Thursday, November 29, 2007

Diabetes Lifestyle and Exercise


Why any particular person gets diabetes isn't completely known. Complicating the situation is the fact that there are different types of the disease, though Type 1 and Type 2 are the most common. Of those, Type 2 accounts for about 90% of cases.

Fortunately for those who are at risk, many factors are lifestyle choices and therefore can be altered. Even after contracting the disease, much of the management of the disease involves controllable issues. Even though the risk of contracting diabetes is present for anyone, it's good to know you can drive it to much lower odds by adopting healthy choices.


Obesity is widely recognized as one of the leading risk factors for developing Type 2 diabetes. While there is a genetic influence - some shed or gain weight and body fat more easily than others - it is subject to influence by choices. A high BMI (Body Mass Index) is an adjustable number with the proper diet and exercise. A BMI of higher than 27 correlates with increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. The number should not be taken as a sole determinant, however, since its diagnostic value is less for those who are very muscular or are pregnant.

Beyond simply being overweight, where the majority of excess body fat resides plays a role in the odds of contracting Type 2 diabetes. Those who tend to store body fat around the waist are at higher risk. While that in itself is largely a genetic issue - some individuals are naturally pear-shaped, others are not - the results can be influenced by diet and exercise.

Claims of supplements that target fat at the waistline are yet to be proven. Similarly, assertions that it's possible to selectively remove waistline body fat through specific exercises are ill-founded. But an overall weight-reducing diet and general exercise program will help reduce large fat deposits, including those of the waistline.


Generally a sedentary lifestyle increases the odds of contracting Type 2 diabetes, along with other health issues. Partly that's the result of adopting a mindset that brings with it a number of less than ideal choices. But in particular, the lack of exercise is a direct cause of higher body fat percentage.

Exercise certainly burns calories. But even the resting state burns about 70 calories per hour just to power metabolic processes. But regular movement helps stimulate the lymph system, strengthen and loosen muscles, oxygenate tissues and brings with it many other positive benefits.

Exercise helps control blood pressure
, a factor in contracting diabetes. It helps regulate glucose levels, which have a major role in the disease since excess glucose in the blood is a defining attribute of diabetes. It alters cholesterol levels, another risk factor for contracting the condition.

Exercise can play a large role in the management of the condition. Not only does it improve overall health, helping to stave off future complications and deal with dips in well-being, it directly improves the diabetic condition. But, it needs to be done properly.

Before embarking on any exercise regimen, a diabetic should consult his or her physician and insist on clear answers and feasible suggestions. The diabetic will need to find out which exercises are safe and under what conditions. That will vary from person to person, and often day to day.

The level of blood glucose rises, for example, in response to exercise. But how much and how rapidly differs from person to person and day to day. A high blood glucose level, say 300 mg/dL can rise even higher with vigorous exercise. Those with Type 1 diabetes who have a fasting glucose level above 250 mg/dL will likely have ketones in the urine. Exercise can raise that further, producing a dangerous condition called diabetic ketoacidosis.

Alternatively, insulin treatments can produce hypoglycemia (having too low a level of glucose in the blood). But consuming carbohydrates to level it off may have undesirable side effects, such as encouraging excess body fat. That excess in turn may help push those with pre-diabetes into full blown diabetes, over time.

Any exercise routines should be realistic and begun slowly. Many diabetics need to reduce their level of activity below what would be normal for another person. But they can still benefit from the many positive health effects of a good routine. Just as with the elderly or others who may need to curtail some kinds of activity, the diabetic needs to monitor their condition carefully and exercise appropriately.


Even people without any medical condition can become discouraged and give up on exercise too easily. Working muscles that have been sedentary (a lifestyle that often raises the risk of acquiring diabetes in the first place) can lead to soreness and discomfort. That creates negative incentives to continue the exercise program. Starting slowly and working up to greater effort can solve that problem. Adopt exercise as a part of an overall lifestyle, not as a targeted cure for any specific problem.

Walking several times per week is a good start. For those who have access to a pool, swimming is a good cardiovascular exercise category that is easy on the joints.

At first, you may feel a bit too tired to even get started. That may be the result of low blood sugar. If your physician approves, eating a small snack can help get you up for the effort. A small adjustment to medication may work for others.

Monitoring is important, even during exercise, since it can change blood glucose levels quickly. A special watch is available that provides a timer for measuring routines, but will also monitor glucose level. But whatever method you choose, keep a close eye on things, and always stop exercising immediately if you start feeling dizzy or nauseous.

Just start your program, and stick with it. In the end you will definitely feel better, and even look better.

Charles Thompkins
Diabetic, Senior and Black Blog

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