By Dawn Goettl, CPT
More than 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, and 1 in 4 of them don’t know they have it. More than 84 million US adults—over a third—have prediabetes, and 90% of them don’t know they have it. Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States (and may be underreported).
Type 2 Diabetes accounts for about 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes; type 1 diabetes accounts for about 5%. In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than tripled as the American population has aged and become more overweight or obese.
Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism — the way our bodies use digested food for growth and energy. Most of the food we eat is broken down into glucose, the form of sugar in the blood. Glucose is the main source of fuel for the body. After digestion, glucose passes into the bloodstream, where it is used by cells for growth and energy. For glucose to get into cells, insulin must be present. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas, a large gland behind the stomach. When we eat, the pancreas automatically produces the right amount of insulin to move glucose from blood into our cells. In people with diabetes, however, the pancreas either produces little or no insulin, or the cells do not respond appropriately to the insulin that is produced. Glucose builds up in the blood, overflows into the urine, and passes out of the body. Thus, the body loses its main source of fuel even though the blood contains large amounts of it.
Types of Diabetes
There are three main types of diabetes: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes (diabetes while pregnant):
Type 1 Diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops your body from making insulin. About 5% of the people who have diabetes have type 1. Symptoms of type 1 diabetes often develop quickly. It’s usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin every day to survive. Currently, no one knows how to prevent type 1 diabetes.
With Type 2 Diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and is unable to keep blood sugar at normal levels. Most people with diabetes—9 in 10—have type 2 diabetes. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults (though increasingly in children, teens, and young adults). You may not notice any symptoms, so it’s important to get your blood sugar tested if you’re at risk. Type 2 Diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes, such as losing weight if you’re overweight, healthy eating, and getting regular physical activity. Type 2 Diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes in adults.
Gestational diabetes develops in pregnant women who have never had diabetes. All pregnant women are screened for Gestational diabetes at prenatal appointments; their OBGYN or Midwife will provide guidance if tested positive.
In the US, 84.1 million adults—more than 1 in 3—have prediabetes, and 90% of them don’t know they have it. Prediabetes is a serious health condition where blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough yet to be diagnosed as diabetes. Prediabetes increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. But through the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program, you can learn practical, real-life changes that can cut your risk for developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58% (71% if you’re 60 or older. Risk for Type 2 Diabetes increases if there is a family history of the disease, if a person is overweight, or has experienced gestational diabetes during pregnancy or if the person has more abdominal weight and lives a sedentary lifestyle.
What you eat is a big part of how you treat Type 2 Diabetes. Meal planning is among basic survival skills for those with Type 2 Diabetes. Staying away from processed foods, soda and sweets and learning to count carbohydrates are very important for treatment.
Diabetes and Exercise
Strength Training and Type 2 Diabetes: The latest findings show that exercise such as strength training has a profound impact on helping people manage their diabetes. In a recent study of Hispanic men and women, 16 weeks of strength training produced dramatic improvements in sugar control that are comparable to taking diabetes medication. Additionally, the study volunteers were stronger, gained muscle, lost body fat, had less depression, and felt much more self-confident.
Aerobic Fitness and Type 2 Diabetes: Any activity that raises your heart rate and keeps it up for an extended period of time will improve your aerobic fitness. Aerobic exercise helps decrease the risk of Type 2 Diabetes and helps those with diabetes to better manage their blood sugar levels. Besides the health benefits, exercise is fun and boosts your mood. It’s hard to feel stressed when you’re walking fast on a treadmill or swimming laps in a pool.
Exercise is good for everyone, whether you have diabetes or not, and for a person with diabetes it’s even more important because what exercise does is it lets sugar go into the muscle, even if insulin doesn’t work normally. Exercise causes muscle to absorb glucose.People with Type 2 Diabetes are insulin resistant; people with Type 1 Diabetes are insulin deficient. So in both cases, the muscle doesn’t get as much signal from the insulin molecule. But when you exercise the muscle starts to take up glucose even if you have no insulin or you are insulin resistant. So exercise is good! Diabetics should monitor sugars before and after any exercise. People with diabetes need to monitor their sugars before and after their exercise to make sure their sugars stay in the normal range, particularly if they exercise very vigorously, like jogging, or you know running a marathon or doing other very strenuous sports.
Exercise improves body’s long term sensitivity to insulin and protects against cardiovascular disease as well as helps improve your long term sensitivity. It’s not just the exercise but if you’re physically conditioned your body is more sensitive to insulin. This is a way to help prevent diabetes for people at risk, so it will have a long term benefit, and of course it has the cardiovascular benefit, if you exercise enough to bring your pulse rate up then you’re also getting cardiac benefit from it. Of course, that’s beneficial for everyone as well!
Living with diabetes has its ups and downs, but healthy lifestyle choices can give you more control over them and more control means fewer health problems down the road and a better quality of life.
Are you prediabetic? Do you know your numbers? At Woodbury Spine Wellness Center, we can help! Take a small step toward awareness and schedule your Wellness Score with one of our Doctors and Nutrition Health Coaches. You can also join us on June 18th at 7pm for Dinner with the Doctor as we discuss more in depth the causes, treatment, and ways to safely return your body to a non-diabetic (Type 2) state!