Lifestyle Changes for Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, also known as Diabetes Mellitus Type 2, is the most common form of diabetes. It is characterized by high blood sugar, insulin resistance and relative insulin deficiency. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas which is essential for cell’s absorption of blood glucose. Insulin resistance is a condition where the body’s cells do not respond to insulin making it difficult for cells to take up glucose. Insulin deficiency is when the pancreas is unable to make enough insulin for the body. Both conditions result in elevated blood glucose levels which can lead to type 2 diabetes if left untreated. Type 2 diabetes often presents later in life and is associated with modifiable factors including excess body weight, obesity, sedentary lifestyles, unhealthy dietary intake, smoking, and excessive alcohol consumption. While there is no cure for this disease, halting and even reversal of the disease is possible! Read on to learn more about what changes you can make to reduce your risk for diabetes.

Excess Body Weight and Obesity: Eight out of ten people with type 2 diabetes are overweight! Research examining this association has found the excess body weight interferes with the body’s ability to efficiently utilize insulin, resulting in greater insulin resistance and higher blood sugar levels. Weight loss is an important goal for individuals carrying excess weight. Moderate and sustained weight-loss can improve insulin action, decrease fasting glucose levels, and reduce the need for some diabetes medications. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight should be a primary goal for anyone with type 2 diabetes.

Sedentary Lifestyle: Regular physical activity not only aids in reaching and maintaining a healthy body weight, but also increases insulin sensitivity of the body’s cells. This means that cells are better able to respond to insulin and efficiently use the available sugar in the blood stream, resulting in decreased blood glucose levels. The American Diabetes Association recommends being active for at least 150 minutes a week, spread over at least 3 days in addition to resistance exercises 2-3 times per week. It is also recommended to limit periods of sedentary activity by getting up from your desk, chair, couch or bed every 30-60 minutes to walk or stretch.

Unhealthy Dietary Intake: What we eat not only affects our body weight, but also our blood glucose levels. Consistently eating calories in excess of the body’s energy needs results in increased body weight. Calorie control is crucial for effective, sustainable weight-loss. What we eat is important, as the foods we consume directly impact blood glucose levels. Carbohydrate-rich foods such as white bread, processed cereals and sweet treats like cakes, cookies and ice cream, rapidly elevate blood glucose levels. Choosing whole grains and fiber-rich fruits and vegetables is recommended for regulating blood glucose levels. Meals and snacks should be eaten regularly throughout the day to aid in avoiding extreme glucose spikes and crashes. Carbohydrate counting is an important tool for individuals seeking to control blood glucose levels and avoid further disease progression.

Smoking: Smokers are 30-40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than nonsmokers. Smoking increases risk for diabetes as high levels of nicotine negatively affect insulin sensitivity, resulting in chronically elevated blood glucose levels. Smoking makes blood glucose regulation and diabetes management much more difficult. Smokers with diabetes also have an increased risk for further medical complications including heart disease, kidney disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, infections, ulcers, retinopathy, and peripheral neuropathy. Smoking cessation is recommended for all individuals, regardless of diabetes diagnosis.

Excessive Alcohol Consumption: Alcohol has a significant impact on blood glucose levels. Moderate alcohol consumption often results in increased blood glucose levels. Excessive alcohol consumption may result in the opposite, a drastic drop in blood sugar levels which is dangerous for both diabetics and non-diabetics. Alcohol is a calorie-rich, nutrient-poor beverage, meaning it adds calories to your daily intake but does not provide any nutritional benefit. Alcohol also can impair judgement and lowers will-power, often resulting in poor food choices. Excess calories consumed, whether from food or drinks, results in weight-gain. It is recommended that women consume no more than one drink per day and men no more than two.

Modification of these five factors may aid in preventing manifestation or progression of type 2 diabetes. If you would like to learn more about diabetes, do make sure to check out our recent blog post titled An Introduction to Diabetes. For more information about diabetes prevention and management, call (205) 582-3322 or set up an appointment with us by clicking the button below.

Take care and have a great day!

Dr. Efe Sahinoglu and the Birmingham DPC team

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Dr. Efe Sahinoglu, M.D.

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