carbs for energy. The carbs stack up in your body as blood sugar (glucose) and eventually get added around your waist as fat, leading to obesity. The fat and starving cells make diabetics sluggish and tired, and almost continually hungry. It’s easy for Diabetics to develop food addictions because of this hunger. As we load up to satisfy our hunger, we send our blood sugar into a roller-coaster, where we risk stroke at high-sugar times and Diabetic coma at low-sugar times.
What Are The Diabetic Health Risks? Stroke and coma are just the 2 immediate extremes of Diabetes. When you add in the fact that Diabetes is the number one cause of kidney failure, a major cause of cardio-vascular diseases and a contributing factor in many cancers, pneumonia and other serious diseases, Diabetes could be the number one cause of death in the U.S. Short of death, Diabetes is nothing to ignore. It’s a leading cause of blindness, nerve diseases, periodontal disease, vaginal yeast infections and amputations of fingers, arms, legs, ears, noses and other extremities. It slows healing from all diseases and infections. Diabetes needs to be treated seriously in order to extend your life and retain a high quality of life.
What Treatments Are Available? Diabetes treatment can be as simple as monitoring and diet/exercise control, to adding a pill to your daily medicines, to insulin supplements, to complex and painful surgery and living assistance for normal daily activities. There are new treatments being discovered all the time but you should have the attitude of ‘less-is-more’ when it comes to treatment. The less treatment you need, the longer and better your life will be. Even with minimum treatment, you’ll need to monitor your blood glucose levels regularly to make sure everything is going right. Your doctor will recommend a home glucose monitor, other diabetic supplies and blood glucose lab tests about every 3 months. As your disease progresses, the monitoring and labs will be more extensive. Once you’re taking medicine, you should test your blood glucose at least twice daily, when you get up and 1-2 hours after your biggest meal. If you’re using insulin injections, you’ll be testing more often than that. No matter what stage of Diabetes treatment you’re in, diet and exercise can help.
How Do Weight Loss Diet And Exercise Help Manage Diabetes? Unfortunately, many people approach Diabetes like a headache…taking a pill is enough. With this disease, you have to look at diet and exercise as medicine. I reduced my average blood glucose by 50% (to normal) in 6 months just by changing my diet and exercise. Most medicines don’t claim to do as much. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) [http://www.diabetes.org/home.jsp] is a great place to learn about the disease, treatment, diet, research, etc. Using the ADA diet as a guide, I ate smaller meals with 3 in-between meal snacks, keeping a balance of proteins, carbs and fats, I added high fiber fruits and vegetables, lots of water, and I watched my cholesterol. I should point out that I was less hungry on this diet than when I ate without control. I did aerobic walking and other exercises for 30 minutes, 5-6 days per week. As diabetics, if we reduce our weight by just 5 %, we can make improvements of up to 30% in our blood sugar. For a 200 pound person, that means losing 10 pounds…anybody can do that. You can find more information on diet and weight loss all over the internet. Just be careful to consult your doctor and not do any fasting type diets because they lower your blood glucose too much.
We who suffer from Diabetes need to recognize that this disease will progress, but we can control how fast it progresses. If we just take the meds the doctor gives us, the prognosis isn’t good for the length of our lives or the quality. If we decide to fight the disease by controlling our diet and exercise, we may not need medicine for years, we’ll add many years to our lives and have a far better quality of life during those years. What’s your choice?