November is Diabetes Awareness Month. November also hosts World Diabetes Day on November 14th. This year there are two key messages. First, is to act to change your life today and second to act to change the world tomorrow. Everybody plays a role in diabetes awareness and this month we put emphasis and draw attention to the disease so that we can help change the following statistics:
- Nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes.
- Another 86 million Americans have prediabetes and are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes. (1)
Let’s take a closer look to what diabetes is and the role exercise plays in diabetes management!
What is diabetes?
If you have diabetes, no matter what type, it means you have too much glucose in your blood, although the causes may differ.
There are two main types of diabetes, 1 and 2.
- Type 1: Only about 5 % of people get diagnosed with Type 1 and is typically diagnosed in children and young adults. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin.
- Type 2: This is the more common type of diabetes and occurs when your body does not use insulin properly, called insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.
What is insulin and why do we need it?
Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas. After you eat food and your blood sugar level rises, the cells in your pancreas are signaled to release insulin into your bloodstream. The body breaks down the sugars and starches you eat into a simple sugar called glucose, which it uses for energy. Insulin is what gets the glucose from the bloodstream in to the cells of the body. If the body does not naturally produce insulin, as in Type 1 diabetes, a person needs to inject insulin prescribed to them by their doctor. (1)
There is no cure for diabetes, but the disease can be managed with lifestyle changes, oral medications and insulin. However, there can be several complications to the disease. Some complications include:
- Hyperglycemia-known as high blood glucose, symptoms include high levels of sugar in the urine, frequent urination and increased thirst. You can treat hyperglycemia by exercising (which we talk about later) and changing the amount of food you eat.
- Hypoglycemia- also known as low blood sugar, symptoms include shakiness, sweating, confusion and rapid heartbeat. The only way to know for sure if you have low blood sugar is to check it. To treat it, consume 15-20 grams of glucose or simple carbohydrates Recheck your blood glucose after 15 minutes If hypoglycemia continues, repeat. (4)
- Eye complications- there are many different eye complications, but they all involve some sort of pressure to the eye, cloudiness and eventual vision loss. People with diabetes are 40% more likely to have glaucoma and 60% more likely to have cataracts. (5)
- Foot complications- diabetic nerve damage can cause tingling, weakness and loss of feeling in the feet. Loss of feeling makes you more at risk for injuring your foot and not knowing about it.
- Kidney Disease- high levels of blood sugar make the kidneys filter too much blood and the stress of overwork causes the kidneys to lose filtering ability. Waste product starts to build up and the kidneys fail. The better a person can manage their blood pressure and diabetes, the better kidney disease can be prevented.
Exercise and Diabetes
Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, living a healthy lifestyle is important and that includes exercise.
With type 1, it’s very important to balance your insulin doses with the food you eat and the activity that you do. It’s important to know your body’s response to glucose so that you can manage it from not going too high or too low.
Your blood glucose response to exercise will vary depending on:
- your blood glucose level before starting activity
- the intensity of the activity
- the length of time you are active
- changes you’ve made to insulin doses (2)
If your blood glucose is high before starting exercise, check your blood or urine for ketones. If you test positive for ketones, avoid vigorous activity. High levels of ketones are toxic to the body.
What are ketones?
Ketone bodies are acids made when your body begins using fat instead of carbohydrates for energy. When there is not enough insulin to get sugar from the blood and into the cells, the body turns to fat for energy. When fat is broken down, ketone bodies are made and can accumulate in the body. (3)
If you do not have ketones in your blood or urine and you feel well, it should be fine to exercise.
Spreading the Message
This year’s theme for American Diabetes Month is “Eat Well, America!” and it really ties in with how we are always talking about committing to exercise and a healthy diet to achieve wellness. Through this campaign, the American Diabetes Association will be showing people that eating healthy can be easy and fun, without sacrificing flavor. Their website has a wealth of resources from planning and shopping for your meals, to preparation and serving. These resources can hopefully help those living with diabetes and those looking to live a healthier lifestyle achieve health and wellness every single day. Everyone deserves to enjoy food that makes them feel happy, strong and empowered, and the Association will inspire people to eat well while also successfully managing their diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed! Incorporating a healthy lifestyle and knowing your risks can really help you manage your diabetes and prevent complications. Whether you have diabetes or know somebody that does, you can help spread the message and lower the statistics on diabetes. For more information on how to get started on your healthy lifestyle, contact us.
- “American Diabetes Month”. Accessed 2, November 2015. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes.org. http://www.diabetes.org/in-my-community/american-diabetes-month.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/
- “Exercise and Type 1 Diabetes”. Accessed 4, November 2015. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes.org. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/fitness/exercise-and-type-1-diabetes.html
- “Blood Glucose Management: Checking for Ketones”. Accessed 6, November 2015. Healthline. http://www.healthline.com/health/type-2-diabetes/facts-ketones#1
- “Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose)”. Accessed 6, November 2015. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes.org. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/blood-glucose-control/hypoglycemia-low-blood.html?loc=lwd-slabnav
- “Eye Complications”. Accessed 9, November 2015. American Diabetes Association. Diabetes.org. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/eye-complications/?loc=lwd-slabnav
- image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net