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How to Arm Yourself Against Diabetes

For a long time, type 2 diabetes was considered an inevitable fate. Now we know: The dangerous metabolic disease can be prevented early – even without torture and medication.

Aging sugar – that was the common name for the disease in the past. And that sounded like a difficult fate and permanent renunciation of everything that tastes good. But now we know: There can be no talk of fate in type 2 diabetes. And certainly not from a joyless life. The metabolic disease can be prevented or delayed for a long time with a few simple everyday measures that help better than medication. And all of this even applies to people who already have a very high risk of developing the disease.

Since this data was on the table, the picture of diabetes prevention has changed. Diet still plays a major role, and physical activity is no less beneficial. But the more recent precautionary recommendations neither aim to banish indulgence, nor to turn the kitchen upside down. And when it comes to movement, too, the top motto is now: no mortification

Avoid obesity and lack of exercise

The more precise and realistic insights into how type 2 diabetes can be prevented are of enormous value. Because suffering is considered to be one of the greatest challenges for the German health system in the 21st century. It is estimated that half of men and around one third of women over the age of 50 already develop a pre-form, prediabetes. About eight percent of adults suffer from full-blown type 2 diabetes – and the trend is rising sharply. Obesity and lack of exercise are considered to be important trailblazers and are therefore now the central starting points.

The change in lifestyle has an unbeatable advantage: It addresses the cause of the problem and turns back the biological clock – not a single drug can do that to this day. According to the latest findings, movement is more important than was thought. Because it acts through its own, useful mechanisms on the sugar metabolism. “Muscles suck the sugar from the bloodstream into the cells, where it belongs and can be processed into energy,” explains Martin Halle, sports medicine specialist and expert in diabetes prevention at the Technical University of Munich. “Because the muscles take the glucose out of circulation, they relieve the blood vessels.”

Additional insulin receptors through exercise

Because sugar, this potent poison that preserves jam and protects it from germs, attacks the inner walls of the arteries. It is particularly harmful in a cocktail with cholesterol particles. The mixture triggers inflammation on the vessel walls and accelerates aging. The substances that get into the blood as a result block receptors on the body’s cells. The hormone insulin can then no longer dock there and signal: Open doors, let in glucose. The insulin-resistant cell tightens – the glucose continues to drive in the blood. The result: The blood vessels are damaged, impotence and heart attacks, serious damage to the eyes, kidneys and foot nerves threaten. The risk of cancer quadruples. Insulin resistance is the beginning of the evil – and it is precisely it that can be reversed for a long time.

Movement simply fixes the problem: additional insulin receptors form on every new muscle cell, movement makes the cell more receptive to sugar. The beneficial effects of physical activity can be measured after just a few days. In addition, there is a considerable gain in quality of life. “Most patients do not suffer so much from their weight, they suffer from panting and sweating after five steps,” says sports medicine specialist Halle. As a first therapeutic measure, he gives his protégés a pedometer, with the task of taking 500 steps more week after week or one minute longer every day. “You can feel how you’re getting fitter relatively quickly, and that’s motivating,” he says.

Scope for good cuisine

Most of his patients need a smooth start: “If you haven’t done anything for 30 years, you first have to trust your body again. That won’t be possible in three weeks.” The workload should therefore be measured in such a way that it is fun immediately – and not just in the distant future. It doesn’t matter whether you go for a walk, ride a bike, swim, do Nordic walking or possibly run long distances. Strength training has also been shown to be useful, which is not surprising as muscles eventually grow. The only important thing is to exercise regularly and stick with it.

The current dietary recommendations for diabetes prevention are also uncomplicated and leave plenty of scope for good cuisine. They are:

  • eat less fat, especially less saturated fat, i.e. those in sausage and ready-made meals;
  • Eat more fiber, so less white flour, more whole grains. Optimal: oats and legumes such as lentils, beans, peas;
  • lose five to seven percent of the weight. That is not a lot, but it is enough to get the sugar metabolism out of the danger zone.

The diabetologist Andreas Pfeiffer from the German Institute for Nutritional Research in Potsdam-Rehbrücke sums it up as follows: “Avoid the mixture of lots of sugar, white flour and fat.” In the future, you can compensate yourself for not having a cream cake with your wreath with a generous amount of coffee. Because, according to Pfeiffer, “Coffee protects against diabetes – especially in larger quantities.”