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How your lifestyle can control diabetes



Recently, I had a known diabetic patient come into the clinic with complaints that were indicative of diabetic complications. On examination, it was noted that he had gained some more weight. He had been taking his medications, though not all the time, and his diet was made up of mainly starchy carbohydrates. But he noted that he had ‘stopped taking sugar and soft drinks.’

More than 10 million Nigerians are living with Diabetes, a condition which if not well controlled may lead to blindness, kidney failure, limb amputation, heart disease and ultimately death.

There are two types of Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 Diabetes occurs when the body’s immune system destroys the pancreatic cells that release insulin and therefore the body makes little to no insulin. Without insulin, the body is unable to move sugar from the blood into the cells, where it is needed for energy.

Type 2 diabetes is caused primarily by excessive body weight, and in this type, the body makes insulin but the insulin does not work properly due to the excess fat. Ninety percent of diabetes cases are Type 2 Diabetes, the one that is caused by excessive weight.

In controlling Type 2 Diabetes, Blood Sugar number is one of the important numbers that we should be aware of. Blood sugar also known as blood glucose is used in evaluating risk for diabetes. Normal blood glucose range is 80-120mg/dl. Fasting blood sugar that reads greater than 126mg/dl on two separate occasions is indicative of diabetes. Routine testing should be done at least once annually, as elevated glucose levels can also go undetected for a long time. Severe diabetic complications affect almost every organ including kidneys, eyes, nerves, heart etc. We should be careful that the blood sugar numbers are not too high to prevent these diabetic complications.

Diabetes is usually synonymous with high blood sugar number but an even more important number that we should be mindful of when dealing with Diabetes is the number on the scale – your weight.

In managing diabetes, “The first thing you need to attack is obesity,” says Dr Valentin Fuster MD, Mount Sinai Hospital, NY. Majority of people with Type 2 Diabetes are either overweight or obese, and both of these are major risk factors for heart disease which is a leading cause of death. Studies have shown that majority of premature deaths caused by heart diseases could have been prevented by addressing the treatable risk factors such as obesity.

Even as little as a 10 per cent weight loss can trim the risk of heart disease. This can be achieved by following a healthy diet and exercise. Most people are quick to jump on the latest diet fad to drop some quick kgs fast, but this approach is highly unadvisable because it is not sustainable and most people tend to gain the weight back. A better approach would be to follow a slower and steady approach, aiming to lose about 1 kg per week. Make sure your diet is one that includes lots of fruits and vegetables, low in saturated and unsaturated fats. Yes you can eat carbohydrates but make sure, you limit intake of sugary foods and starchy carbohydrates because they instantly increase your blood sugar.

Just as we are eating right, physical activity is also very important. Exercising has far more health benefits than just losing weight. An hour of exercise a day will help control blood sugar and lower heart disease risks such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In addition, muscles are the largest consumers of sugar in the body. Hence if you exercise regularly, you will have increased muscle mass and this means less sugar accumulation in the blood which essentially means the chances of developing diabetes will be very low.

Also, regular exercise reduces inflammation in the cardiovascular system and allows improved blood flow to muscles and organs and prevents the formation of blood clots which may damage the heart.

Managing diabetes and the risk of diabetic complications is a life long process. You must be compliant with your medications. In addition to following a proper diet and exercise regimen, other harmful habits such as excessive alcohol intake and smoking must be stopped. It is also important to visit your doctor regularly to track the disease progression. If you or someone you know is living with diabetes, it is important to note that though diabetes is a deadly disease, it can be properly managed by living a healthy lifestyle.

Disclaimer: This medical information is provided as an information resource only. It does not create any patient-physician relationship and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment

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