Diabetes, a disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood, is more common than ever before. In the United States, the prevalence of diabetes has more than quadrupled in the past two decades. Not only are more people being diagnosed with diabetes, they’re also developing the disease at younger ages.
That’s worrisome because the risks of complications from this common disease — which include heart attack, stroke, blindness, kidney failure, and amputation — become greater the longer you have diabetes. But there’s good evidence that rigorous blood sugar control can delay or even prevent the development of debilitating long-term complications. Such tight control is now possible thanks to innovations such as high-tech monitoring devices, improved medications, and nearly painless insulin injectors.
This special health report will help you better understand and manage your diabetes. It includes detailed, updated information about medications and alternative treatments for diabetes, and a special section on weight-loss strategies. By reading this report, you’ll also learn the basics of how your body metabolizes sugar, how and when to monitor your blood sugar, and how to cope with both short- and long-term complications of the disease. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll see that it’s not just possible to live with diabetes; it’s possible to live well.
Prepared by the editors of Harvard Health Publications in collaboration with David M. Nathan, Professor of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, and Director, Diabetes Center and Clinical Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital. 48 pages. (2012)
- What is diabetes?
- How the body breaks down sugar
- When blood sugar regulation goes awry
- Who’s at risk for type 2 diabetes?
- Diagnosing diabetes
- Recognizing the symptoms
- Tests for diabetes
- Diagnosis and beyond
- Managing your diabetes: An overview
- Monitoring blood sugar
- A team approach
- SPECIAL BONUS SECTION: Weight-loss strategies for diabetes
- Medications for diabetes
- Oral medications
- Other injectable medications
- Combination therapy
- Alternative treatments for diabetes
- Short-term complications
- Other diabetic emergencies
- Pregnancy and diabetes
- Gestational diabetes
- Long-term complications
- Eye disease
- Nerve damage
- Kidney disease
- Damage to the feet and legs
- Cardiovascular disease
The importance of exercise
For people who have diabetes — or almost any other disease, for that matter — the benefits of exercise can’t be overstated. Exercise helps control weight, lower blood pressure, lower harmful LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, raise healthy HDL cholesterol, strengthen muscles and bones, reduce anxiety, and improve your general well-being. There are added benefits for people with diabetes: exercise lowers blood glucose levels and boosts your body’s sensitivity to insulin, countering insulin resistance.
Many studies underscore these and other benefits from exercise. Following are some highlights of those results:
- Exercise lowered HbA1c values by 0.7 percentage point in people of different ethnic groups with diabetes who were taking different medications and following a variety of diets—and this improvement occurred even though they didn’t lose weight.
- All forms of exercise — aerobic, resistance, or combined training — were equally good at lowering HbA1c values in people with diabetes.
- Resistance training and aerobic exercise both helped to lower insulin resistance in previously sedentary older adults with abdominal obesity at risk for diabetes. Combining the two types of exercise proved more beneficial than doing either one alone.
- People with diabetes who walked at least two hours a week were less likely to die of heart disease than their sedentary counterparts, and those who exercised three to four hours a week cut their risk even more.
- Women with diabetes who spent at least four hours a week doing moderate exercise (including walking) or vigorous exercise had a 40% lower risk of developing heart disease than those who didn’t exercise. These benefits persisted even after researchers adjusted for confounding factors, including BMI, smoking, and other heart disease risk factors.
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