Diabetes is the condition in which the body does not properly process food for use as energy. Most of the food we eat is turned into glucose, or sugar, for our bodies to use for energy.
The pancreas makes a hormone called insulin to help glucose get into the cells of our bodies. When you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use its own insulin as well as it should. This causes sugars to build up in your blood and serious health complications to arise as a result. These complications can include heart disease, blindness, kidney failure, and lower-extremity amputations. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), diabetes is also the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
But What’s the Difference Between Type I and Type II Diabetes?
Type I Diabetes (formerly called juvenile onset diabetes) accounts for 5 to 10% of the people who have diabetes. With Type I Diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, eventually eliminating insulin production from the body. Without insulin, cells cannot absorb sugar (glucose), which they need to produce energy.
Type II Diabetes (formerly called adult-onset diabetes) can develop at any age. It most commonly becomes apparent during adulthood, but Type II Diabetes in children is rising and the type as a whole accounts for 90 to 95% of the people who have diabetes. In Type II Diabetes, the body isn’t able to use insulin the correct way. This is called insulin resistance. As Type II Diabetes gets worse, the pancreas may make less and less insulin, resulting in insulin deficiency.
Symptoms of Diabetes
- Weight gain, especially around the stomach area
- Loss of energy
- Excessive thirst
- Unexplained weight loss
- Frequent urination
- Blurred vision
- Tingling or numbness in hands or feet
- Frequent hunger
What Can You Do to Reduce Your Risk of Type II Diabetes?
Engaging regularly in exercise or movement can significantly reduce the risk of developing Type II Diabetes. It can be as simple as taking a daily walk for 20-30 minutes or as rigorous as weight training, or playing a sport.
In addition to exercise, choosing healthy foods with a low glycemic index vs. a high glycemic index is very important. Foods with a low glycemic index will take longer to break down and will not give the body a big surge of sugar like high glycemic foods can do. To help you swap high for low glycemic foods, I’ve made a shopping list below of foods you can pick up at your local store to swap out when you crave white bread/rice/potatoes/cereal:
- Brown rice
- Sweet potatoes
- Bran cereal
- 100% whole grain bread
As with many people, snacking in between meals is one of the hardest habits to break. Instead of going for the 4pm sugar rush, try replacing it with these healthy snack options to regulate your sugar level through the day:
- Mixed nuts (walnuts or almonds are best)
- Apple slices dipped in natural peanut butter
- Low-fat string cheese
- Fresh fruit
- Hummus or salsa with raw vegetables
- Low-fat yogurt with mixed nuts
- Hard boiled egg
If you or your children haven’t been to the doctor for a checkup in the past year, make it a point to schedule a visit. Having a full physical and complete blood work up will determine if your glucose levels are in a healthy range and if the rest of your body is doing well.
Note: Please consult with your doctor before starting any new nutrition or exercise program.