Dealing with type 2 diabetes

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can be a very scary ordeal. It is usually at that point most people learn to what extent this disease can impact on their life.

Bad management of the disease, or if left untreated, can lead to blindness and amputation. So, what can you do?

Firstly, follow your doctor’s orders.

Medication

Metformin, is usually the first line of medication for type 2 diabetes, but may not be right for everyone. Different treatments work better for some but not for others, insulin treatment is very intense and will not suit a busy lifestyle. Your GP will work with you to find the best medication which suits you.

Additional medications include:

  • Meglitinades
  • Thiazolidinediones
  • DPP-4 inhibitors
  • GLP-1 receptor agonists
  • SGLT2 inhibitors

What else can you do?

Additional to orthodox treatments, you can adjust your lifestyle, which if done correctly, can reverse the symptoms of the disease.

Consume the right diet and get enough of the right exercise.

Weight management

Firstly, being overweight has been shown to increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. Shedding some excess weight is never a bad idea, it does however need to be carried out in the correct way.

Drastically losing weight is not good and can be unhealthy. Instead, slow and steady weight loss will increase the chances of keeping the weight off, especially if achieved with a type 2 diabetes beating diet.

Body Mass Index (BMI)

Body mass index quantifies the amount of tissue mass (muscle, fat and bone) and gives an indication of whether a person is underweight, healthy, overweight, obese or extremely obese.

Working out your BMI gives you a good indication as to where you are on the BMI chart. This will tell you if you are overweight, and approximately by how much.

Working out your BMI: weigh yourself in Kilograms (Kg) and measure your height in meters (m). Divide your weight by height then divide the answer by height again.

Example 73kg / 1.42m = 5.4 / 1.42 = 36.20.

On the BMI chart this would be considered obese.

Diet

Due to the nature of type 2 diabetes, controlling sugar intake is of the upper most importance.

As a simple rule, foods which are on the low glycaemic index (low-Gi) (see foods and blood sugars) are more of a friend to the diabetic than those of the medium and high branding. This is because of the slower rate at which the sugars are released and absorbed and so keeps the blood sugar level steady.

By familiarising and educating yourself with the index you will come to understand what works for you, then have some fun with different recipes. The way food is cooked will also affect the Gi of a food. As a rule, the more cooked or processed a food is the higher the GI.

Consider eating:

  • More vegetables
    • Try to avoid starchy veg like potatoes
  • Increased protein
    • Like poultry
  • Increased natural fats
    • Meat
    • Eggs
    • Oily fish
  • Less sugary foods, processed foods and grains

Exercise

Exercise can increase insulin levels which in turn will help with keeping the blood-sugar level under control. Even if you are insulin resistant, when you exercise this forces a reduction of insulin resistance, allowing your cells to take up the blood-sugar for energy, helping to reduce levels in the blood. So, it’s a win win situation.

Aerobic exercise that places less strain on the joints is a better way of exercising for someone who is diabetic. Some exercises which fall into this category include:

  • Swimming
  • Walking
  • Hiking
  • Aerobic classes
    • Yoga
    • Pilates
    • Spinning

The amount of exercise you do is also important. Building up to the right amount if you’re not used to it is essential. Current guidelines state that we should all be doing 30 minutes of exercise at least five times a week.

If you are not someone who exercises on a regular basis, then it’s a good idea to start with 10 minutes a day for a week or two then slowly build from there. When you feel you can do more that’s the time to do more, don’t overwork yourself and most important of all, keep a positive mind.

Other changes you should consider making if you are a type 2 diabetic are:

  • Giving up smoking if you’re a smoker
  • Limiting your alcohol intake

Weight Loss Surgery

Weight loss or bariatric surgery as it is medically known can be an alternative option particularly if your weight is interfering with other functions such as breathing.

However, it is only considered for those who are most at risk and very overweight. In most cases, other interventions have failed to work.

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Having always been intrigued by how body’s work, both in their day to day functions and also when things go wrong, Leanne is pursuing her passion for health. By combining her undergraduate degree in Biomedical Science and a Masters in Science communication with her love for writing, she is passing on her knowledge to Health Hub readers. Leanne strongly believes that science and health are something that should be talked about more and she hopes her articles will enable such conversations.