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Diabetes: A potential killer

DIABETES is the diagnosis when the body doesn’t produce enough or properly use insulin, a hormone secreted by the pancreas  that’s needed to convert food into energy. The “sugar link” stems from the fact that much of what we eat for energy is broken down into a sugar called glucose, the fuel that’s fed into
every single cell to keep us alive. And people with diabetes must limit their sugar intake because sweets can make blood sugar rise dramatically.

In healthy people, glucose is automatically absorbed by cells. The body uses exactly what it needs and stores the rest. But without insulin to unlock a cell’s receptors so that glucose can enter, excess  amounts  of this sugar accumulate in the bloodstream where it can cause a host of problems that age men before their time. Most men get diabetes between the ages of 45 and 66. Yet even then, they face health risks normally associated with men much older. Men with diabetes face five times the risk of stroke and two to four times the risk  of heart disease compared with men who don’t have the disease. One in 10 diabetes sufferers develops kidney disease.  Dr. Steve Manley, a psychologist in Denton, Texas, says that any time you change the chemistry of the blood, you’re going to change virtually every system affected by the blood. This includes sexual organs.

Diabetes can debilitate both the neurological system and the vascular system, and you need good nerves and blood flow to function sexually. Many men become impotent because of diabetes, says Dr. Manley.

For many guys, the aging isn’t just in their bodies. When your blood sugar is out of control, it has an effect on your cognitive function. You may have slower response time, and you feel sluggish and fatigued. Some people feel helpless and hopeless that their bodies have somehow revolted against them. The disease begins to interact with their basic personalities. Even eating presents its challenge.

Diabetes sufferers must adhere to strict diets, in both what and when they eat. People with diabetes can no longer casually stroll barefoot. Because of nerve damage that could result in a loss of sensation in their legs and feet, they may be unaware of foot injuries. According to the American Diabetes Association, over 54,000 people with diabetes lose their feet or legs to amputation each year because of the disease.

There are two types of diabetes. With Type I diabetes, which accounts for only 10 percent of cases, the body completely fails to produce insulin, so daily injections of this hormone are needed. Type I, often referred to as juvenile diabetes, is usually diagnosed during puberty and the symptoms which can mimic the flu, are sudden and very  noticeable such as extreme hunger and thirst, sudden weight loss and extreme fatigue and irritability. In the more common Type II (or adult-onset) diabetes, the pancreas produces insulin, but not enough. There may be some symptoms—slow-healing  cuts or bruises, recurring skin, gum or bladder infections or slight tingling or numbness in the hands or feet, but many don’t really notice these subtle changes or simply shrug them off. Diabetes is a subtle disease that just creeps up on people and the results can be devastating. That’s why it’s important to get a blood screening for elevated glucose levels, especially if you have a family history of the disease, are overweight, are over age 40 or have any symptoms. People may be unaware that they have the disease because they feel fine.

BEATING THE ODDS

The best way to avoid diabetes is to watch your weight. That means eating a healthy diet that focuses on fruits and vegetables. Being overweight is the
major risk factor for adult-onset diabetes. This is important for everyone but is essential if you have a family history of diabetes. A healthy lifestyle may be all that’s needed to get the upper hand on diabetes. Although some people with Type II diabetes require oral drugs or injections to stabilize their blood sugar, most can control the disease simply by adopting healthier lifestyle. By committing yourself to certain lifestyle changes, you may be able to reduce your need for medication and possibly get off and stay off diabetes drugs for the rest of your life. Here’s how:

EAT RIGHT. That means low-fat and high-fiber with at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day. For each extra 40 grams of fat eaten per  day—
the amount found in one fast-food burger and a large order of fries—your risk of developing diabetes rises threefold, and if you already have diabetes, you face a greater chance of complications, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. The problem is dietary fat readily converts to body fat, and body fat induces cells to resist insulin. Try to consume at least 25 grams of fiber daily from complex carbohydrate foods, which help put the brakes on glucose entering your blood stream and also keep cholesterol low. The best sources of complex carbohydrates are potatoes, whole-grain breads, rice, pastas, legumes, oats and barley.

TIME IT RIGHT.   If you have diabetes, you need to eat every four or five hours. Small meals are best, since large meals make it tougher for your body to meet the increased demand for insulin. The key is to evenly distribute your food throughout the day, so no single meal overwhelms  the pancreas.

AVOID SUGAR AND SALT. It’s a given that you should avoid sugar; even  in tiny amounts, it can send your blood sugar sky-high. Of course, low sugar and low salt are good dietary rules  for everyone to follow, but those with diabetes must be especially careful. Also be on the lookout for low-sodium or reduced-sodium products. Salty foods can raise blood pressure, a danger for people with diabetes.

GET YOUR HEART PUMPING. Regular aerobic exercise not only helps you control your weight but also makes cells  more receptive to insulin. You need to get your heart going and keep it going for at least 20 minutes. A brisk walk is fine.  Researchers at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, found that exercise  is an excellent way to help prevent Type II diabetes. It was noted that guys who exercised at least five times a week lowered their risk of developing diabetes by more than 40 percent.  People with diabetes need to exercise with care. The main concern for exercise and diabetes is the risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. To avoid this, stick to a routine requiring the same amount of exercise at the same time daily.

PUMP SOME IRON, TOO. Weight lifting also plays a role in improving  glucose tolerance, the body’s ability to metabolize sugar properly. Check with your doctor before starting a weight-lifting program. Resistance training may cause surges in blood pressure.

TAKE VITAMINS E AND C. These two antioxidants tend to be in short supply among people with
diabetes. Italian researchers have found that vitamin E helps improve the action of insulin. Good food sources include wheat germ, corn oil and nuts but you should take a supplement containing 400 IU each day. People with diabetes are prone to vascular
disease and they may need to increase their intakes of vitamin C.

PRETEND YOU HAVE A HEADACHE. Aspirin can reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke among those with diabetes by as much as 20 percent, according to research conducted by the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland on3,711 people with both types of the disease. People with diabetes are much more likely to have cardiovascular disease, so the aspirin recommendation is even more relevant for them. Most researchers  recommend a daily dosage of one-half of an adult aspirin or one children’s aspirin, but check with your doctor first. Aspirin therapy  isn’t  suggested for people taking blood thinners or suffering from ulcers. Don’t do self medication.

TAGS: diabetes, health, healthy lifestyle
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