Preventing Type 2 Diabetes
2014: Time for a personal health strategy? This article is NOT about 10 tips to stick to your New Year’s Resolution. But it IS about preventing a disease that millions of people get without knowing it: type 2 diabetes. It creeps up on us because of a lack of exercise, too much refined food, and too much stress.
Diabetes mellitus type 2 is a disease that can largely be prevented. It’s often called a “self-inflicted” or “lifestyle related” disease, and it develops over many years. If you do not know what type 2 diabetes is, I will try to “compact” the explanation at the risk of oversimplification: it’s a disease where your body can no longer adequately process the energy it gets from the food you eat. Normally you eat your food, it gets converted into sugars (glucose) during digestion, your blood sugar levels rise in response, and a hormone called insulin is released to help get that energy into your cells. In type 2 diabetes patients, however, the cells have become insensitive to opening the door, they don’t “hear” the insulin knocking on the door. This combination of insulin resistance in your muscle cells and a lack of insulin production ultimately creates a vicious and chronic circle where glucose and insulin can build up in the blood to dangerous levels. That’s the story in essence, but Google it to get the full explanation. MayoClinic.com is a good website to visit.
So what approach should you take to avoid getting type 2 diabetes?
Tip 1: Avoid frequent blood sugar and insulin peaks. If you eat too much in a single meal or often eat processed foods (white bread, white pasta, white rice, sugar, juices etc.), then you can bet your blood sugar levels will peak often. To bring these sugar levels down, your body will need to secrete high amounts of insulin to neutralize the elevated blood sugar levels. Do this: have a look at the foods in your daily food plan, and if refined-floor foods, cornflakes, jams, sandwiches, candy and energy bars are a major part of them, think twice and cut them out where you can. Replace them with more wholesome foods. The closer a food is to its natural state, the better. That means it will not spike your blood sugar as much as processed food. In short: if processed it, don’t eat it. So eat more vegetables and foods that slowly release their energy.
Tip 2: Learn to deal with (too much long-term) stress. Stress releases stored sugar in your blood. When you are continuously stressed, your body produces hormones that make you feel edgy to help you complete your deadline or challenge. Stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline flood your system, and as a result your muscles and liver will release stored sugars to enable you to keep working until midnight. Sounds great? Well, the downside is that too much stress over time will burn your body’s organs out from the inside. That’s the part why it is called burnout. If you feel that your stress levels are “always” out of control, I recommend seeking professional help to learn how to cope with and lower them.
Tip 3: Exercise your heart and major muscle groups regularly. If you don’t work out yet, start today and create a regular exercise schedule. Why? 80% to 90% of the glucose (sugars) that gets into your blood normally ends up in your muscle cells if the insulin is doing its work correctly. Exercise helps your cells remain sensitive to the insulin so that they open up. There is plenty of evidence that shows that when we exert our muscle cells those cells become more sensitive to the insulin knocking on the door. If you don’t have time to exercise, then make the time! That may sound hard, but I guarantee that once you are diabetic it will cost you much more time. So see it as an investment.
Tip 4: Avoid weight gain or yo-yoing up and down. The more body fat we accumulate, the more likely we are to become insulin resistant. So keep a healthy weight or get back to it. Yo-yoing causes much stress on your body (see Tip 3). Moreover, fat around the waist is especially risky for creating metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Do this to check out the current state of your body fat levels. Measure your body fat levels in the gym by asking one of the trainers or myself. We have a handy device that you hold in your hands and that will measure your body fat levels within 10 seconds.
Tip 5: Ask your doctor for a “fasting glucose test”. As I said earlier, type 2 diabetes is not something that you develop overnight. It often takes decades to develop and to be diagnosed as such. Diabetes is a progressive disease. You don’t get it “on a Monday morning” because you had a heavy party over the weekend. Fortunately, there are some early warning signs that can detected in your blood (the pre-diabetic stage or “Syndrome X”). Since prevention is the key, a blood test from your doctor on an empty stomach can establish if your blood sugar levels are elevated when they shouldn’t be (on an empty stomach these levels should be low). It’s also good opportunity to check other indicators of systemics problems, such as elevated cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Tip 6: Drink more coffee!? Yes that’s right, drink more coffee. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (during an 18 year study) found that coffee drinkers taking between 4 and 6 cups a day had a 29 to 54% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Interestingly, decaf coffee did not offer any protection nor did 1 to 3 cups of regular coffee…
Come and join one of my seminars at WorldClass (10 euros per participant) every other Tuesday evening from 19:00 to 20:15. I’m looking forward to meeting you there!
NOTE: This article is not medical advice, so please consult a doctor if you have specific questions about diabetes or other medical conditions.
Paul Schuchhard is a qualified counselor, a certified sports nutritionist and personal trainer, and a highly experienced corporate communications adviser and trainer. Visit www.paulschuchhard.com or www.life5.eu to learn more about life coaching, stress and burnout coaching, nutritional coaching, counseling and corporate Away Days focused on well-being.