Focus on Diabetes

The BBC has recently featured a story on type 2 diabetes, explaining what the true cost of the disease is. We do hear facts and figures about how many people get it and about how much it costs the NHS and how much it will in the future. However, these sorts of things may not influence us very much, but the true life stories in the article may have more of an effect. Learning how one person ignored their diabetes, did nothing when diagnosed and ended up losing toes, could be motivating for some. Reading about a young girl of 15 who has the disease, could be shocking for others, particularly parents. It is important though, to think hard about the consequences of our diet and how our lives may be different if we had type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is characterised by having too much sugar in the blood stream. Normally our bodies can balance the amount of sugar in our body by releasing the hormone insulin, when levels are high. This instructs cells to release sugars and it comes out of the body in our urine. Unfortunately, this balance can be disturbed when cells stop responding to the insulin. This is called insulin resistance and it happens when there is so much insulin in the body, due to so much sugar in the bloodstream that cells just ignore the messages from the insulin and do not release the sugars anymore.  Another cause of type 2 diabetes is when the pancreas does not make enough insulin for the body to be able to get rid of enough sugar from the bloodstream. In both cases the body will need more insulin in order to get rid of the sugar. As insulin cannot be taken in pill form, it has to be injected. However, in the early stages of type 2 diabetes, there are pills which can be taken to help the body to reduce the sugar in the cells.

It may not seem to be too much of a problem to have too much sugar in the blood as sugar is what gives us energy after all. However, too much sugar in the blood can damage blood vessels and this can have negative effects all over the body. It can cause atheroma, which is commonly known as hardening of the arteries and therefor lead to heart problems and strokes as well as poor circulation. It can damage the kidneys which can lead to chronic kidney disease. It can damage the arteries at the back of the eye and cause sight problems and possibly blindness. It can damage nerves and this combined with poor circulation can lead to foot problems and impotence. All of these can not only mean that you will not have a good quality of life but also that you are more likely to die younger, which is not a nice prospect for many people.

It is thought that there is a selection of risk factors associated with type 2 diabetes. Genetics can be one, so if you have relatives, particularly parents who have type 2 diabetes then you are more likely to get it. Also being overweight or obese, having a large waist or developing type 2 diabetes when pregnant are all factors which could indicate that you are at a greater risk of developing the disease. So what can you do about it? Obviously thinning your waist and losing weight are the only things that we can control and this is not easy. We cannot choose where we store our fat and this may mean that we need to lose more weight, even if we are not overweight, to try to lose it from our waist area. Exercising this area will tone the muscles but will not remove the fat, the only thing that will do that is losing weight. The difficulty is that if you have high sugar levels, then it is harder to lose weight, because the body will use the energy from that sugar before it has to burn fat to get energy. Therefore you will need to work really hard at it. There are some tips below.

Exercise can be a key part to losing weight. Even if you just increase your physical activity levels a little bit it will all help to reduce the sugar levels in your blood and help you to lose weight. It helps with many other functions in the body as well and so can be really beneficial to everyone and even walking counts, so it does not have to be anything too strenuous or complicated. Diet is obviously the most important part of weight loss though. We often hear about different types of diets and that certain foods are better than others, but at the end of the day you need to make sure that you eat healthily and in small quantities. So cutting out in between meal snacks can be a significant start, making sure you have small portions and fill up on a variety of fruit and vegetables. Cooking from scratch rather than buying ready meals and processed food can mean that you control what goes into your meals and you can make sure that you keep the calories down by adding in more vegetables, for example and cutting own on the calorie dense meat, cheese and sauces. It can be hard work, but if you batch cook a meal, so you can freeze several portions of it, then you have something if you do not have the time or energy to cook. There are also many healthy that take very little time to prepare and cook and so learning how to make some of these could be really beneficial.

It may seem like a lot of changes to make, but it is wise to take things a step at a time. You could commit to making a change each week. So week one you could cut out sugary drinks, week two you could also add extra vegetables to your meals, week three you could go for a walk as well, week four you could cut out a snack a day. Each small change will add up and after a few months you will be making significant changes that will have a big effect on your weight, waistline and health


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