Diabetes mellitus or diabetes is a metabolic disease that is characterized by high levels of blood sugar (glucose).
Type 1 diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus is caused by a complete lack of insulin. This usually happens due to the destruction of insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas. It is treated with insulin injections or the insulin pump.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a condition where the body does not produce enough insulin, or the body cannot utilize the insulin it produces. Type 2 diabetes is said to be a lifestyle disease. Lifestyle disease is defined as a disease associated with the way a person or group of people live. Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and usually begins when a person is in their mid-40s.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed in the initial stages without medicines and by making a few lifestyle changes. The patient, who needs medication, can reduce their dependence on medication or the dosage of medication by adopting a healthy lifestyle. When type 2 diabetes is not well controlled, it can lead to several health issues, including heart diseases, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage, leg and foot amputations, and premature death.
Prediabetes is the period when blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to be recognized as diabetes. By taking preventive action and making lifestyle changes, people with prediabetes or early stage of type 2 diabetes can lower their risk of developing diabetes by controlling the disease.
Lifestyle changes that can help prevent and control type 2 diabetes include:
- Physical activity: Physical activities maintain blood sugar levels and reduce symptoms of prediabetes. Regular physical activity, such as brisk walking, dancing, lifting weights, swimming, or any similar activity for 30 minutes five days a week decreases the relative risk of developing diabetes.
- Weight loss: Weight loss and maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) can delay and even prevent diabetes. Weight loss of around 5-10% of body weight can significantly reduce blood sugar levels. People who are overweight and have upper-body obesity are most likely to get diabetes.
- Stress management: Stress is a recognized risk factor for type 2 diabetes. When a person is stressed, stress hormones are released that increase blood glucose levels. Managing stress and staying motivated can reduce the risk of diabetes.
- Dietary changes: Balanced diet and nutrition play a significant role in preventing and controlling diabetes. Diets rich in red meat, processed meat, high-fat dairy products, and sweets are associated with an increased risk of diabetes. High consumption of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, cereals, fish, and lean meat prevents weight gain and delays the development of type 2 diabetes.
Dietary management of diabetes includes:
- Decrease sugar and refined carbohydrates intake:
Eating foods high in refined carbohydrates and sugar increases insulin levels, leading to diabetes over time. Examples of refined carbohydrates include white bread, potatoes, and ready to eat breakfast cereals.
Consumption of refined sugars, such as glucose, sucrose, honey, and their products (soft drinks, sweets, toffees, etc.) should be avoided. These foods contain simple sugar, which is easily absorbed, causing a rapid rise in blood sugar and weight gain.
- Eat lean meats and avoid processed red meat:
Eating red meat, such as beef, lamb, and pork, every day causes a 20% increase in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If people avoid red meat and eat chicken, eggs, dairy, and fish, they can significantly lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes by about 30%. If they only eat fish, then the risk is 50%. A diet with only eggs and dairy as protein sources can lower the risk by 60%. A vegan diet lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes by 80%.
Consuming nuts show protective effects against the development of diabetes. People who have more than five 1-ounce servings of nuts per week have a lower risk of developing diabetes.
- Fat intake:
Fat intake, particularly intake of saturated fat should be reduced. Plant oils, such as extra virgin olive oil and canola oil, carry a lesser risk. Grilling and steaming food is a better option than frying or roasting.
- Increase fiber intake:
Increasing the amount of fiber in the diet by including wholegrain foods and consuming more vegetables, fruits, beans, and lentils are beneficial for gut health and weight management.
Consuming a good fiber source at each meal helps prevent spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels, which reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Whole grains reduce the risk of diabetes and help maintain blood sugar levels.
- Portion sizes:
Eating too much food at one meal causes higher blood sugar and insulin levels in people. Reducing portion sizes will help lower calorie intake, insulin, and blood sugar levels and decrease the risk of diabetes.
Drinking water instead of other beverages high in sugar and preservatives help control blood sugar and insulin levels, thereby reducing the risk of diabetes.
- Quitting smoking:
Smoking increases insulin resistance and can lead to type 2 diabetes. Smoking 16-20 cigarettes or more a day increases a person’s risk of developing diabetes by three times. Quitting smoking reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes over time.
- Reducing alcohol:
Alcohol intake should be reduced and taken only in moderation.
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Khardori R. Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/117853-overview
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