Stopping Diabetes in its tracks…
There’s no doubt that diabetes is taking over the world. No industrialized country seems safe from the disease and in Australia alone an estimated 280 people develop diabetes each day. The financial burden of diabetes has been estimated at $10.3 billion taking into account carer costs, productivity losses and health system costs. Reducing the prevalence of diabetes in Australia would not only decrease these costs but would also result in better health outcomes and quality of life for all Australians.
So what exactly is diabetes? Diabetes is a chronic condition characterised by an inability of our bodies to convert the sugars from the food we eat to energy. This results in a build up of sugar in our blood (often referred to as a high blood sugar reading). If this continues, over time damage occurs to blood vessels, in particular those in the kidneys, eyes and extremities (eg. Toes, hence the need for diabetics to have yearly check ups with a podiatrist).
While nephropathy, neuropathy, retinopathy and cardiovascular disease are some of the most common complications, they can be avoided if a person manages their diabetes well, lives a healthy, active lifestyle and controls other risk factors eg. Alcohol excess, smoking, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. So what is the best way to cut your risk for developing diabetes? Simple!
- Eat a healthy, well balanced diet high in veg, fruit, wholegrain breads and cereals, low fat dairy, lean meat and meat alternatives, legumes, nuts and seeds.
- Exercise, exercise, exercise!! Cardiovascular exercise (think walking/jogging/bike riding etc) helps to burn calories and decrease weight around the abdomen which is one of the biggest risk factors for insulin resistance!) Weight bearing exercise is also important (think squats/push ups- anything that requires contraction of your larger muscle groups) as it causes our muscle cells to use any sugar floating around in our blood- lowering our blood sugar levels and helping us maintain euglycemia (normal blood sugar levels).
So what about for those who already have diabetes but want to better control their blood sugar levels and prevent diabetic complications in the future? Firstly- they should also follow the above steps but furthermore it can be helpful for them to:
- Choose lower glycaemic index carbohydrates. These are carbs that give us a gradual rise in blood sugar levels and give us energy for longer. (As opposed to putting our blood sugars through the roof immediately).
- Have lemon juice or vinegar on meals- this slows gastric emptying (the rate at which food leaves the stomach and enters the intestine) which also slows the rate at which our blood sugar levels rise.
- Control any other risk factors you have eg. If you have high blood pressure- decrease salt and alcohol in your diet and increase your intake of fresh fruit and veg, nuts and seeds and lean dairy products (all high in potassium which helps to lower blood pressure). If you have high cholesterol decrease your intake of saturated and trans fats (think fatty meat, full fat dairy, fast food, chocolate, cake etc) and increase your intake of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (avocado, olive oil, nuts and seeds, oily fish).
- Lose weight if you need to- weight loss makes your bodies cells more responsive to insulin and also decreases blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
The take away message? Eat well, exercise and you can go a long way to stopping diabetes in it’s tracks.
Sources: Diabetes Australia website: http://www.diabetesaustralia.com.au/
Diabetes Australia Vic website: http://www.diabetesvic.org.au/