By: Dr. Sheri R. Colberg
The following is excerpted from Living Well and Being Fit with Diabetes, No Matter Your Weight By: Sheri R. Colberg, Ph.D.
Ignorance Is Not Bliss
Americans are undeniably getting heavier by the minute. Maybe you also find yourself lamenting about your ever-increasing body weight, but wonder if all that extra fat means that your health will invariably suffer.
The answer is that it depends. Many people who put on too much fat also suffer from other health problems, including diabetes. In fact, a diabetes epidemic is currently sweeping the nation – and the world.
More than 90 percent of people developing diabetes are developing type 2 diabetes, characterized primarily by insulin resistance, or an inability of the hormone called insulin to work effectively to keep blood sugars (referred to throughout this book as blood glucose, or BG) in check.
Although a minority, the people with type 1 diabetes which is caused by their bodies’ own destruction of insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas (essentially autoimmunity triggered by an environmental cause), can also develop an insulin-resistant state that makes their diabetes harder to control.
Of late, a new type of diabetes – unofficially known as type 1.5 diabetes, or “double diabetes” – has been emerging; it has characteristics of both type 1 (autoimmunity) and type 2 (insulin resistance) diabetes, making it difficult to make an accurate initial diagnosis is all cases.
If you are reading this book, that means either diabetes or a pre-diabetic condition (characterized primarily by insulin resistance, with a closer-to-normal BG level) has already happened to you or someone you know or care about.
Perhaps your doctor recently told you that you have type 2 diabetes, which is frequently diagnosed by a fasting BG level of 126 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl) or 7.00 mmol/l) or above first thing in the morning, or perhaps your sugars have been hovering in the prediabetic range (100 to 125 mg/dl, or 5.56 to 6.94 mmol/l, prebreakfast) as your body weight has been creeping up.
You may want to blame the half-dozen glazed doughnuts or that triple-fudge sundae you just ate, instead of diabetes or prediabetes for a passing BG reading of 200 mg/dl (11.11 mmol/l), but you can’t.
The reality is that regardless of what you eat, your BG level will never spike above 140 mg/dl (7.78 mmol/l) if you don’t already have one of these health conditions.
A doctor may have already advised you to lose some weight to better control your BG, but is losing weight the only solution? If it is, then most people are out of luck.
The reality is that only a fraction of the millions of dieters – with or without diabetes – succeed in losing weight and keeping it off permanently.
Obesity and diabetes are currently overtaking our nation. Two-thirds of American adults are considered overweight or obese, and that number is rising fast, particularly among younger adults and youth, based on their body mass index (BMI).
Even more alarming is the fact that children born nowadays have a one-in-three chance of developing diabetes in their lifetime, and for many minority groups, the risk is close to a whopping 50 percent.
More than 20.8 million people in the United States already have diabetes, and the projected number of Americans with diabetes by 2030 is over 30 million.
That’s an overwhelming number of Americans with diabetes, and that doesn’t even include the more than 40 million insulin-resistant, prediabetic people who have a strong potential for developing it.
Moreover, among the nearly 370 million cases of diabetes projected worldwide by 2030 (up from 170 million in 2000), the United States lags behind only India and China, two countries with much larger populations.
Why Should You Worry About Diabetes?
As many as one-third of the people who have diabetes don’t even know it. So, is ignorance bliss? Absolutely not, because you can’t fight back against diabetes – or even prediabetes – unless your condition and ready to do something about it. Having diabetes is definitely something to worry about.
Diabetes has the potential not only to rob you of, on average, more than 12 years of your life, it can also dramatically reduce your quality of life for more than 20 years.
Diabetes can result in compromised physical capacity, partial limb amputations, loss of mobility, chronic pain, blindness, chronic dialysis, and heart disease.
For women, the reality may be even worse: 38.5 percent of average females born in the year 2000 or later are predicted to develop diabetes; diabetes will cut short the lives of these women by 14.3 years if they are diagnosed by the age of 40 and lower their quality of life for 22 of the years they do live.
