“Preventing Chronic Disease: Part I” by Mark Davis, BS CPT

Howdy FYI Houston readers!

In the next three issues, I will present a general overview of 3 chronic disease states and ways to prevent or mitigate the symptoms of the diseases. The first chronic illness in this series we will discuss is diabetes, specifically, Type II diabetes.

Type II diabetes is a chronic metabolic disease that is characterized by insulin resistance and high blood sugar. Insulin is a hormone which controls the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates in the body. Insulin resistance is when the body does not produce enough insulin or the cells reject the insulin that is available. Insulin is necessary for the body to be able to use glucose (blood sugar) for energy. When we consume food, the body breaks down all the sugar and starches into glucose. Glucose or blood sugar is the primary energy source for the cells of our bodies. Insulin takes the glucose from the blood and puts it into the cells for energy. When glucose is unable to enter cells it builds up in the blood (high blood sugar) and causes issues. The major result of the body’s inability of  its cells to receive glucose is cellular death from starvation. Prolonged exposure to high blood sugar causes damage to eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart, which can lead to blindness, amputations and dialysis. Some ethnic groups have an increased risk for developing diabetes, which includes African-Americans, Native-Americans, Latinos, and Asian/Pacific Islanders. With this increased risk it is very important to be vigilant in resisting lifestyle habits that promote diabetes.

The onset of Type II diabetes can be delayed or even prevented with proper nutrition and regular exercise. Certain factors such as age, family history, and ethnicity can’t be undone, but through intensive healthy lifestyle measures the risk of diabetes can be reduced by as much as fifty percent! A study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the Journal of Medicine has shown that being overweight and obesity were the most important factors that determined who would develop diabetes. Overweight is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25. Obese is defined as having a BMI greater than 30. The study results revealed that regular exercise (30 minutes daily, at least 5 days a week) and an improved diet, low in fat and high in fiber significantly helped with prevention.

The bottom line is that slight modifications in diet and lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of  developing diabetes. Ok, so what are some specific dietary modifications that can help reduce the risk? Speak with your doctor, dietician, or nutritionist to learn more about ways to help reduce your risk. Also use a tool called the Glycemic Index (GI), which measures how fast a particular carbohydrate is transformed into glucose. Carbohydrates with a high GI score (more than 70) raise the blood sugar very quickly and carbohydrates with a low to moderate score (Low below 55, moderate 55-70) raises blood sugar more slowly. Although the GI tool is a great way to measure the speed of the rise of glucose in the blood, it doesn’t mean that foods with a low GI score are healthy and foods with a high score are unhealthy. Broadly speaking, foods with a high GI score promote weight gain and stress insulin regulation.

So, in the fight to prevent diabetes it is recommended that you choose foods with a lower GI score to avoid spikes in blood glucose. An easy way to meet this challenge is to add veggies to your omelet for breakfast, add a salad to your lunch, and cover at least 50% of your dinner plate with a vegetable or fruit. As far as physical fitness I recommend you speak with a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) to determine your body mass index (BMI), ideal weight, and to help you develop a personalized exercise plan. Ideally, you should aim to stay active for at least 30 minutes daily. You may split the 30 minutes into increments that fit your schedule and fitness level, but you want to increase your heart rate with a moderate-intensity exercise like skipping rope, a brisk walk, or a short run. As your endurance builds, increase your intensity and duration. Be sure to consult with your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. Incorporating these ideas into your daily routine can reduce your risk of developing diabetes and increase the overall quality of your life.

Mark Davis  

-Mark Davis, BS CPT

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