written by Dr. Jamie McManus for Shaklee Health Wise
Tom Hanks recently joined Paula Deen and Sherri Sheppard in announcing that he too has type 2 diabetes. Since November is Diabetes Awareness Month, I think it is a good time for us all to take a look at our diet and exercise routine and see if we are doing our best to avoid this all-too-common (and preventable) disease.
With 26 million children and adults diagnosed with diabetes and close to 80 million with pre-diabetes (that is almost 1/3 of all people in the United States) it is easy to think that this disease is unstoppable. But this is absolutely not true; in fact, type 2 diabetes is 100 percent preventable. Look at Sherri Sheppard; she now credits type2 diabetes with saving her life.
In her new book (How to Lose Weight and Beat Diabetes), Sherri tells how when she was diagnosed her doctor was blunt about her high blood sugar. She said, “Sherri, you love wearing those shoes, don’t you?” Sherri said, “Yes, I do.” Her doctor then said, “You won’t be wearing them with your foot cut off, because if you keep eating the way you are eating, that’s where you’re headed.” Sherri is now eating healthier, exercising, has lost a significant amount of weight, and feels better than she has in a long time.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes can be defined as having abnormally high blood sugar because the body either does not produce enough insulin (a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar), or because the cells of the body do not respond properly to insulin (or both).
There are two types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes typically occurs in young people, although it can occur in later life (up to around 40 years old) and is a condition where the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas stop producing insulin. The destruction of the insulin-producing cells is thought to be an autoimmune reaction. Type 1 diabetes accounts for about 10 percent of diabetics; type I diabetics will always require insulin.
Type 2 diabetes can happen at any age, although until very recently was quite rare under the age of 40. It develops first as insulin resistance in the cells of the body—meaning that the cells have a difficult time utilizing glucose from the foods you eat. This occurs as a result of eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet and becoming overweight or obese. If untreated, blood sugar levels will continue to climb until you are diagnosed with diabetes.
One of the biggest concerns with diabetes is that it is a silent disease in its early stages. Some estimates suggest that up to 1/3 of people with diabetes are not aware that they have it. You may be at risk for type 2 diabetes if you:
- Are overweight or obese
- Don’t exercise regularly
- Have high cholesterol or high blood pressure
- Are Latino, African American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Asian American, or Pacific Islander
- Have a parent or sibling with diabetes
Diabetes symptoms include fatigue, frequent urination, constant hunger, excessive thirst, blurry vision, tingling or numbness in hands and feet, and slow wound healing. Diabetics have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, amputation, sexual dysfunction, and nerve problems.
Prevention is the key!
There is much you can do to prevent and even reverse diabetes. Recent research shows that an anti-diabetic diet is not only good for diabetics, but also for anyone. (So start now!) Take a look at the risk factors above and see what you have control over: exercise, diet, and your weight—make changes here.
- Eat smarter: Avoid all white foods (such as white bread, white rice.) Focus on a plant-based diet and include plenty of fruits and vegetables. Beans and other good proteins help support a healthy blood sugar. Avoid sugary drinks (especially soda) and all desserts other than fresh fruit. Fiber is another great way to control blood sugar, make sure to eat plenty of high fiber foods.
- Exercise: Exercise not only burns calories, but has been shown to improve blood sugar control. Exercise that builds muscle can also help with blood sugar control.
- Lose weight: Being overweight can definitely raise your risk of type-2 diabetes. As always, choose a weight-loss program that offers tons of support and helps you maintain your lean body mass.
To me, type-2 diabetes is the disease that shouldn’t be. It is the most preventable major disease we have and there is no way 1 out of every 3 of us should be setting ourselves up for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, loss of eyesight, and amputations that this disease will potentially cause! Yes, it will take effort on your part to make the changes outlined above, but those changes have far-reaching effects on your overall health. So, make a commitment and get started today.
If you want help getting started, there are National Diabetes Prevention Programs all over the country that will help you learn how to eat more healthfully and begin a reasonable exercise routine. You can even attend a program if there is one in your area: recognized programs.
Jamie McManus, M.D., FAAFP
Chair of Medical Affairs, Health Science, & Education