Diabetes is a chronic disease. It occurs when the pancreas is no longer able to make insulin, or when the body cannot make good use of the insulin it produces. The pancreas produces insulin, which is a hormone that helps glucose to go into the cells to produce energy.
When the body cannot produce insulin or use it effectively, the blood glucose levels rise and hyperglycemia occurs. Over the long-term, this increase in glucose level can damage the body, making diabetes the leading cause of heart disease, stroke, blindness, kidney failure and lower limb amputation.
There are 3 main types of diabetes:
1. Type 1 Diabetes:
When the body produces too little or no insulin. It may affect people at any age, mainly children and young adults. People with type 1 diabetes need daily insulin injections in order to control their blood glucose level. If they do not have access to insulin they will die.
2. Type 2 Diabetes:
90% of the cases of diabetes are of this type. The body becomes resistant to insulin with relative insulin deficiency. It can occur at any age and is often but not always associated with obesity and overweight. People with type 2 diabetes can initially manage their condition with diet and exercise. However, over time, most people will require oral medication or insulin, depending on the progress of the disease.
3. Gestational Diabetes:
This type occurs during pregnancy. It affects 1 in 25 pregnant women worldwide. It is associated with complications to both the mother and the baby putting both at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later in life.
The key risk factors for type 2 diabetes
According to the International Diabetes Federation, the number of people with Diabetes is rising. It is expected to reach 522 million people worldwide by 2030. However, 80% of type 2 diabetes can be prevented through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle. This includes habits that modify the risk factors of the disease. The major risk factor that can lead to diabetes are:
Obesity and fat distribution
Having extra fat, especially in the abdominal area, increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases. Managing and maintaining a healthy weight is very essential to prevent diabetes especially if you have family history of diabetes.
Excessive caloric intake can lead to increased risks of obesity and diabetes risk. In addition, the quality of the diet also plays a role in the development of diabetes, independent of the level of obesity. Higher consumption of simple sugars and carbohydrates, saturated and trans fats, is associated with an increased diabetes risk. On the other hand, more fiber and unsaturated fat decrease the risk. Consumption of fruits and vegetables may protect the development of the disease, as they are rich in nutrients, fiber and protective antioxidants.
Lack of exercise
Numerous studies show that increased physical activity reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. A sedentary lifestyle increases it. This is because regular physical activity increases insulin sensitivity and the blood flow to the muscles and organs. Moreover, it also prevents the progression of the disease during the initial stages, before having to go for insulin therapy. Moreover, physical activity reduces abdominal fat which is a known factor for insulin resistance.
The prevalence of diabetes among individuals who have a first-degree relative with diabetes was significantly higher than that of individuals without a family history.
According to CDC, smokers are more likely to develop diabetes than non-smokers. Furthermore, Smoking makes the diabetes harder to control. Moreover, smokers with diabetes have higher risks of developing serious complications. These include heart and kidney diseases, eye disease that can cause blindness. They can also cause damage to the nerves, and poor blood flow to legs and peripherals which can lead to infections and possible amputation.
Drinking too much alcohol may cause chronic inflammation to the pancreas impairing its ability to produce insulin and potentially leading to diabetes.
Recommendations for a healthy diet and lifestyle:
The best way to prevent diabetes and other diseases is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, the following are tips you can adopt:
- Include more wholegrain products such as wholewheat bread and pasta and brown rice.
- Likewise, Focus more on fruits and vegetables.
- Drink water and herbal teas instead of juices and sweetened beverages.
- Have healthy snacks. Choose fruits, raw nuts, or unsweetened low-fat yogurt instead of the chocolate and chips.
- Limit or even avoid alcoholic beverages.
- Choose lean proteins. Lean meats such as poultry and fish are lower in saturated fats.
- Use unsaturated fats like olive, canola and other oils and limit or even avoid saturated fats like butter, margarine, coconut and palm oil.
- Finally, always find time to move and exercise. Just 30 minutes a day can be beneficial. It does not have to be going to the gym. Dancing for example is considered as a physical activity that can boost your metabolism and lift your mood at the same time.
As a conclusion and according to studies, lifestyle modification with healthy habits and diet can delay or prevent the onset of diabetes and many other diseases. Therefore, my recommendation to you is to start adding one healthy habit every week or even every month. This way, you will slowly and easily achieve a healthy lifestyle and protect yourself from diseases and live a long and healthy life.