Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about different explanations for a diabetes diagnosis. Diabetes can be a bit confusing when you first begin looking into it, because diabetes isn’t just one blanket term that can apply to all cases. Not only does diabetes differ greatly in severity, but there are also multiple types of diabetes that you may be diagnosed with, each having their own causes and solutions.
The main types of diabetes have a few things in common. All types will experience a deficiency of insulin, an important hormone in your body which breaks down sugars in your blood stream.
Type 1 Diabetes
The lack of insulin, or in some cases, the lack of functioning insulin, leads to high blood sugar levels. Type 1 diabetes is a condition in which your body’s immune system attacks the parts of your pancreas that produce insulin, while type 2 is a condition in which your body simply cannot use the insulin efficiently.
Type 2 Diabetes
By far the most common type of diabetes that people get is type 2 diabetes. This is often considered to be the less dangerous of the two main types. Type 2 diabetes typically occurs later in your life, around your 40s and on, but there are more and more cases where children and even young adults are developing type 2 diabetes.
The upside to type 2 diabetes is that even if you have it, you can mitigate its effects by exercising regularly and eating right. The causes of type 2 diabetes aren’t entirely clear yet, but there are a few factors that seem to play a significant role.
Family history is a major factor for type 2 diabetes, so if either of your parents had type 2 diabetes, you may be predisposed to it. Additionally, studies have shown that being overweight and inactive can also lead to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
The less common, yet more severe type of diabetes is type 1 diabetes. The causes of type 1 diabetes are even less clear, though its believed to be somewhat genetic. Type 1 diabetes is worse than type 2 because there’s no real way to curb the effects. Careful monitoring of blood sugar levels, a healthy diet, and physical activity can help mitigate the deleterious health effects of type 1 diabetes.
It also appears much earlier in life, usually at a young age or around adolescence, which can be particularly dangerous. Type 1 diabetics will have to continue administering insulin to themselves and keeping track of their blood sugar levels.
A third form of diabetes also exists, known as gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women, and is usually just a temporary condition. However, its not to be taken lightly, as it does increase the risk of developing diabetes in both the mother and the child.
If your doctor has diagnosed you with prediabetes, it means your blood sugar levels aren’t yet formally as high as a diabetic, but theyre heading that way and there’s still time for you to turn things around.
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity actually improves insulin sensitivity. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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