For those familiar with the disease, your lips are probably twisting in a wry smile. How to live the best life with diabetes? You let go of the best foods. The best hours of your day, i.e. non-office hours, are spent exercising. And you prick and inject yourself several times a day.
Yes, diabetes is bad. It’s responsible for more than one million deaths each year. And those who don’t die from the condition, still experience a lower quality of life. But that isn’t true for everyone. Some people accept their diagnosis as a wake-up call and start leading a better life than before. And we can guide you on that journey.
Why Do People Get Diabetes?
Doctors will diagnose you with diabetes if your blood sugar level is consistently high. For instance, our normal blood sugar stays in the range of 4-5 millimoles/liter during fasting. Meaning, when you haven’t eaten anything for 8 hours. If this fasting sugar level persists over 7 mmol/l on multiple occasions, you likely have diabetes.
So, where was this excess sugar supposed to go? Well, it should have been taken up by the muscles and the liver. They would either store it as glycogen or utilize it for energy. But your muscles can’t do it by themselves. They require a specific hormone- insulin.
Our pancreas has specialized cells that produce the insulin hormone. In some cases, like in type-1 diabetes, the immune cells of the patient’s body act up and attack the pancreatic cells.
As a result, insulin production ceases. This means your muscles can’t utilize the sugar in your blood and subsequently, you have high blood glucose. Type-1 diabetes is a genetic phenomenon.
Another mechanism of diabetes is insulin resistance. This is seen in type-2 diabetes, which is the more common and usually results from a long-term unhealthy lifestyle.
Here, the pancreas keeps doing its job of producing insulin at a normal rate. However, the body becomes resistant to it.
In other words, the muscles and liver require more of the hormone to soak up the same amount of sugar. This usually happens when too much fat accumulates in these organs and impairs insulin signaling.
Note that, subcutaneous fat (under-the-skin fat) doesn’t accumulate in organs. You would still be overweight, but not get diabetes. Think about, active sumo wrestlers and strength athletes. However, there are disputes. These athletes must get rid of the fat once they retire.
The kind of fat that definitely gives you diabetes is Visceral fat (around the organs fat). If the fat you carry is mostly around your waist and belly, you are at risk of developing insulin resistance.
Since the blood sugar remains high, the pancreas keeps on churning out insulin. This undue workload results in severe damage to the pancreatic alpha and beta cells.
Five Strategies To Win Diabetes
If you take a moment to review the mechanism of diabetes, you will see that the management plan is right there. Many people think starving their bodies of glucose is how they conquer the condition. But that’s not the center of the plan. You should instead focus on how to make your body less resistant to insulin. Here are five strategies-
You don’t like going to the gym? Don’t have time to maintain an exercise routine? No problem. Just increase the intensity of the activities you already do.
For instance, walk faster and longer than you did before. Climb a staircase whenever you can. Spend less time on the couch and more time moving around the house.
Activities like these are considered moderate intensity. They won’t challenge your body like a 100kg bench press. But still, your heart rate will increase and you will feel a slight burn in your muscles.
To make up for this increased demand, your muscles will require more glucose. Thus, the body’s insulin sensitivity will increase and bring down your sugar levels.
Once you get comfortable with moving around more, start including other activities like cycling and swimming. Aerobic activities like these increase the mitochondrial activity in your cells. Which, in turn, increases your body’s insulin sensitivity.
Improve Muscle Mass
When you have diabetes, your existing musculature is unable to use all the insulin. You can help it by packing on more muscle.
Now, we aren’t talking about professional bodybuilding. You are not trying to reach enormous proportions. The aim is to increase the muscle’s need to uptake glucose. Thus, lowering the body’s insulin resistance. For every 10% increase in lean muscle, your insulin resistance goes down 11%.
You don’t need to lift barbells or use fancy machines. Start with simple bodyweight exercises. Learn to do some air squats and push-ups.
Do them three to two times a week in forty-minute sessions. Try to progress by increasing the intensity slightly each session. For instance, add to the number of repetitions.
Another way is to power walk with five-pound dumbbells in each hand. If you have already established a walking routine, this is an easy way to increase its effectiveness.
Try to cut down on stress in your life. Mental stress makes your body resistant to insulin and also increases blood glucose levels.
When you are constantly worried or angry about stuff, your body releases cortisol and adrenaline. The purpose of these hormones is to prepare for flight or fight. For this, you need energy aka glucose. So, the hormones work on the liver and stimulate glucose production.
At the same time, cortisol inhibits insulin production from the pancreas. So that, the newly produced glucose will be immediately used instead of being stored. The combined effect is high blood sugar and increased insulin resistance.
Cutting down stress might be more difficult than letting go of sugary foods. You can’t just stop worrying about work and the people in your life. The solution is to train your mind to handle stress. Yoga helps in this case. You can also work with a cognitive behavioral therapist who provides mind training.
You should get 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep daily. There should be a strict routine for when you go to and get up from bed. Otherwise, it will be hard to control your blood sugar even with diet and exercise.
Your body’s hormone production is closely associated with its sleep routine. Disruption or lack of routine will hinder the body’s ability to produce various hormones, including insulin.
Routine and adequate sleep is also essential to maintain the body’s circadian rhythms. Now, the circadian rhythm plays a crucial role in glucose metabolism. A disrupted rhythm means the body won’t be able to metabolize glucose properly. This means, your fasting blood glucose levels will be alarmingly high.
What you need to do here is get control over your sleep. Maintain strict bedtimes for a week and soon you will achieve this. The first few days might be tough but work through it. Also remember, those who engage in intense workout sessions, experience a better quality of sleep.
Whenever you consume savory sugar-rich items, your brain releases dopamine- the feel-good hormone. Some people chase this feeling by constantly consuming more sugary foods. Eventually, they develop a serious eating disorder. This ‘Sugar Craving’ is the main reason behind diabetes and the obesity epidemic.
Controlling your craving can be quite difficult. But it won’t seem much of a challenge once you start following a proper meal plan. Alike strict bedtimes, your meals should also be on the clock. And there shouldn’t be any snacking in between these times.
You can also include various healthy foods in your diet that helps reduce sugar cravings. Berries, nuts, avocados, greek yogurt, and legumes are well known in this regard.
These foods are rich in fiber, antioxidants, and various nutrients. They keep you feeling full for a long time. Therefore, you don’t feel the need to snack frequently. Plus, they soothe inflammation. This is very helpful since low-grade inflammation is something many diabetes patients suffer from.
An uncontrolled lifestyle is a reason why most people get diabetes. So, to conquer it, you must take control of your life. Of course, it will feel like hell for the first few days. But once you gather the strength to push through it, which you will, you will start living a happier and more confident life than before.
If you have difficulty managing diabetes, please tell us in the comments. You can anonymously provide us with your current medical status. This might include info such as current sugar levels, the medications you are taking, etc.
You can also tell us the challenges you face while following the advice in this blog. Based on that our experts can conjure a customized diabetic life plan for you. So, don’t feel alone in your journey.