Preventing diabetes. These two words are not often found in the same sentence, because the notion is that if you happen to be the unfortunate one to be diagnosed with this potentially deadly disease, that there really wasn't much you could have done to prevent it. It's something that just 'happens' to people, a victim like mentally that is so prevalent in our society today. Just watch and listen next time you see and hear someone describing someone they know who was just diagnosed with the disease; the tone is almost always one of resignation and helplessness. The truth however is that preventing diabetes is not only possible but is almost entirely under our control. Now we say 'almost entirely' because we are speaking here of Type 2 Diabetes or adult-onset diabetes, not Type 1 Diabetes, which is genetically based and results in our bodies inability to produce insulin and thus regulate blood sugar levels. Type 1 Diabetes is less prevalent and accounts for about 10% of all diabetic cases. Type 2 Diabetes is the disease that has exploded in our culture today, and goes hand in hand with the rising obesity levels in our society. Type 2 Diabetes is preventable because it is almost entirely a result of poor lifestyle decisions, and as we know the lifestyle choices we make are almost entirely under our control. It is not a coincidence that at the turn of the 20th century diabetes was almost a non-existent diagnosable disease, and today it ranks third behind heart disease and cancer. There are 3 prominent factors under our control that will significantly reduce if not completely eliminate our chances of ever developing Type 2 Diabetes: the food we eat, the exercise we do, the stress we manage.
Let's start with our diet. Preventing diabetes is all about consistently managing our blood sugar levels. When we bombard our bodies day after day with refined sugars and processed foods, we essentially throw our insulin levels (blood glucose regulating hormone) out of whack (where we can become hypoglycemic, low blood sugar, hyperglycemic, high blood sugar, or insulin resistant, where your cells can't absorb sugar properly). Do these foods sound familiar: white bread, bagels, muffins, packaged foods and snacks, fast foods including fries, pop, and pizza. These foods have become ingrained in our culture, and they play havoc on our blood glucose levels. Do we have a choice? Sure we do, how about some whole grains, fruits, vegetables and a smattering of some good lean protein. We don't have to be fanatical about this, just find a balance. Now how about exercise in preventing diabetes. Here's the beautiful thing about getting into a good exercise routine. Besides the great physical and psychological benefits of exercise, exercise is great for helping to regulate and balance your blood sugar levels. So even if your diet is not quite right, a consistent exercise program can help make up for that, in all aspects of health. And if you're wondering if you should go for a jog or hit the weights, it really doesn't matter, just move. Both cardio and strength training exercises are good for your health, including regulating your blood glucose levels.
And finally there's stress. People don't often think of stress management when it comes to preventing diabetes. But the fact is when you are stressed, stress hormones kick in to increase your blood sugar levels. And just like poor eating, if you are consistently stressed day after day, this again will play havoc on your blood sugar and insulin levels. Now we're not saying this is an easy one to tackle, particularly in the fast paced demanding world we live in, but it is important to get this one under control. So whatever might work for you, whether it's daily meditation, yoga, reading a book, going for a walk, or finding a hobby that interests you, anything that helps to reduce and manage the stress in your life will work.
So is preventing Type 2 Diabetes really possible? We truly believe it is. But it all starts with a belief, a belief that we are not victims of this disease and it's the lifestyle choices we make today that will determine our health for tomorrow.