Type 2 Diabetes
2 diabetes used to be rare, the kind of disease that doctors
saw only once in a long while. One out of three people with
Type 2 diabetes isn't aware that they have the condition,
and even those who know they have it often aren't sure how
to control it. As a result, many people needlessly suffer
diabetic complications, including nerve damage, blindness,
The good news is that while Type 2 diabetes isn't curable,
in some cases it is preventable -- and it's always manageable.
If your doctor says you have the disease or are at risk
of developing it, it's time to take action. By learning
everything you can about diabetes, and following your doctor's
instructions, you have a good chance of controlling your
diabetes and leading a healthy life.
Another good news is that neither your lifestyle nor your
risk of developing diabetes is written in stone. You can
buck the national trends by exercising regularly, eating
a well-balanced diet, and watching your weight.
In fact, people at risk of Type 2 diabetes can more than
halve their risk of developing the disease by exercising
about half an hour a day and adopting a low-fat diet, according
to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health
that was released in 2001. Participants who did about 30
minutes of walking or other low-intensity exercise a day,
coupled with a low-fat diet, lost an average of 5 to 7 percent
of their body weight and cut their chances of developing
Type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Those treated with the diabetes
drug metformin -- but who didn't make the lifestyle changes
-- cut their risk by only 31 percent.
Here's a closer look at how healthy living can protect you
from the disease that kills more people each year than prostate
cancer and breast cancer combined.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity works against Type
2 diabetes at its source. The disease gets its start when
muscle cells lose their sensitivity to insulin, the pancreatic
hormone that controls levels of sugar in the blood. For
some reason, your muscle cells are much less likely to shun
insulin if you keep them fit through regular exercise.
A recent study shows that staying fit may be the most crucial
measure for avoiding Type 2 diabetes. The researchers put
8,633 men (whose average age was 43) through a treadmill
test and then screened them for diabetes six years later.
The men who'd scored poorly on the fitness test were almost
four times more likely than those who'd done well to show
signs of the disease. Indeed, the fitness scores turned
out to be the best predictor of diabetes, more telling than
age, obesity, high blood pressure, or even a family history
of the disease.
If you're sedentary now, find ways to incorporate more physical
activity into your everyday life. Start gently, but work
toward getting at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet. According to two recent studies
from the Harvard School of Public Health, men and women
who eat large amounts of simple sugars but little fibre
are more than twice as likely to develop the disease as
people following high-fibre, low-sugar diets. And several
studies have found that people with impaired glucose (sugar)
tolerance -- an early warning sign of diabetes -- are much
more likely to become diabetic if they eat large amounts
of saturated fat. You can stay on the right side of these
findings by sticking with a low-fat diet that's rich in
fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
Avoid excess weight. It stands to reason that obese people
are particularly prone to Type 2 diabetes. After all, extra
pounds are often a sign that a person isn't exercising enough
or making healthful food choices. Yet this point goes beyond
the obvious. Recent studies have found that obesity plays
an active role in the onset of diabetes. Extra body fat,
especially around the midsection, can spur on the disease
by making cells less responsive to insulin and by slowing
down production of the hormone. If you can stay trim through
diet and exercise, you'll be fighting diabetes on three
Check with your doctor. If you have special reasons to be
concerned about diabetes, be sure to discuss the matter
with your doctor. In particular, if you've been exercising
regularly and eating right for months but you're still significantly
overweight, it's a good idea to get a physical exam. Ask
your doctor whether you might be insulin resistant or have
another condition linked to diabetes. Now a simple blood
test can detect diabetes (or a tendency toward it) and the
test can often be done in the doctor's office. Detecting
such a condition early on gives you a great opportunity
to resolve it and keep diabetes at bay.