Forty-year-old Gerald instinctively knew something was wrong with his health, although the signs were mostly elusive and inconsistent. He was becoming more lethargic and his energy came in bursts that soon faded. He seemed ever-thirsty and was mentally and physically fatigued. Then, even though the active, sporty days of his youth were a thing of the past and he’d gained a few kilos over the years, he inexplicably started losing weight. And in his sex life, there was a noticeable loss in performance. One blood test later, type-2 diabetes was confirmed.


The news was devastating, since a reversal of the condition is rare. But it’s also not the end of the world. In fact, the day-to-day life of people with type-2 diabetes need simply be closely managed… with due trepidation for the consequences of negligence.


Men are especially prone to ignoring symptoms, to continuing their lives in the belief that the pain, the poor performance or the extra gut will simply go away. It’s a potentially deadly trait and specialists deal with the consequences of it every day. If diabetes is left unmanaged, long-term complications are hard to avoid and can be life-changing in their impact. Take blindness for starters, then add nerve damage, sexual dysfunction, stroke, heart attack, kidney damage and even amputations.


Scary Stats


Type-2 diabetes is reaching epidemic proportions worldwide and, according to the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), currently affects 250 million people, a figure expected to top 380 million by 2025. In fact, the IDF has shown that diabetes is one of the leading causes of death worldwide through its effects on cardiovascular disease: 70 to 80 percent of people with diabetes die of cardiovascular disease.


Millions currently live with diabetes, many of them undiagnosed. Even more alarming, is that type-2 diabetes used to be considered a disease of middle age, but one third of new cases of diabetes in children aged 10 to 19 years are now type-2. The irony of this is that the disease is both preventable and controllable for those who have it. It’s a life of constant checking and self discipline: monitoring blood and urine glucose, blood pressure and weight on a monthly basis. More importantly, it points to a deeper problem: something has gone terribly wrong when a disease we know so much about continues to flourish. There is something about the way we live our lives that is killing us.


In short, there are two kinds of diabetes: type-1 and type-2. People with type-1 diabetes have a total lack of insulin while those with type-2 have too little insulin or cannot use it effectively. Type-l diabetes is thought to be caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. It is a result of the body’s immune system destroying the pancreatic cells that release insulin, eventually halting insulin production from the body. Without insulin, cells cannot take up glucose needed to produce energy. Type-1 diabetics are the guys who are dependent on insulin and who go hypo-glycaemic if the timing of their eating isn’t quite right.


Type-2 diabetes is generally diagnosed during adulthood, although it is becoming more common in teenage and childhood years. When glucose builds up in the blood (instead of going into cells) because of a lack of insulin, it causes the short-term problem of starving an individual’s cells of energy, and the long-term problem of high blood glucose resulting in organ damage.


The Fat Wagon


The two surest methods of getting diabetes are eating too much and not exercising enough. Our record in both is pretty impressive. However, some people are born with a predisposition to type-2 diabetes, expressed more readily in certain ethnic groups.


Indians have a 30 percent chance of developing type-2. If one or both parents are type-2, then the off-spring’s chances of developing the condition leaps up to 50 to 60 percent. But lifestyle is all-important. As soon as you start putting on weight, especially abdominally, then you’re at risk. If you’re in the genetically high-risk group, lifestyle becomes more critical.


Be careful what you’re eating – is it food or food-like? Choose unprocessed foods or those as close as possible to their natural state.


Side-Stepping Type-2


Beating back diabetes, or avoiding it altogether, requires a multi-pronged attack. The mother of all tips is to eat less and move more. We have to change the way we live by changing small things and setting simple goals.


People with typical symptoms of type-2 diabetes need only take a few clearly defined steps and life will be easier: control your weight – or lose five to 10 percent of your body mass if you are overweight; do regular exercise: quit smoking: limit alcohol and salt intake while increasing fiber.


All specialists give similar advice. There are three crucial ways to control diabetes or avoid type-2. Exercise, exercise, exercise – then, for those already diagnosed, add a sensible diet and drug therapy.


Drugs, though, are only one part of a much needed bigger plan of action and do not negate the need for lifestyle changes. Far too many people are sent away from doctors having simply been diagnosed with type-2 diabetes and prescribed what they believe to be a life-saving drug. They end up not changing their lifestyles at all.


To really take control of this disease you have to get proficient at self-managing. Many people are simply not equipped to deal with it after diagnosis. They’re sent out into the world without the necessary tools. The result is often grinding depression when medication does not make them feel much better and nutritional and exercise aspects of treatment are avoided. There’s a lesson for all of us in this – we should always keep moving and eating better. This thing can be beaten, but it’s up to you.

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