by Dr. Marita Schauch, ND, Tall Tree Integrated Health Centre
November 14 is World Diabetes Day and it is important to spread awareness around diabetes prevention. There are many myths and outdated information out there about diabetes, and yet, it affects one in three Canadians, including a 50% chance of those who are age 20 right now developing type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Despite the high risk factor for developing the disease, less than 50% of Canadians can identify even half of the early symptoms of diabetes according to Diabetes Canada.
First off, what exactly is diabetes? Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that results from problems controlling the hormone insulin, and hence affecting blood sugar regulation.
Diabetes symptoms are a result of higher-than-normal levels of glucose (sugar) in the blood. Higher levels of blood sugar can lead to serious health problems in the long and short term. Some of the warning signs of diabetes include:
• Increased thirst
• Extreme hunger
• Frequent urination
• Frequent infections
• Slow-healing sores
• Blurred vision
If caught early, many cases of type 2 diabetes can be managed and put into remission with key lifestyle changes.
While there are certain factors beyond our control, such as family history, ethnicity or age, the good news is that type 2 diabetes is highly preventable through a healthy lifestyle.
Eat a Healthy Diet. Eating a healthy diet is paramount to every aspect of our health, but it is especially important in diabetes prevention. Keep refined sugars to a minimum and focus on eating plenty of fresh vegetables, whole grains, good fats, and protein. Fats and proteins are particularly important in helping to regulate blood sugar. Stay away from items like soda, candy and other processed foods as much as possible.
Get Moving. Physical activity helps use up excess blood sugar, as well as improves and maintains insulin sensitivity. I recommend aiming for 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per day. Simply walking is a great and accessible activity that goes a long way in creating lasting health.
Lose those Extra Pounds. Excess weight is an important risk factor in developing type 2 diabetes, as the more fatty tissue you have the more resistant your cells become to insulin. Even reducing weight by as little as 7% has shown to reduce diabetes risk by 65%. Incorporating diet and exercise changes should be enough to support most people in this effort, but hormonal factors could be at play if diet and exercise prove ineffective. Speak with your health care practitioner if you suspect this may be the case for you.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above for diabetes warning signs, visit your health care practitioner. They will be able to test your blood glucose levels to assess the best course of action for you.