Diabetes is becoming one of the most widespread chronic diseases affecting millions of people worldwide with healthcare costs soaring to billions of dollars. The question in our minds is how to prevent this adult onset type II diabetes? And once we do get it, how can we manage it effectively?
Greasy and sugary carbohydrates along with long hours of sitting at work or in front of the TV result in a pattern of continuous weight gain. An unhealthy weight and sedentary lifestyle is the main culprit leading to diabetes. Research has shown that people with a higher BMI and those who experience muscle loss or sarcopenia from inactivity are more susceptible to developing diabetes with advancing age. The risk of diabetes is much greater for people over 65 years of age than those below 40. (Reference: American Diabetes Association at http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/medication/)
Food that we eat is metabolized into sugar molecules known as glucose that can be easily absorbed by the cells of our body. These glucose molecules require another compound, insulin, to gain entrance inside the cells. The insulin binds to the glucose molecules and acts as a key that unlocks the door to the cells. In Type II diabetes either the body does not produce enough of insulin molecules or the insulin that is being produced is unable to bind with the glucose. This is also known as insulin-resistant diabetes. As a result, there is too much sugar in our blood, known as blood glucose concentration, which can damage the liver, kidneys, eye and nerves. Also a very common symptom of diabetes is dehydration, fatigue and frequent urination. Since the cells of our body do not have enough sugar they become more fatigued and also dehydrated.
It is therefore crucial to maintain a healthy lifestyle and BMI to prevent the onset of diabetes. In order to maintain a healthy weight or to lose excessive weight, one can make a habit of eating balanced meals that have the right proportions of vegetables, fruits, starch and proteins. A visual guidance is to fill up half of the plate with non-starchy greens, a quarter with lean proteins and another quarter with starchy foods. Additionally, participating in light to moderate activity and doing aerobic exercises ensures a positive energy flow through our system and prevents muscle loss.
Once a person is diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to regularly measure and monitor blood sugar levels. A daily routine of balanced and frequent meals with lean proteins, lots of fibers and complex carbohydrates is recommended. The meal plate should be ¼ protein, ¼ starch and ½ of non-starchy veggies and some fruits. Substituting sweet cravings with naturally occurring sugars such as dates, honey and those found naturally in fruits can reduce blood sugar spiking. Additionally, maintaining light to moderate daily exercises that is not too strenuous is also recommended. 7-8 hours of sleep in diabetic patients cannot be over emphasized. Some people with type 2 diabetes can manage their diabetes naturally with healthy eating and regular exercise.
If sugar cannot be controlled naturally, however, the doctor may prescribe oral medications. It is important to take these meds regularly as indicated. Pill boxes are a great way to organize them so we can stay on top of our meds. In more advanced diabetes, the doctor will prescribe regular insulin shots to help maintain blood sugar levels. The injected medication acts rapidly in our bodies and therefore it is necessary to coordinate the insulin shots with timely intake of food.
Besides frequently checking our weight, blood sugar and blood pressure levels, it is important for diabetic patients to have several annual checkups. Urine and blood tests should be done for monitoring heart, kidney and liver functioning. Also, a dilated eye exam, a dental exam and a complete foot exam every year is highly recommended.