Diabetes: A reversible and preventable disease
Chances are, diabetes has affected the life of someone you know – family, friend or even yourself. But how many of us truly understand this disease, and the steps that can be taken to prevent it?
Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use as energy. Our body makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or cannot use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugar buildup in your blood that can lead to serious health complications including heart disease, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations.
The most common form of diabetes is known as type-2 diabetes, which accounts for approximately 90 percent of diagnosed cases of diabetes.
Dr. Merritt Dunalp, M.D., with Carson Medical Group says that by the time people have been diagnosed with diabetes, they’ve typically had it for quite some time.
“People who we diagnose typically have had symptoms for six to 12 months,” says Dunlap. “The problem is that the symptoms come on to them gradually so that they don’t really recognize it. Frequent urination and excessive thirst are two of the easiest to indentify.”
Other symptoms may include:
• Unexplained weight loss
• Sudden vision changes
• High blood pressure measuring 140/90 or higher
• Tingling or numbness in the hands or feet
• Feeling tired much of the time
• More infections than usual
There are many risk factors when it comes to type-2 diabetes. Older age, family history, and race-ethnicity are all defined factors, but perhaps the largest risk factor is obesity.
“The biggest thing when it comes to diabetes is for people to understand is that it is a largely preventable condition,” says Dunlap. “If we can get someone to be serious about exercising, being physically active and work to get their body weight down, then that is the key.”
As with any form of physical activity, eating healthy is a key component to losing weight. Cutting down on foods that are high in saturated fat or trans-fat such as fried foods, salad dressings, and fatty cuts of meat is recommended. You can also reduce the risk of diabetes by eating fewer foods with high sugar and/or salt content. Sodas, tea or coffee sweetened with sugar, canned vegetables, processed meats and pickles are all good examples of items you can eat less of.
Just as eating less of certain items can contribute to prevention, eating more of healthier items can have the same effect. Fruit and veggies are always a great place to begin. Adding high fiber items with whole grains, such as oatmeal and whole-grain rice, is also recommended.
If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it is still important to get physical activity.
“The No. 1 thing we do when we diagnose a patient is encourage them to exercise and lose weight,” adds Dunlap. “And for a good percentage of patients, if they are able to do that, which includes eating healthy, they can actually reverse the process and get rid of it.”
There are some safety considerations for people with diabetes when it comes to physical activity. It is always recommended to see a physician before beginning an exercise routine. The most important thing is to do activities that you really enjoy. The more fun you have, the more likely you are to do it each day.
Physical activity will help maintain the blood glucose levels as well as raise your “good” cholesterol and lower your “bad” cholesterol. It can also help prevent heart and blood flow problems, reducing the risk of heart disease and nerve damage, which are often problems for people with diabetes.