While diabetes has been known to humans from a very long time, the earliest texts describing it talk only about the first type of diabetes: Diabetes Mellitus Type 1. This kind is caused when human pancreas do not produce or produce very little of the hormone called insulin. But the more modern Diabetes Type 2 is far more prevalent.
90 percent of diabetics suffer from the modern variant. On an average, around 10 percent of Indians suffer from it, with the numbers being as high as 15 percent in urban areas. It is then apt to call Diabetes Type 2 a modern as well as an urban disease.
Both types of diabetes entail a high level of sugar in the bloodstream. But the reasons for this are different. While the pancreas in Type 1 cannot produce insulin in the case of Diabetes Type 1, in the case of Type 2, insulin gets produced but the body loses its ability to use it. The effects on health are largely the same and equally dangerous: impaired kidney performance, damage to the heart and arteries, vision complications, etc.
Unlike the Type 1 variant, Type 2 is largely due to lifestyle choices. While there is some genetic predisposition involved, studies in recent years have shown that the disease is preventable and controllable. Some experts say about 9 out of 10 incidences of diabetes 2 can stopped by just lifestyle changes. In this blogpost, we discuss this very pernicious disease, its causes, and the lifestyle changes we can make to prevent it.
Obesity has seen a marked increase in India, especially among the female population, in the recent years. Global obesity rates almost tripled for men to 11% of the total from 3.2% in 1975, while among women it nearly doubled to 15% from 6.4% in 1975. This is worrying since data also shows that women are more prone to diabetes than men.
To prevent diabetes 2, and a host of several other conditions, maintaining a healthy BMI is absolutely important. While a BMI of 25 is usually suggested as the upper cutoff, some other doctors and health professionals opine that for South Asians a cut of 23 is more apt. Along with a healthy BMI, maintaining a low abdominal visceral fat is very important. It is seen that this fat affects body’s metabolism, by releasing a type of protein that causes glucose intolerance – a precursor to diabetes 2. Keep your weight down by exercise and healthy diet, and you will never have to worry about Diabetes 2.
Sugar and Simple Carbohydrates
A diet high in sugar and simple carbohydrates like white rice, white flour (maida and also rava) is an indirect but indubitable cause of diabetes 2. The effect is indirect because eating a lot of simple carbs makes you want to eat more. This higher calorific intake causes obesity which is the actual culprit.
There is also a circular effect that activates once you become even slightly insulin resistant. Your body doesn’t absorb the food you are eating and you feel hungrier and more prone to diabetes – a vicious cycle. To never be caught in it, eat protein, replace your white rice and flour with whole grain, cool drinks with water, fruit juice with cut fruit.
Saturated and Trans Fats
Carbohydrates get a lot of attention when talking about diabetes 2. But saturated are equally, if not more, guilty. Eat less than 10 percent of your calories in these fats. But unsaturated fats are great for you. They lower HDL (the bad cholesterol) and more LDL (the good stuff) and keep you safe from heart disease and diabetes.
Smoking and a Sedentary Lifestyle
Smoking increases a lot of risks in life, making it the possibly the biggest risk we can take, health-wise. Recent research has shown people who smoke overlap largely with the group most susceptible to diabetes. Smokers have higher risks for serious complications, including: Heart and kidney disease, and diabetes. Diabetes multiplies, by several times, the risks smokers already face: heart disease, vision complications, proper blood flow. A big problem with smoking is it reinforces a sedentary behaviour. Smoking hinders, because the body’s ability to take in and use oxygen is impaired, the ability to exercise, further upping the risk of Diabetes 2.
A sedentary lifestyle leads again to obesity, which in turn is the almost inexorable, slippery slope to Diabetes 2. Sedentary persons have a higher incidence of the visceral abdominal fat we already discussed, which creates the conditions necessary for insulin resistance to take root. 30 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity at least 5 days a week keeps your heart healthy and the risk of visceral fat low. Research has shown that even one session of physical activity can help improve a person’s ability to use insulin. However, the effect lasts only 12 to 48 hours, which means regular physical activity is needed to keep insulin working effectively.