Published on October 08, 2013

Dodging Diabetes

By Stephanie Marsau

I have absolutely no experience with diabetes. I don’t have it, there’s no family history, and the only person I’ve ever known who did have it, only had it when they were pregnant. I would suspect most people do know someone with it, which makes sense because according to the American Diabetes Association 25.8 million Americans have diabetes. Even more startling is that according to Blue Zones author Dan Buettner, by 2030 it is projected that 50% of us will be living with diabetes.

diabetesAnd diabetes doesn’t discriminate. In late 2013, Tom Hanks, one of the world’s most well-known actors, revealed he had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. Hanks said, “I went to the doctor and he said, ‘You know those high blood sugar numbers you’ve been dealing with since you were 36? Well, you’ve graduated. You’ve got type 2 diabetes, young man.”

Hanks has famously lost and gained weight for several of his movie roles, which can play a factor in the development of diabetes. I decided to check in with Mary Greeley Medical Center Diabetes Educator Sarah Haveman to make some sense of all of this.

Q: First off, I always get a bit confused. What’s the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?
A: Type 1 diabetes is considered an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the cells of the pancreas, which prevents it from making insulin. People who suffer from this would be the people that have to give themselves insulin shots every day. People with Type 2 diabetes have become resistant to insulin, or aren’t making enough—but there is still insulin being produced. These people MAY need some form of insulin replacement, but Type 2 can be kept under control in most cases with lifestyle changes.

Q:  So, why does gaining and losing weight like Tom Hanks has in the past predispose you to diabetes?
A:  An increase in weight can lead to an increase in insulin resistance, and both drastic increases and decreases in weight can have an effect on the cells in our bodies. When pancreatic cells aren’t working right, they close off which stops the sugars from being processed correctly. When sugar can’t get into the cells, it stays in our bloodstream, causing that spike in blood sugar.

Q:  What are some things we can do to avoid being diagnosed with diabetes?
A:  Obviously maintaining a healthy weight is key. Exercising just 10-15 minutes a day can decrease your insulin resistance and lower your glucose levels. A healthy diet is also important, but it’s equally important to establish a regular eating pattern. This way your body knows what to expect and blood sugar spikes are fewer and further between. And lastly, manage stress! Anything that puts stress on your body, whether it is an injury or a bad day, affects the cells in our bodies—and as mentioned up above when those aren’t working right it can cause our blood sugar to spike.

Mary Greeley Medical Center’s Diabetes and Nutrition Education Center is always willing to help you answer any questions you may have and is just a phone call away. To set up an appointment, call 515-956-2880. Not sure you need an appointment quite yet? Check out our online Diabetes Learning Center to help answer your questions and make an informed decision.

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