Since 1991, November 14th has been World Diabetes Day, a day designed to raise awareness about this disease. Diabetes is a disease that affects 422 million adults according to the World Health Organisation, or, 1 in 11 people worldwide. At Curves we want to join this World Diabetes Day and collaborate in raising awareness of healthy eating and a dose of daily exercise as essential tools to prevent the onset of this disease.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a chronic disease that is caused by the inability of the pancreas to synthesise the amount of insulin that the body needs, usually caused by a lower quality of insulin than necessary or because it cannot be used effectively. But what is insulin?
Insulin is an essential hormone for the proper functioning of the body since it is responsible for maintaining blood glucose levels. Glucose circulates throughout the bloodstream to end up inside the cells where it is transformed into the energy that feeds organs and tissues. When the level of glucose is beyond what is required, the organs suffer serious damage that can lead to very serious health problems.
As with other diseases, there are different types of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes
Type 1 diabetes can develop in adults but usually develops in children and young people. In this type of diabetes, a malfunction of the immune system causes the destruction of the beta cells of the pancreas, which halts the production of insulin.
Type 1 diabetes is a chronic disease, the exact causes of its onset are unknown but once it appears it is incurable. Type 1 diabetes is always diagnosed by a doctor and requires the patient to inject the insulin that the body is unable to produce.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes, unlike Type 1, occurs mainly in adults. Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to obesity and sedentary lifestyles, both increase the risk of developing the disease. Type 2 diabetes is different in that the pancreas does have the capacity to produce insulin, but not enough or of sufficient quality for the proper functioning of the body.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by following healthy lifestyle habits, which includes a balanced diet and regular physical exercise. The treatment for this type of diabetes is a diet and exercise plan, it is not necessary to inject insulin although there may be cases that require the intake of oral anti-diabetics in case the diet and exercise plan does not work out.
What are the symptoms of diabetes?
The symptoms of diabetes are common for the two varieties of the disease and the difference between them is the speed with which they appear. While in type one they do it suddenly and in a short period of a couple of weeks, because the pancreas stops generating insulin in a radical way, in type two these symptoms appear very gradually, with the passage of months or even years, and its action may be so mild that the patient does not realise that he is suffering from the disease.
In either case, the main symptoms are:
- Increased urination and thirst
- Increased fatigue
- Increased appetite
- Blurry vision
- Numbness or tingling of the limbs
- Slow healing of wounds and ulcers
- Excessive weight loss for no apparent reason
Being alert to the appearance of any of these symptoms is crucial because suffering from the disease and not treating it properly can cause serious damage to our body.
Diabetes and sports activity
One of the effects of leading a physically active life is directly related to the body's insulin needs. A person in good physical condition needs to produce less insulin than an overweight person, so being in good shape, something that is always recommended becomes almost mandatory for those people with a deficit in the production of this hormone.
Sports activity is essential in relation to diabetes, both to prevent the onset of type 2 diabetes and to control it. That is why, the charity organisation Diabetes UK includes physical exercise as part of diabetes treatment.
In fact, there are several athletes who have made an elite career suffering from this disease, such as boxer Joe Frazier, Olympic champion, tennis player Billie Jean Kean or current Real Madrid footballer, Nacho Fernández.
Diabetes and food
Along with physical activity, food is another of the pillars to keep the disease under control. The ideal diet for a diabetic patient is essentially the same healthy diet that would be recommended to anyone, with some slight changes. The main objectives of the diet for a diabetic would be: to reach sugar levels as close to normal as possible, to maintain an ideal weight, to achieve optimum levels of cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure and to avoid the physical complications associated with the disease.
The 3 main nutrient groups are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. A diabetes patient should have some slight considerations regarding each nutrient.
Carbohydrates are the most important group for a diabetic since they are primarily responsible for blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates fall into two categories. On the one hand we have the simple ones, which are digested quickly and pass into the bloodstream in minutes. We find them in fruit and milk and in all foods that include refined sugars (pastries, candies, ice cream, juices, soft drinks). On the other hand we have the complex, which takes longer to absorb so they impact the blood glucose level more progressively. These would be in vegetables, cereals, bread, pasta, rice or legumes.
As for carbohydrates, diabetics should be reaching for the complex foods, the least treated possible, so that vegetables, fruits, and milk should be mainstays in the diet. Legumes and cereals should be taken more sparingly and in the latter, always choose the least refined, for example, whole wheat bread over white. Sweets, ice cream, pastries, juices, and soft drinks should be avoided, used only in times of hypoglycemia where an immediate sugar hit is required.
Healthy fats that are mostly present in oils and seeds, do not affect glucose levels, but it is important to control the quality of those ingested. Monounsaturated, present in oils or avocado, and polyunsaturated, in various types of fish are recommended. You should always avoid transgenic fats, these are present in pastries, margarine, and cookies etc.
Protein is essential for the proper functioning of the body and should account for between 15 and 20% of daily nutrients. These are found mostly in meat, fish, and eggs. Try to stay away from processed meats and to encourage weight control, stick with lean meats like chicken and turkey.
In general, these recommendations could be perfectly adapted to the healthy diet of any person without diabetes too.
Diabetes is a disease that must be a motivation to lead a healthy life full of good food and physical activity. Whether we suffer from it and need a good lifestyle to control it or not and we want to prevent its appearance, a healthy lifestyle like the one we promote at Curves is a must.