Our current national health problems are irrefutably serious. In fact, the generation of Americans now being born is the first ever predicted to die before their parents.
If you or your kids have diabetes, you have twice the risk of dying compared to anyone without the disease, and if you’re younger when diagnosed with diabetes (age twenty-five to forty-four), your risk is almost four times as high as your nondiabetic counterparts.
Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, based on death certificates listing it as the cause. However, these statistics belie its significant negative impact on longevity, as many death certificates list diabetes only as a contributing cause of death; still more fail to mention it at all.
For instance, is someone with diabetes dies from a heart attack, the death certificate may not even list diabetes as a cause or contributor, even though it is well documented that poor control of BG levels accelerates the blockage of coronary arteries, which leads to heart disease.
A study from the World Health Organization found that diabetes kills more people worldwide than was previously suspected: it is currently the cause of 3.2 million deaths per year, or 6 deaths every minute.
The point of discussing the more negative aspects of diabetes is not to depress or scare you, but rather to convince you that your primary goal should be to prevent, reverse, or effectively control insulin resistance and BG levels so that you can prevent these complications from ever happening to you.
The good news is that they are almost entirely preventable with good BG control. An added bonus is that the majority of the same strategies used to control diabetes and its complications will also reverse a prediabetic state and potentially prevent diabetes from ever happening to you in the first place.
The problem with current diabetes care, however, is that most people never achieve or maintain optimal control over their BG levels (“optimal” means average BG in a normal or near-normal range or a glycated hemoglobin level of no more than 7 percent).
All is Not Lost:
Can you live a long and healthy life with diabetes? Certainly, and this book will teach you the steps to take to do so. After reading this book, you will also understand better why losing a significant amount of your excess pounds is not the cure-all it was once believed to be.
Yes, it is possible to be fit but still overweight and to live well with diabetes (or prediabetes).
Now I’d like you to get up, stretch, and walk around for a bit (actually, I’d like you to repeat this between every fitness step); then come back and read on to learn the seven steps to diabetes fitness).
You will learn all you need to know to become more fit in every sense of the word and to live a longer, healthier life without dieting – and in spite of having diabetes.
The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan Recap:
Step 1: Your lifestyle choices matter most in controlling your diabetes and prediabetes. The goal is to improve your insulin sensitivity and glucose use, and physical activity and increased fitness are best suited to help you accomplish this goal, no matter how much you weigh.
Step 2: Regardless of your current physical condition, there are myriad easy and effective ways to start moving more to make the undeniable benefits of increased physical activity on your diabetes control and general health yours to keep for the rest of your life.
Step 3: Your physical fitness and diabetes control will benefit most from a varied exercise program that includes aerobic exercise of differing intensities, resistance training, regular stretching, body “core” exercises, and a weekly day of rest.
Step 4: Optimal eating is just as vital to diabetes fitness as physical activity as the two work in concert. Stick with natural, colorful, high-fiber, low-GI foods and smaller portions to control your diabetes and your body weight.
Step 5: Your emotional health is just as important as your physical health when it comes to effectively controlling your diabetes and preventing loss of quality of life from depression, dementia, or disordered eating. Physical activity can help you conquer them all.
Step 6: Effective use of diabetic and other medications along with certain nutritional supplements. Many enable you to better control your diabetes and other health problems so that you can live a longer and healthier life.
Step 7: Motivation to exercise comes in many forms. Try out different strategies until you find the ones that work for you to make healthy lifestyle changes that will last for the rest of your long and healthy life.
For more information on The 7 Step Diabetes Fitness Plan, visit Colberg’s Website here.
NOTE: Excerpts are provided on dLife.com for informational purposes only. The information contained within will not be updated by dLife and may be outdated. Please consult your doctor before acting on anything described here.
Updated by dLife Editors 1/19.