As a kid, I could never understand why grandpa had so many medicines on his night stand or why mom strictly prohibited sugar in his and granny’s chaai or why aunt used those special footwear which never complimented her outfit. But now, there is no denying that diabetes has always been a part of our lives, even before we were old enough to understand it. Since 2nd century AD, diabetes has been one of the greatest mysteries and challenges in the medical world. Today, diabetes is a health concern worldwide.
Did you know?
- Worldwide, over 425 million people are living with diabetes.
- In the global diabetes epidemic, India ranks second after China with 77 million diabetics.
Hail today’s modern lifestyle, there is a good chance that you could soon be one of them. But don’t lose heart yet. Despite the high numbers, the good news is that diabetes is absolutely preventable. You can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) by making healthy lifestyle changes in your daily routine, even if you are at risk.
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How and Where Do I Start?
First, let’s understand where you stand on the scale of diabetes.
Before developing T2DM, you will develop a condition called prediabetes, wherein your blood sugar level is higher than normal. Fasting blood sugar of ≤99 mg/dL is normal, 100–125 mg/dL is prediabetic and ≥126 mg/dL is diabetic. Common risk factors of prediabetes include:
- Age ≥ 45 years
- Gender (the risk is higher in men than women)
- Family history
- High blood pressure or stress
- Being overweight or obese
- Physical inactivity (spending 9 hours/day sitting)
- Gestational diabetes: Develops during pregnancy and goes away after birth, but the mother and baby present a high risk of T2DM throughout the life
Know What Needs to Change
Now that you know where you stand, it is time to figure out what needs to change, in terms of nutritional uptake and physical activity.
Track Your Weekly Eating Habits
- Do people, friends, family and colleagues influence what you eat?
- Do you plan your meals before time or give in to last-minute cravings?
- Do you read nutritional labels on food packages?
- How often do you go out to eat and where?
- What makes it harder to eat healthier?
- How often do you smoke or consume alcohol and how much?
Track Your Weekly Physical Activity
- How much time do you spend walking, jogging or biking?
- How much time do you spend doing household chores?
- Do you have a go-to physical activity for stress relief, like running?
- What makes it challenging to be more physically active?
Change What Needs to Change
Be it your ex or your health, breaking old toxic patterns is something we all desire, but making radical changes and starting a new routine is not as easy as it sounds. Good things always take time. So, be realistic. Make small plans with one step at a time, instead of taking a big leap that is hard to stick with.
Watch Your Weight
If your BMI is 25.0–29.9, you are overweight. If your BMI is ≥30.0, you are obese. In such cases, losing at least 5%–7% of your body weight and staying physically active can greatly reduce your risk of T2DM. This will further reduce your HbA1c levels. The HbA1c test is frequently used to diagnose prediabetes and diabetes. A normal A1C level is <5.7%, whereas a level of 5.7%–6.4% and ≥6.5% indicates prediabetes and diabetes, respectively. Lower the level of HbA1c, lower the risk of T2DM.
Get Moving with a New Routine
The goal is to take out a minimum of 150 minutes/week for moderate–high intensity workout. This hardly takes 25–30 minutes/day for activities that you can actually enjoy, like brisk walking, running, dancing, swimming, cycling or playing your favourite sports. It’s all about doing what makes you happy.
Mind & Body Therapies
Yoga is a promising cost-effective option for preventing T2DM. It enhances flexibility, muscle strength, blood circulation, heart rate and oxygen uptake. Asanas (postures) enhance insulin receptor expression in the muscles and induce positive effects on glucose utilisation in T2DM.
Some common yoga asanas and their benefits in preventing T2DM:
Massages and pressurises the pancreas for insulin secretion
Exerts stimulating and energising effects
Squeeze the intestines to prevent stagnation of colonic contents
1) Abdominal pressure created during exhalation improves the efficiency of pancreatic β-cells, 2) helps produce insulin and control blood glucose levels
1) Increases glucose uptake, 2) minimises insulin resistance, 3) promotes insulin functioning by reducing free fatty acid levels
1) Reduces blood glucose levels, 2) increases insulin production
1) Increases cerebral blood flow and oxygenation, 2) lowers blood pressure
You Are What You Eat
You have probably noticed that someone who works out everyday but does not follow a proper diet has a hard time losing weight. This is because your diet plays a crucial role in weight management. An ideal diet does not need to be hard and fast or have a popular name or be endorsed by famous celebrities. It just needs to have the following three secret ingredients:
Whatever you eat, practice portion control.
A well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, dairy, grains, and protein
A diet that gives you all the nutrients you need
For diabetes, the diabetes plate method or 9-inch plate method is the best and easiest way to ensure a healthy meal.
- Half of your plate should contain non-starchy vegetables: green vegetables + red vegetables + fruits
- One quarter of your plate should contain food enriched with lean protein, including nuts, eggs, and chicken)
- The last quarter of your plate should contain grains and starchy food like oats and potatoes. You can replace starch by doubling up non-starchy food portions (just ensure it’s not loaded with cheese, butter or exotic sauces).
- Pair it with water or a low-calorie drink.
Get Enough Sleep
Anything too much or too little is unhealthy, even your sleep. Lack or excess of sleep can make you crave high-carb food, ultimately inducing weight gain and subsequent risk of health complications. Get 7 or 8 hours of sleep/night for a healthy metabolism and normal blood sugar levels.
Regular Checkups for Preventive Healthcare
Get regular health checkups once in 6 months as diabetes has a tendency to increase the risk of cardiac conditions, like high cholesterol, hypertension and high HbA1c levels. Get your eyes tested annually too. Also, keep your sugar in check on a regular basis; it helps avoid diabetes-related complications.
Research shows that stress triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol into the blood. These hormones hinder the functioning of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, ultimately increasing the blood glucose levels. Stress is also a potential contributor of chronic hyperglycemia and hypertension. Hence, managing physical and mental stress is absolutely vital. Find ways to relieve and manage your stress levels. Consider setting a workout pattern, such as breathing exercises, yoga, hobbies, etc. (Smoking does not count.)
Diabetes or Not, Stop Smoking!
Diabetes is associated with a multitude of diseases, such as those of heart, eyes, kidney, blood vessels, brain and foot. And if you smoke, you are already at high risk of many. Smoking also makes it difficult to work out. Consult your doctor or close ones and find ways to quit.
When it comes to preventing diabetes, one can take several steps, but motivation and consistency are a must for preventing diabetes. Stay focused on success and not on disappointments. Talk to friends, family, healthcare providers for support. Also, there are many apps and websites that can help you attain your healthcare goals. Instead of viewing prediabetes as a stepping stone to diabetes and losing heart, you can see it as a motivator to make healthy changes in your lifestyle.
Testing at Thyrocare
Thyrocare offers 4 different diabetic profiles, namely Diabetic Profile – M, Diabetic Profile (SUGARSO) and Diabetic Profile – Basic and Advanced. The parameters covered help you understand complete blood count, glucose levels, HbA1c levels, iron deficiency, lipid/liver/kidney profile, thyroid profile, vitamins, essential elements and electrolytes and cardiac risk markers. Getting yourself tested is the stepping stones for a healthier tomorrow.