Diabetes 101

Diabetes is a disease in which our blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels are too high. Glucose comes from the foods we eat. Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into our cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, our body does not make insulin.  In type 2 diabetes, there is an impairment in the way the body regulates and uses sugar (glucose) as a fuel. This long-term (chronic) condition results in too much sugar circulating in the bloodstream. Eventually, high blood sugar levels can lead to disorders of the circulatory, nervous and immune systems.

In type 2 diabetes, there are primarily two interrelated problems at work. Our pancreas does not produce enough insulin — a hormone that regulates the movement of sugar into our cells — and cells respond poorly to insulin and take in less sugar.

Type 2 diabetes used to be known as adult-onset diabetes, but both type 1 and type 2 diabetes can begin during childhood and adulthood. Type 2 is more common in older adults, but the increase in the number of children with obesity has led to more cases of type 2 diabetes in younger people.

There's no “cure” for type 2 diabetes, but losing weight, eating well and exercising can help us manage the disease and possibly reverse it. If diet and exercise aren't enough to manage our blood sugar, we may also need diabetes medications or insulin therapy. 

For the purpose of our brief time together with this article, we will focus on type 2 diabetes.  The main risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes are:

  • Weight – being overweight or obese is the biggest risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Fat Distribution – storing fat mainly in our abdomen, rather than our hips and thighs, indicates a greater risk.  
  • Inactivity – the less active we are, the greater our risk.  Physical activity helps control our weight, burns up glucose as energy and makes cells more sensitive to insulin.
  • Family history – the risk of type 2 diabetes increases if a parent or sibling has diabetes.  Though this risk factor seems to be tied to familial eating habits and activity levels that contribute to being overweight or obese.

The good news is there are powerful ways to greatly decrease our chances of developing type 2 diabetes.  Even if we have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, these are great ways to reduce or possibly reverse the effects of type 2 diabetes.

  1. Lose weight – keep body weight at a recommended level with a BMI (body mass index) in the healthy range. This means a BMI below 25.
  2. Be active – strive for at least 60 minutes of activity each day. This activity can involve exercises like lifting weights, jogging, riding a bike or simply walking.  Turn off the TV, log off the computer and get active.
  3. Eat healthy, nutritional foods – this means whole foods that don’t come in a bag, a pouch, a box or a can. Strive to make meals at home with vegetables, lean meats and fruits. Eat like our life depends on it, because it does.

How we approach our lifestyle and eating habits can make a huge difference as to whether diabetes will bother our lives. I encourage everyone to be active, eat well and stay healthy. Be Blessed.

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