Understanding Type 2 Diabetes


If it was an infectious disease, passed from one person to another, public health officials would say we're in the midst of an epidemic. This difficult disease is striking an ever-growing number of adults. Even more alarming, it's now beginning to show up in our teenagers and children.

- 18 Million Americans have it.
- 20% of those over 65 have it.
- 1 in 3 people who have it don't know they have it.
- 90% of those cases are PREVENTABLE.
- It costs $132 Billion dollars a year to "treat" it.

Glucose (a.k.a blood sugar) is the fuel that provides energy to the 10 Trillion cells that make up a human being. When we eat, carbohydrates are converted into glucose, the glucose then moves through the bloodstream to feed the cells. It's important to have the right amount of glucose in the blood, so your body has some fairly complex "machinery" to get the job done. Anytime your glucose levels rise, your brain tells your pancreas to produce insulin. Insulin is a chemical messenger that rings the "dinner bell" for your cells. When the "dinner bell" rings, your cells come running to get their glucose.

It is important to understand that carbohydrates come in two forms natural (complex) and man-made (simple). The man-made carbs are found in processed foods such as white table sugar, candy, sodas, high fructose corn syrup, and white bread. Eating man-made carbs causes sudden and sustained spikes in your glucose levels. The brain interprets this enormous rush of sugar as trauma and signals the pancreas to produce insulin.

This constant over-stimulation of the pancreas, year after year after year, causes your "machinery" to wear out. In some cases, the pancreas gets tired and can't produce enough insulin. In other cases, the "dinner bell" rings so often that the cells get tired of hearing it, and stop running to get their glucose. Either way, when this happens, the health care industry declares that you have type 2 diabetes. And yes, for only a few hundred bucks a month they can keep you alive.

Natural sugars, like the sugars found in fruits and other whole foods, are known as complex carbs. Your body was designed to ingest them. They are much larger molecules and cross the blood brain barrier very slowly. They do not cause those sudden and sustained spikes in glucose levels, so your "machinery" can last a lifetime. It really is that simple.

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, making a few changes can dramatically lower your chances of developing type 2 diabetes. The same changes can also lower the chances of developing heart disease and some cancers.

Control your weight. Excess weight is the single most important cause of type 2 diabetes. Being overweight increases the chances of developing type 2 diabetes seven-fold. Being obese makes you 20 to 40 times more likely to develop diabetes than someone with a healthy weight.

Losing weight can help if your weight is above the healthy-weight range. Losing 7-10% of your current weight can cut in half your chances of developing type 2 diabetes.

Get moving. Inactivity promotes type 2 diabetes. Every two hours you spend watching TV instead of pursuing something more active increases the changes of developing diabetes by 14%. Working your muscles more often and making them work harder improves their ability to use insulin and absorb glucose. This puts less stress on your insulin-making machinery.

Long bouts of hot, sweaty exercise aren't necessary to reap this benefit. Findings from the Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study suggest that walking briskly for a half hour every day reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 30%.

This amount of exercise has a variety of other benefits as well. And even greater cardiovascular and other benefits can be attained by more, and more intense, exercise.

Tune-up your diet. Two dietary changes can have a big impact on the risk of type 2 diabetes.

1. Choose whole grains and whole-grain products over highly processed carbohydrates. In other words, choose whole foods instead of processed foods.
2. Choose good fats instead of bad fats. The types of fats in your diet can also affect the development of diabetes. Good fats, such as the polyunsaturated fats found in tuna, salmon, liquid vegetable oils, and many nuts, can help ward off type 2 diabetes. Trans fats do just the opposite. These bad fats are found in many margarines, packaged baked goods, fried foods in most fast-food restaurants, and any product that lists "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" on the label. If you already have diabetes, eating fish can help protect you against a heart attack or dying from heart disease.

If you smoke, try to quit. Add type 2 diabetes to the long list of health problems linked with smoking. Smokers are 50% to 90% more likely to develop diabetes than nonsmokers.

Alcohol now and then may help. A growing body of evidence links moderate alcohol consumption with reduced risks of heart disease. The same may be true for type 2 diabetes. Moderate amounts of alcohol-a drink a day for men, a drink every other day for women-increases the efficiency of insulin at getting glucose inside cells. And some studies indicate that moderate alcohol consumption decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes. If you already drink alcohol, the key is to keep your consumption in the moderate range. If you don't drink alcohol, there's no need to start-you can get the same benefits by losing weight, exercising more, and changing your eating patterns.

The bottom line? They key to preventing type 2 diabetes can be boiled down to five words: Stay lean and stay active.