Diabetes is poorly understood, and frequently underestimated. It relates to the way your pancreas produces insulin, the hormone which allows your body to process sugar properly. Over time, your high levels of glucose can cause damage to your blood vessels which can result in heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, and issues with your extremities. It sounds bad, but many people aren’t too phased about the risk it poses. In reality, it is a massive problem in Australia. Here are few sobering facts to give you a scope of the problem:
- 300 Australians develop diabetes every single day. That is roughly one every five minutes.
- It is the 7th leading cause of death by disease.
- 1.9 Million Australians suffer from diabetes. That is around about 7% of the entire population.
- It costs taxpayers almost $18 billion annually.
- It is the leading cause of blindness
- It causes 4,400 amputations of limbs
- It makes you four times more likely to develop heart disease
And the worst part? These stats are getting worse. Diabetes is becoming a bigger problem in 2023 than it ever has been before. Here are the two types:
Type 1 - this is the kind that most sufferers will develop as a child. It stays with you for life. It means that your pancreas never really processed diabetes. By and large, it can be managed relatively well.
Type 2 - This is the kind of diabetes you develop due to lifestyle factors. Your body becomes less effective at managing blood glucose levels, losing around 50-70% of their insulin producing cells. From here on in, you would need to be on medication, as well as monitoring your diet to ensure your sugar levels aren’t too high or too low. If you get too low, you can develop hypoglycemia which releases toxins into your bloodstream. If untreated, this can be fatal.
With that in mind, it becomes incredibly important to get on the front foot now, lest you end up contributing to these statistics. Here are a few lifestyle changes you can make today.
Get off the couch
Physical activity makes your body more sensitive to insulin, while dropping your blood sugar level. Ideally, you want to get around 150 minutes of exercise throughout the week. Sadly, you can’t do that all in one fell swoop though; it needs to be periodically spaced throughout the week. You might want to consider getting in 20 minutes a day, or 50 minutes three times. However you decide to break it up, make sure that you are hitting all the major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, chest, core, shoulders, and arms). You should be aiming for:
- Aerobic exercise: jogging, swimming, biking or most ball sports
- Resistance training: lifting weights, chin-ups, push ups, sit-ups etc. All those fun things you hate doing at the gym
- Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle: If you sit for long periods at work, consider a standing desk, or a walking meeting. Anything to get you up every half hour or so.
Lose those extra kilos
This is closely linked to the physical activity tip, but it goes further than that. Most people put on weight first around their stomach, which is where most of your essential organs are stored. Think about it: Squeezing your heart, liver, pancreas, bowels can hardly be good for your health. But this pressure causes a resistance to insulin resistance which can cause your pancreas to work too hard. Over time, it will burn out. You might want to consider the Atkins diet. As well as being a helpful way to lose weight, the Atkins diet reduces the amount of carbs you are consuming. This ends up being very helpful, because many of the medications for diabetes have a side effect which stimulates appetite, so it is not uncommon for people to put on weight while they actually need to be losing weight. You can find a wide variety of information on the Atkins diet online, as well as a range of products on our (digital) shelves.
Specifically, you want to be doing the following:
- Increase your fibre rich foods. These include stone fruit, tomatoes, capsicum, leafy greens, cauliflower, broccoli, legumes, whole grains, rice, oats and quinoa. These will promote weight loss, and lower your blood sugar levels, reducing your risk of developing diabetes. Avoid things like white bread, pasta, sugary foods, and fruit juice.
- Get good protein into your diet. This will keep you feeling more full for a longer period of time. In general, a handful of protein in each meal will tide you over nicely. This might be chobani yoghurt, poultry, red meats, or an assortment of beans. If you are full, you are way less likely to hit 3pm and eat a muffin.
It is important to know the warning signs of when a diabetic is in trouble. Often, they will recognise the signs and act accordingly, but you can’t bank on this. Your quick thinking may well save a life. If the person is displaying the following symptoms, you need to call 000 straight away.
- If they are feeling shaky or unsteady on their feet.
- They are inordinately anxious
- They are sweaty and clammy
- They appear confused or uncertain
- They are irritable (this might be alarming, but it is unintentional. Do not disengage)
- They complain of hunger
- They are nauseous
- They are pale
- They have lost coordination
- They want to go to sleep
If they are stable, give them 15 ml of carbohydrates to raise their blood sugar levels, and check it again in 15 minutes time (the 15 - 15 rule). If you see no improvement, they will need to go to hospital.
Hopefully, this article has been a bit of a wake up call. Diabetes is only becoming more prevalent, but with some effort and care, it can be avoided in most people (although genetics plays a fairly important role). Either way, eating a healthy diet and staying active will (most likely) lead to a longer healthier life.