By Aryn Lloyd, Health Coach, Rock Valley Health
November is Diabetes Awareness Month and millions of Americans are at risk for this devastating disease.
The CDC now reports that 1 in 3 American adults have prediabetes which is 86 million people.
Diabetes is scary. I know, because I have lived with type 1 diabetes for over 14 years.
Through my experience living with diabetes, I find those living with it would do anything not to have it. Many without diabetes are not aware they are at risk, or don’t know what life with diabetes actually entails — until it is too late to do anything about it.
Many doctors, nurses, dietitians, and now health coaches, and exercise specialists, are trained to identify early signs and symptoms of poor glucose control or risk of developing the disease.
Diabetes is a complicated disease.
There are different types of diabetes: Type 2, once called adult onset diabetes, is when your cells become resistant to the insulin your body makes, or your pancreas cannot produce enough insulin to cover the sugar in your blood. (We don’t call it adult onset anymore, because many kids are now getting diagnosed with it, while more adults are getting diagnosed with type 1.)
Type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disease, means you are insulin dependent. People with this type cannot prevent it and there is no cure.
There is also gestational diabetes (high blood sugar levels during pregnancy), as well as LADA (latent autoimmune diabetes in adults).
Any type of diabetes, regardless of cause and phase, requires constant attention and effort for good glucose control.
Diabetes is diagnosed using one of the following laboratory blood tests: fasting glucose test, oral glucose tolerance test, or A1C.
Prevention and exercise are key.
Chances are you, or someone you know, is at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.
Prediabetes means the blood sugar is higher than normal but not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes.
If you have been tested, and have elevated glucose levels above what is considered normal, you should consider assessing the frequency and time you exercise and get moving!
CDC studies show that even modest weight loss and exercise can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
If you have a higher than normal weight (a BMI of over 25), then a weight loss of 5-7% of your body weight is advised. You are also advised to include 150 minutes a week of physical activity.
How does exercise work to lower overall blood sugar?
Exercise plays a large role in maintaining ideal blood sugar levels, and lowering glucose levels, for those who are at risk.
Regular physical activity can reduce insulin resistance, and help the insulin work more effectively.
Many people find that exercise helps them gain better glucose numbers, and sometimes reduces the quantity of pills or insulin they have to take.
For people on insulin, physical activity helps the insulin work more effectively, causing cells to be more sensitive to it as long as it is present.
When your body is active, your muscles rely on glucose for energy to do the “work.”
The uptake in glucose by working muscles causes your blood glucose levels to fall. Even when you stop the activity your muscles and liver are still working to replace glucose and glycogen stores. The benefits of exercise last even beyond the “active” minutes!
What kinds of exercises are best to lower overall glucose?
If you consider yourself to be a novice exerciser or if you are new to diabetes starting at a low to moderate pace is best.
Strenuous exercise does not always have the greatest impact on diabetes and long term exercise adherence. For someone on diabetes medication strenuous exercise can cause someone’s blood sugar to drop very quickly.
Look at where your current fitness level is by assessing the FITT principle. Frequency, how often do you exercise? Intensity, how hard are you working? Type, what is the mode of your activity? Walking, biking, swimming, lifting weights, yoga? Time, how long or what is the duration of time you exercise? Each component plays a factor in the rate at which your muscle uptakes the glucose in your bloodstream.
Ask yourself, what is realistic for me? What can my body and mind tolerate? Assess how you feel after each exercise session and if you have diabetes check your blood sugar before and after so you know the effect.
Factors that influence blood sugar levels.
Everyone’s blood sugar levels fluctuate at different rates with exercise. Factors that could influence blood sugar changes during exercise include exercise intensity, exercise type, food eaten (carbohydrates), and if you are diabetic amount of active medication and pre-exercise blood sugar level just to name a few.
As you begin to feel more comfortable with exercise then you can reevaluate and change up your FITT. Gradually add another day, go for a longer time, increase the speed or resistance, or try a new activity. General rule: increase slowly! You will see greater progress and have a greater chance of making exercise part of your every day.
Take extra precautions if you have diabetes.
A person with diabetes should always carry some form of sugar, especially during exercise. Juice, raisins, fruit strips, or as a general rule 15-30 grams of straight carbohydrate. I always carry glucose tablets on me.
Too much medication can cause people with diabetes to have low blood sugar called hypoglycemia.
Once diabetes medication is administered there is no easy way to decrease the amount of medication and low blood sugar can result. Keeping a back up form of sugar for emergencies to correct a low blood sugar is a must as well as a blood glucose meter and medical identification. If you are going to exercise alone be sure to tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be done.
If you have diabetes and have high blood sugar, called hyperglycermia, you should wait to exercise if your blood sugar is above 250. Very high glucose means there isn’t enough insulin present in the body for cells or muscles to use glucose therefore muscles start breaking down fat for energy and the sugar remains high in the blood. This creates ketones in the body which are toxic by-products.
It is wise to wait until the sugar levels decrease below 250 before normal activity resumes. Overall, exercise is not only safe for people with diabetes; it is part of good health and better glucose control.
Prepare for exercise:
- Brainstorm a time to fit 10-20 minutes of physical activity into your day and coming week.
- Book an appointment to exercise by scheduling it in your calendar.
- Wear good supportive shoes. If you have diabetes, taking care of your feet is very important! Consider getting your shoes fit if you plan to be active on your feet.
- If you have diabetes, be sure to pack your medical ID, meter, and a snack with you.
- Start slow: walking or low intensity exercise to begin and increase from there.
*If you don’t know your glucose level, consider getting a baseline laboratory blood glucose test.
Rock Valley Health staff does fasting glucose readings and biometric screenings, or many labs offer glucose testing. Be sure to look up your number or ask your doctor to see if you are at risk.
|Aryn Lloyd is a Health Coach for Rock Valley Health. A Type 1 diabetic, she has led many chronic disease programs, including the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. She lives in Davenport with her husband, Ben, and their two daughters, Britta and Klara. You can read Aryn’s bio and other blog posts by clicking here.|