Diabetes is steadily on the rise in developed countries. According to Diabetes Australia, Diabetes is the most prevalent chronic condition, affective approximately 1.7 million Australians. In 2013, there were 5.1 million deaths due to diabetes related health complications.
Type 2 Diabetes accounts for 85% of all diabetes cases and these figures are still on the rise given our trend for increasing obesity rates and an increase in sedentary behaviour.
It doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom however. Rest assured, Type 2 Diabetes is largely preventable or manageable with medication and lifestyle changes. It has been proven that regular exercise and a balanced diet is crucial in both prevention and in the management of Type 2 Diabetes.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 2 Diabetes is when the body is no longer capable of regulating blood glucose levels due to the body developing a resistance to insulin. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas and under normal circumstances, will regulate blood sugar levels by stimulating the uptake of glucose in cells when there is a high intake of glucose (after a meal etc.). The development of a resistance to insulin increases over a long period of time where most diagnoses of TD2 is most prevalent in people aged 55-59. In order to compensate for the resistance, the pancreas will try to produce more insulin which can eventually wear out the pancreas where it has lost 50-70% of its capacity to produce insulin.
Am I at risk of Type 2 Diabetes? Why is it dangerous to have high glucose levels?
Here are some common risk factors for TD2:
Over the age of 45
Family history of TD2
High blood pressure
Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander
While there is a genetic disposition associated with TD2, the modifiable risk factors of weight, blood pressure and activity levels have been proven to be significant risk factors on their own and severely worse when an individual has multiple modifiable risk factors.
While elevated blood glucose does not seem too harmless, TD2 can actually result in some concerning complication that can result In higher mortality and morbidity. Here are a few:
Cardiovascular risk: TD2 can cause endothelial dysfunction and atherosclerosis, increasing the likelihood of heart attacks and strokes
Kidney Dysfunction: TD2 patients are 3 times more likely to develop kidney failure
Nerve damage leading to amputations
How Does Exercise Help?
Regular exercise has been proven in its efficacy for preventing and managing Type 2 Diabetes. What kind of exercise? Aerobic? Resistance? EITHER! Both modalities on their own increase insulin sensitivity on a dose dependent manner but combining them is most beneficial. Regular exercise as well as a balanced diet can result in beneficial weight loss which will further contribute to a greater degree of control in blood glucose regulation.
Resistance exercises are crucial for managing TD2 as muscles are involved in 85% of glucose storage after a meal. An increase in muscle mass would then contribute to regulating blood glucose levels. Furthermore, exercise stimulates the uptake of glucose in the muscles even just as the muscles contract. Lift some weights, participating in both upper and lower body exercises at least twice a week on non-consecutive days.
Aerobic exercises are essential in reducing the cardiovascular risk associated with diabetes and will also result in an increase in insulin sensitivity while also increasing cardiovascular fitness . Regular aerobic exercise will decrease blood pressure, reducing the risk of a cardiac event. Enjoy some brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or skipping at least 3 times a week f if not daily.
Some Considerations for Exercise
It is important to monitor your blood glucose levels regularly, especially before exercising. If your blood glucose level is lower than 3.9mmol, do not exercise
Low blood sugar levels can result in dizziness, abnormal sweating, tingling in mouth and fingers, weakness, headache, visual dysfunction, cognitive impairment
If you are taking insulin, it is important to consider adjusting dosage, timing and food consumption to prevent hypoglycemia
Peripheral Neuropathy (PN)
If you have PN, it is crucial to regularly check the status of your feet for wounds, ulcers, cuts or abrasions.
Wear shoes, socks and long pants when exercising
If you have any concerns about exercising with Type 2 Diabetes, please consult your GP and an accredited Exercise Physiologist. Lets beat diabetes!