– Doc, I’m here because my blood test showed diabetes. I need treatment, but I don’t want shots…
– Calm down, Pascal, we’re not there yet… I’ll explain it all to you…
This is the beginning of my consultation with Pascal. He’s 46 years old, a worker, has three children, is a smoker (which drives his doctor to despair), sedentary, and slightly overweight (Body Mass Index 29.6, therefore “a little” overweight)!
Every year, we do a blood test to monitor his health, and this time, his blood sugar level was 1.09 G / L (the laboratory standard is 1.06 g / l). Hence his concern.
It’s a typical scene for patients to discover they are not “up to standard” and think an “abnormality” on their tests is a severe illness! We are going to explore this error of interpretation below.
In medicine, as in life, nuance is a keyword: abnormality does not always rhyme with pathology and even less with treatments.
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is an abnormally high glucose level in the blood, aka blood sugar rate. The strict definition is a blood sugar level above 1.26 g/L on two separate blood samples.
There are several types of diabetes, but we will focus on the two forms covering 98% of cases:
- Type 1 Diabetes:
It concerns 6% of diabetic patients. It is a pathology where the pancreas1 no longer produces insulin2 because autoantibodies destroy the responsible cells.3 Yes, we are referring to auto Ac produced by the patients themselves. Thus, this disease is autoimmune. It appears in young people and children, the only treatment being insulin.
- Type 2 Diabetes:
It corresponds to 92% of diabetics, and, as a rule of thumb, it affects adults over 40. There are many causes: genetic, environmental, diet, and lifestyle. Experts say type 2 diabetes is a multifactorial disease.
Here’s what happens: the pancreas still makes insulin, but the molecule can’t do its job. That is the precise definition of insulin resistance! Remember this phrase well; we will return to it later in the “how to avoid it” section.
What’s so bad about a bit of sugar in your system?
When the sugar level exceeds 1.26 g/l, your arteries’ walls will start altering slowly but surely. These walls will then gradually clog, following regular deposits of atherosclerotic plaque.
These deposits are all the more critical when the patient is also a smoker with high cholesterol (I kick Pascal’s ass every time so that, one day, he’ll decide to stop). In this case, we speak of arteriosclerosis.4
The arteries are the blood vessels responsible for bringing oxygen to the organs. Diabetes, therefore, disrupts the functioning of different organs called “target organs.”
Which organs are these?
- The heart
The arteries that supply the heart are the coronaries. Their diameters are small (3 – 5 mm), and they clog easily, leading to diseases such as myocardial infarction, heart failure, etc.
- The brain
The cerebral arteries can be affected by arteriosclerosis, complicating blood circulation. The lack of blood in certain brain parts can cause severe disease. Examples include cerebrovascular accidents, heavy sequelae, hemiplegia 5, aphasia 6, and dysarthria 7.
- The kidney
A veritable purification plant for the body, the kidney comprises many small functional units called the glomeruli. These units also have small arteries, prone to clogging due to diabetes.
The eye is literally a piece of the brain: it is a unique, complex organ but, at the same time, very fragile. The retina, the brain’s window to the outside world, is irrigated by blood vessels and is likely to deteriorate due to diabetes. This process is called retinopathy.
- Lower Limbs
Diabetes promotes the atheroma plaques deposits in the lower limbs and is responsible for poor arterial circulation. This condition is called arteritis, which causes pain and wounds, leading to severe functional consequences.
Diabetes is, therefore, in different respects, a cardiovascular pathology.8 Above all, diabetes is insidious, even vicious, because it often lacks symptoms.
But there is good news…
Before arriving at the diabetes stage (especially in type 2), patients frequently go through a phase of hyperglycemia. This is the case of our friend Pascal (who, if he reads this text, must try to quit smoking).
The insulin resistance mentioned above is the pain point.
It is the direct translation of how poorly we treat our bodies. In turn, our bodies make us pay by accumulating abdominal fat. And that visceral core fat is a real scourge in public health.
By reducing insulin resistance, you reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes.
But how to do it?
There are two simple rules: Eat Better and Move More
|Avoid fast sugars.||They exhaust the pancreas.|
|Avoid saturated fats.||They clog the arteries.|
|Prefer complex cereals.||They do not increase blood sugar too much.|
|Consume fibers.||They promote good digestion.|
|Use vegetable fats.||This regulates bad cholesterol levels.|
|Eat 5 fruits/vegetables per day.||You need the ideal ratio.|
|Drink 8 glasses of water a day.||Good hydration improves your health.|
|Build your perfect plate.||½ vegetables – ¼ starches – ¼ proteins|
|Daily physical activity||Daily workouts improve your life quality.|
|Moderate physical activity||30 – 60 minutes: walking, water aerobics, etc.|
|High physical activity||20 – 40 minutes: CrossFit, bodybuilding, etc.|
|Personalization||To each his own (workout)|
|Make it fun to keep your daily habit||Find the workout that makes you feel the best|
|Set 10,000 steps per day as an objective||The basics of the basics|
To sum up, diabetes is a multifactorial disease that often reflects an inadequate lifestyle. It has substantial repercussions on your health. Luckily, there are simple ways to prevent or limit its symptoms, especially biological ones!
There is not just one thing to do, as often happens in medicine. You have access to a set of elements that, taken together, will have a definite positive impact. You can choose to implement them or not, but either way, now you can’t say that you don’t know.
PS: If you ask yourself the same question as Pascal on injections, here’s the answer:
As a rule of thumb, the initial treatment for type 2 diabetes is taking tablets. The treatment ALWAYS includes the dietary norms mentioned above.
- Pancreas: Organ located in the abdomen with several functions, including the synthesis of insulin responsible for regulating the level of sugar in the blood.
- Insulin: Hormone produced by the pancreas. Its function is to regulate blood sugar.
- Autoantibodies: Autoantibodies are like mutineers in an army. They attack their own camp. In type 1 diabetes, they attack the pancreas.
- Arteriosclerosis: This condition defines all the lesions on the arteries. It manifests by the increasing deposit of an atheroma plaque, leading to the vessels’ obstruction, sometimes with severe consequences.
- Hemiplegia: Paralysis of half the body as a direct result of a stroke.
- Aphasia: Aphasia is the total or partial loss of the ability to speak or understand a verbal or written message.
- Dysarthria: Dysarthria is an inability to articulate words normally. Speech may be jerky, choppy, whispery, erratic, imprecise, or monotonous.
- Cardiovascular disease: This umbrella term defines a set of pathologies resulting in arterial circulatory lesions. The consequence is a lack of oxygenation of the noble organs, with serious health consequences.