Diabetes is a condition which occurs when sugar levels are too high as a result of the body failing to burn up carbohydrates.
A hormone called insulin, is crucial for regulating blood levels and people suffering from diabetes are either producing no insulin at all (type 1) or they are producing ineffective insulin (type 2). Insulin is located in the pancreas and when a defect develops in the pancreas, our insulin levels are compromised and thus the carbohydrates cannot be burned up.
Those in the type 1 category are referred to as insulin dependent. They tend to be under 35 years of age, and they must inject insulin into the body in order to rebalance their sugar levels. The type 2 patients are generally overweight, and depending on the circumstances of their condition, simply shedding weight might not be enough. Tablets may also have to be prescribed in order to stimulate the insulin.
Now that we have the science out of the way, let's consider the risk factors associated with diabetes. One of the principle causes of diabetes is linked to genetics and in cases like that, inheriting diabetes might be inevitable.
But some of the other risk factors that would normally be synonymous with type two diabetes, are both manageable and avoidable. Obesity accounts for 80% of diabetic cases, and unsurprisingly, a life deprived of regular exercise is intrinsically linked with this.
But there are preventable steps you can take. Dr Nina Byrnes provides some useful tips for protecting yourself from type two diabetes in today's Irish Independent.
Book An Appointment With Your Doctor
This is one of the first suggestions outlined by Dr Byrnes. She mentions a term called 'prediabtes' which happens when sugar levels have exceeded the normal amount, but are still low enough to avoid being diagnosed with type two diabetes. If you have an unsettled sleep pattern, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you could be in serious danger of progressing to diabetes. This is the time to book the doctor's appointment and get your sugar levels assessed.
Set Weight Loss Goals
If you are overweight, Dr Byrnes advises losing between 5% and 10% of your body weight. Naturally, a healthier lifestyle is central to this method. Dr Byrnes notes that an active lifestyle will significantly reduce your chances of becoming diabetic. Aim to fit in 30 minutes of exercise per day, with two resistance training sessions per week where possible.
Be sure to complete a proper warm-up and incorporate exercises that engage with all the core muscle groups including legs, hips, back, chest, abdomen, shoulders, and arms. Seek the help of a gym trainer to ensure you get the technique right as well as advice on rest.
Because excess sugar is one of the primary causes of diabetes, you are obligated to make a concerted effort to reduce your intake of sugar. Not all sugars are bad. For example, the sugar type called fructose which naturally occurs in fruit, is good for your body and only becomes harmful when consumed in large amounts. Artificial sugars are the ones you should eliminate from your diet.
Dr Byrnes recommends avoiding sugary drinks and emphasises the significance of inspecting food labels to find out what the sugar content is. It's also important to resist adding sugar to your preferable dosage of tea or coffee.
Avoid Saturated Fats
Similar to the sugar dilemma, fats have good and evil guises. The healthy fats you find in nuts, olive oil, fish, natural peanut butter, olives and avocado, are eligible candidates that for any diet. There are however, an abundance of foods stacked with saturated fats that are likely to lead to weight gain. These include pre-packaged snacks, fried foods, cakes, and pre-mixed foods.
Dr Byrnes logically concludes that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grain carbohydrates, is the most effective way to maintain a normal weight and keep diabetes at bay.
Get Enough Sleep
According to Dr Byrnes, people who prioritise sleep are less likely to be overweight. Sleep is driven by natural brain activity and adults need between seven and eight hours of uninterrupted sleep in order to function at an optimum level. A disturbed night's sleep or not getting enough sleep can lead to conditions associated with diabetes, such as sleep apnoea where the airflow is blocked for 10 seconds or more.
And if do develop sleep apnoea, diabetes might be the least of your problems. Far more worrying threats to your life such as stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure are also linked to sleep apnoea.
Commit To These Changes
Naturally, the main focus for revitalising your diet and lifestyle is to combat the risk of developing diabetes, but that should not be the end goal. Leading a healthier life on a short-term basis will not entitle you to a life time of immunity from diabetes. Failure to commit to these lifestyle alterations beyond your weight loss goals, could bring you right back to the danger zone and you might not be as fortunate the second time.