For the past several years, I have made a end-of-the-year habit of going to the clinic and having my blood and cholesterol levels checked. Not that I am a hypochondriac; I just have a curiosity to see the damage report after a year of consumption and restraint.The last December checkup yielded the usual bodily metrics, mostly within the range of normal functioning and with some small measure of improvement. The only number which did raise my eyebrows was the measure for blood glucose level, which experienced an unexpected spike. Normally for someone in their early 30s, such a number shouldn’t be an area of great concern. But given that my late mother was diabetic, and diabetes is a hereditary condition, it does raise certain alarms.
Most of us are familiar with the basic facts concerning diabetes. If not, we should be. Diabetes actually relates to a number of diseases concerning the hormone insulin, which is released by the pancreas to help your body process fat and sugar. Our food and drink intake is broken down into glucose sugar which is regulated by insulin. You body needs to ensure your glucose levels do not get too low and releases insulin on demand. If your body does not do a sufficient job of converting your food into energy, you glucose level will build up, resulting in Type 2 diabetes or hyperglycemia, which is the most common variety. As you grow older, the chance for a number of problems arise with diabetes, such as heart disease and organ failure.
I recall a doctor’s advice from a few years ago that stuck with me ever since. He said that whatever you do, don’t let you waist size increase beyond bounds, since that is the source of much trouble. It turns out to have a definite link with diabetes, since fat around your waist rather than your hips increases the risk of a number of diabetes related illnesses. This can be a difficult problem for people of certain races who are genetically predisposed to gaining fat around their waist first rather than distributed over the rest of their bodies. Having said that, diabetes is not the preserve of only overweight people. Contrary to media perception, “metabolically unhealthy nonobese” are also liable to be classified as diabetic. So if you are skinny, it can be easy to be complacent, and the above may be a good reason why one in three cases of diabetes is not diagnosed.
The secret to prevention of diabetes is really no secret at all: a healthy diet and good exercise, which pretty much takes care of 80% of diseases out there. Avoid the usual culprits in terms of diet: sugary items, fried items with high cholesterol, red meat and heavily processed foods. Concerning exercise, science has shown that short, intensive acts of exercise done regularly have great benefit and having a dedicated grueling gym routine is not an absolute necessity, especially if shortness of time is an issue. Walking is an underrated exercise that when done consistently significantly reduces the risk of diabetes. Many global health organizations like to push 10,000 steps a day as a magic number to keep diabetes in check.
Though I can be classified as pre-diabetic myself, I realize that simple restraints implemented in my life now can have huge impacts in the long run. I have made some small efforts to curb my sweet tooth with limited success, but this is an ongoing challenge. Though I try and tell myself that healthy diet and exercise are rewards in and of themselves, often fear is a good motivator. I recall when an acquaintance told me that when you turn 40, your body will ask for a cheque (for all the damage you did it to prior). I know that if I cannot make the important lifestyle changes now, then the fatigue, hunger, thirst and blurred vision I may experience which are symptoms of Type 2 will mean my time for payment may be coming sooner rather than later (God forbid).