I have come across three people who have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes. This type of diabetes is affected by lifestyle factors like diet and activity level. Seeing as this hit close to home, I decided to learn more about it by sifting through the many resources available.
It turns out that the “fake news” phenomenon has been pervasive enough to extend even to the resources that have to do with health and well-being. There are articles about how a certain fruit has been supposedly “proven” to lower blood sugar, but do not cite any studies or statistics to back it up. Many of the articles are written in an authoritative tone by authors who lack the necessary credentials to make such claims.
For this piece, I have gathered ideas from two authoritative (and science-based) sources: the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the Mayo Clinic. When one is unsure of a certain topic, it is best to consult those with sound information who have the expertise and experience to back it up.
A primer on diabetes is in order, since this is a disease that is often misunderstood.
According to ACE, diabetes is best understood by how it relates to insulin. Insulin is a hormone that is released by the body (from the pancreas) after digestion, and one of its most important roles is to allow carbohydrates (as well as protein) to be absorbed by the body’s muscle cells, where they either “lay waiting” (are stored) or are used as fuel in activities.
When one is diagnosed with diabetes, the insulin is not effectively used, which leads to a buildup of sugar in our blood (hence, the term “blood sugar level” or glucose level). This buildup of sugar in our blood is cause for concern as it has been linked to some conditions and diseases like heart disease and kidney failure.
The Mayo Clinic tells us to watch out for these symptoms as possible signals that one has type 2 diabetes:
– Increased thirst
– Frequent urination
– Constant hunger
– Weight loss despite eating more
There are other symptoms as well, like having blurred vision or darkened skin. If you suspect that you may have type 2 diabetes, go to your doctor immediately so a plan of action can be formulated and you can be proactive about it.
While it is a chronic condition, type 2 diabetes can be managed. Depending on the state you are in, your doctor may prescribe medication, on top of changes to your diet and activity levels. I cannot stress enough the importance of seeking professional, medical help if you suspect you have it already. You cannot begin your journey to wellness if you do not know the true status of your health and are in a position to do something about it.
I will leave the discussion of medication to those qualified to talk about it (medical doctors). But there are things we can do, and according to ACE, these are some of the areas we have control over and can engage in.
Cardiovascular exercise. Strive to include physical activity on most days of the week, and with an intensity that is considered low to medium only. Your body may respond differently to exercise once you have diabetes—this includes those who used to exercise regularly, pre-diabetes. Your doctor’s recommendation will be helpful once the results of your physical exams are out. Since you want to extend the length of time of your fitness routine, it is best to stay away from high-intensity activities.
Resistance exercises. Try to target major muscle groups when you perform resistance exercises. Again, do not over-exert yourself and stay on a level that is considered low to medium only. This is not the time to be “showing off” how much you can bench press in one go. ACE recommends doing 10 to 15 repetitions of an exercise, so adjust your intensity to achieve that goal.
Flexibility exercises. Do stretching exercises to the point of tension (as opposed to pain). I find many people do the latter, and they wince instead of feel relieved. After the above-mentioned activities, it is always good to stretch to help your body move back to its normal pre-workout level.
Having type 2 diabetes is not a death sentence—you can take steps to halt its progression and maybe even reverse its course. But this can only happen if you are aware and updated on your current health status; only then can you plan what to do should you be diagnosed with it. Do not be afraid of your doctor. Think of him as an ally who will help you deal with your condition.
Our parents (mine, at least) have always reminded us that moderation is key to most everything, and you can’t really have too much of one thing without affecting life’s balance and experiencing consequences. As adults, we find our diets to be one of those areas where we are “unbalanced.” If you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, take a deep breath, see your doctor, and implement the necessary lifestyle changes so you can prove to one and all that, yes, life can still be sweet.
Illustration by Paul Fabila
Read more on how someone with type 2 diabetes can still live their best life on Asian Dragon Magazine’s October-November 2017 issue, available for download on Magzter.