Diabetes and Exercise – Why the Connection is Vitally Important
Almost twenty-one million people in the US are living with diabetes and an estimated 6.2 million of these people don’t know that they have diabetes because they are undiagnosed. People with diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures that are 2.3 times higher than non-diabetics, according to the American Diabetes Association. Another study in Population Health Management estimates that diabetes is costing our nation $218 billion dollars in health care every year. Yet, most diabetes cases are preventable or reversible through exercise, weight loss, and healthy living.
I find myself wondering. What if the 6.2 million people who were undiagnosed knew they had diabetes? Or the estimated 57 million Americans with Pre-Diabetes were educated on how they could mange their health and avoid becoming a Type 2 Diabetic?
Being diagnosed as Pre-Diabetic does not mean that Type 2 diabetes is inevitable. If you lose weight and increase your physical activity, you can prevent or delay diabetes and even return your blood glucose levels to normal (ACSM 2006). (See sidebar for diabetes terms defined)
This is a very important point that many people do not understand – if you exercise and lose weight you can prevent or delay diabetes.
Do you know the signs of diabetes? Take a look around you. Do you see any signs of diabetes in your friends and family right now? (See sidebar for common signs of diabetes) It is very Glucofort possible that there are people that are diabetic (or will become diabetic) around you every day. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in three Americans may develop diabetes in their lifetime. Those statistics are staggering and PREVENTABLE for most.
What about Type 2 diabetics that have been diagnosed? What if we educated them that through diet and exercise they could reduce their medication or eliminate it? What would this do for our health care crisis? I know that we’d first have to break through many myths, magic solutions, and limiting beliefs. The pharmaceutical companies won’t be happy with me letting this secret out either. But, what the heck, our health care system is in a crisis! Our Nation is sick! There, I said it. So let’s get down to the business of taking some personal responsibility for our health.
Many of you who are trying to understand diabetes and take responsibility for your health immediately have several questions:
o Should you cut out sugar?
o Is your weight putting you at risk?
o If you are skinny, you don’t have to worry, right?
o Can exercise and diet really help YOU?
o How do I control blood sugar levels?
And then there are the issues that you might not even know to ask about:
o Having diabetes for more than five years can increase your likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease
o Regular exercise can make you more sensitive to insulin, which can reduce medication dosages
First, let’s talk about insulin, the prime medication that keeps diabetics functioning and then you can see the answers clearly to your questions.
How does insulin work? Insulin is the main hormone that controls the entry of blood sugar from the blood stream into the cells of the body to be used as energy. How does exercise influence the insulin hormone? Exercise has an insulin-like effect on the body. When exercising, your muscles require a steady flow of sugar to keep contracting and keep you moving. Exercise increases the rate at which your muscles take up the sugar from your blood stream; so exercise acts the same as insulin by emptying the excess sugar in your blood stream into your muscles. This action, therefore, lowers your blood sugar. One twenty minute walk a day can lower glucose levels by twenty points.