Are you battling with type 2 diabetes, pre-diabetes, or have a loved one with type 2 diabetes? If so, you may feel unsure about the next steps to take in your health journey. Thankfully, in addition to managing the diabetes with medications, there are many lifestyle intervention strategies to practice to further manage or even reverse the disease completely. With over 80 million adults in the United States with pre-diabetes or diabetes, you are not alone in this health and fitness journey.What is Diabetes?
The first thing to understand is the controlling of your blood sugar. Your body takes the foods you eat, especially carbohydrate-dense foods, and breaks them down into tiny sugars called “glucose” for energy. You can only use this glucose, however, if the pancreas works perfectly to secrete a hormone called “insulin”. Unfortunately, in individuals with type 2 diabetes, there may be an issue with the pancreas where it doesn’t secrete enough insulin or the body stops responding to insulin. This occurrence leads to levels of glucose in the blood, or blood sugar, remaining too high. Doctors will use two blood tests to determine if blood sugar levels declare someone diabetic. A fasting blood sugar test is a more short-term outlook on blood sugar levels and can be done from a finger prick. An HbA1C blood test provides a long-term, more accurate outlook on someone’s average blood sugar percentage over the past several months. If a fasting blood glucose reads at least 125mg/dL and/or an HbA1C test reads at least 6.5%, a doctor will most likely diagnose a patient with diabetes.What Does Diabetes Mean to Your Health?
As mentioned in an earlier blog post, Is Sugar the New Cigarette, high levels of sugar in the blood can scrape along the walls of blood vessels and cause swelling, or inflammation. These swollen blood vessels can occur anywhere in the body but most significantly affect the smaller vessels of the kidneys, eyes, nervous system, and blood flow to the hands and feet. As a result, people with type 2 diabetes are more susceptible to cardiovascular disease, neuropathy or nerve pain, kidney damage, or retinopathy.What Can We Do About This?
The good thing about type 2 diabetes is that it’s completely reversible! Lifestyle changes of diet and exercise can decrease the amounts of sugar taken in and increase the body’s response to insulin. Eating a diet with a balance of lean meats, fresh vegetables, healthy fats, and a few fruits and whole grains will help to balance and stabilize blood sugar and insulin levels. Because these foods have fewer sugars, blood sugar and insulin levels are less likely to spike and plummet. In addition to what you eat, how you use your food as fuel, or exercise, increases your body’s response to insulin. As exercise increases your body’s demand for energy, your body responds to insulin to allow it to use the glucose. Maintaining the balance of healthy eating and healthy movement not only can correct diabetes, but prevent it in those with or without pre-diabetes.To find out your risk for diabetes or determine an appropriate meal plan and exercise regimen, stop in to your local gym and consult with an exercise physiologist. Stay happy and healthy!