Preventing Diabetes Pt. 2 – What To Do

Diabetes may be on your horizon, and you don’t want it to be, so what can be done?  The most important thing about adult onset diabetes is that it is a direct response to having too much sugar in your diet and your body’s response to that sugar. 

Reduce foods high in sugar and starch.  Most people have low hanging fruits in their diets – which is to say – simple changes that will make a big difference.  I worked with a gentleman who had a very high blood sugar when he first came in to see me.  His “low hanging fruit” was fast food and two giant-sized sodas daily.  He started to prepare his food at home and stopped the sodas completely.  Within three months he had a significant drop in his average blood sugars, and we were able to eliminate his medication.  He continued with that lifestyle for several years before his blood sugars started to climb again. 

Proteins, such as meats, beans, and eggs, as well as complex carbohydrates such as vegetables, are great for you.  The foods that are primarily sugar, or easily converted to sugar, are the problem.  This includes white bread, white rice, potatoes, and pasta.  Fruit juice and soda are also problematic, as are cookies, candy, and other sweets.  The takeaway:  Eat more protein, eat less carbs.

Deliberate exercise helps the body regulate itself.  Exercise means challenging the body by either increasing your heart rate or exhausting your muscles for a sustained period of time.  Daily activity, like gardening or moving around at work, is good but is not the same as exercise.  Exercise makes the body more sensitive to insulin so blood sugar is more easily controlled and it triggers the body’s mechanisms for repair and regulation.  If we do not exercise, the body does not get the message to regulate and repair itself, and we develop more health concerns over time. 

Sleep well.  A good night’s rest helps the body reset and prepare for the next day.  Lack of rest causes stress on the body, and that stress can impair the body’s response to insulin, causing the body to need more insulin to get the same job done.  If something is interrupting your sleep or preventing a good night’s rest regularly, talk to your doctor about this because it may be causing more problems than just fatigue.

Reduce stressors.  Just as a lack of sleep puts stress on the body, anything that causes ongoing, chronic stress impairs your body’s ability to take care of itself, and can cause an increase in your blood sugars. Identifying stressors is helpful, and a good tool to start identifying your stressors is to ask:  “If someone else were in my shoes, what would they be stressed about?”

If you are concerned about your diabetes or are worried about a family history of diabetes, we’re here to help.  Our goal is to help you and your loved ones live happy, healthy lives for years to come.  A good, personal relationship with your family doctor will protect you and your family.

Preventing Diabetes Pt. 1

Why it’s a Problem

For each of us, as we grow older we become more aware of health concerns.  Things that used to never hurt now present with daily aches.  Over time those little problems become bigger problems, and soon we realize we don’t want any new problems.  A common question people ask me is “Doctor, my dad has diabetes, his dad had it, too. What can I do to prevent that from happening to me?”  In this article we look at why diabetes is a problem and next week we’ll look at what can be done to prevent it.

First, what is diabetes?  There are two main types – Type I is where our immune system attacks the cells in our body that make insulin.  This usually occurs in children and adolescents.   We need insulin to control our blood sugar.   Type II diabetes, which is far more common, occurs when the body produces insulin but doesn’t react to it as well as it should, so the body releases more and more insulin to get the same job done.  It’s like having a hearing problem and needing to turn up the TV volume louder and louder.  In this situation, our bodies gradually lose the ability to handle sugar properly, and the sugar levels in our blood start to build up.

One problem with high blood sugar is that it causes inflammation in our blood vessels.  Inflamed vessels swell, but because of the strong vessel wall on the outside of the vessel, the vessel swells inwards, reducing the amount of blood that can flow through the tube.  As this swelling occurs, everything downstream from the swelling – nerves, kidneys, muscle cells – receive less nutrition and oxygen, as well as less visits from the repair cells in the blood.  They start losing their function, resulting in neuropathy, kidney disease, blindness, heart disease, and strokes. 

Another Problem with high blood sugar is that, as the body tries to control it, the body has to release large amounts of insulin.  Insulin is a hormone with many side effects, including driving blood sugar into fat cells for storage.  High amounts of insulin cause your body to create more and larger fat cells.  In other words, the more insulin you release, the more weight you gain.  This is not just because of the number of calories you are taking in (although that is also a contributor), but to the body’s response to the type of calories you are taking in.