Although the threat of Type 2 diabetes is certainly very real, this condition offers a unique opportunity to take control of our future health and well being. Contrary to popular belief, Type 2 diabetes is NOT genetic; heredity plays only a small role in its development. It is largely caused by lifestyle choices such as inactivity and excessive eating (especially refined carbs). In particular, it is characterized by insulin resistance. Perhaps you have heard the notion that we are in the midst of a “diabetes epidemic.” It’s often tossed around and used as a reason to promote people to lose weight or get their blood sugar under control, but what does it all really mean? Let’s look behind the scenes of Type 2 diabetes.
Blood Sugar 101
When we eat carbohydrates such as fruit, bread or pasta, it results in more sugar in our bloodstream, triggering the release of insulin. Insulin acts as a key for glucose (aka sugar) so that it can be taken in by cells and used as energy. However, your cells will not take in an unlimited amount of glucose. It’s just like a car; once you fill up your gas tank, you must use some of the fuel before you can add more. It’s no different with your muscles and sugar. The problem results when we overeat and then don’t use the glucose we produce. Insulin tries to coax your cells into taking the extra glucose because the bloodstream doesn’t want it. Your cells don’t want the sugar either because they are not doing anything that requires the extra energy. This refusal to take in more glucose is insulin resistance. A person with Type 2 diabetes is still producing insulin, but their cells have become desensitized to its effects.
Type 2 diabetes rarely develops quickly; it’s the result of years of sustained increasing elevated blood sugar. This slow development gives you the power to take control of your blood sugar and all its associated conditions by knowing your risk (i.e., glucose levels) and taking action. Many folks think they don’t need to worry about their blood sugar until after they reach diabetic levels. This is a costly myth! If you have a fasting glucose between 100 mg/dl and 125 mg/dl, your body may already be struggling to regulate your blood sugar; this condition is called prediabetes. You can think of this as a heads up that some improvements need to be made in your lifestyle in order to slow or altogether prevent the onset of diabetes.
The keys to blood sugar regulation and Type 2 Diabetes prevention is quite familiar:
- You must use the fuel (aka glucose) you are producing. That means activity; get that blood flowing throughout the day, particularly after large meals. Aim for activity intense enough to raise your heart rate for at least 30 minutes a day in addition to standing, stretching and moving throughout the day in short bouts as your schedule allows.
- Quit tobacco use.
- Limit refined carbohydrates, sweets and processed foods as much as possible.
- If you do eat these foods, pair them with a high-fiber food such as nuts, vegetables or beans. This will slow the rate at which your body absorbs sugars, helping to regulate the release of insulin and stabilize your blood sugar.
Source: CBIZ Wellbeing Insights-November 2018 issue 40
Fast Facts on Type 2 Diabetes
34% Percentage of American adults with prediabetes
9 of 10 People with prediabetes who do not know they have it
30.3 Million Number of diagnosed cases of diabetes in America
7.2 Million Estimated number of undiagnosed cases of diabetes in America
90 – 95% Portion of diabetes cases that are Type 2
CDC 2017 National Diabetes Statistics Report