It’s a Vicious Circle
Ninety to 95 percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes are Type 2, the form of diabetes that is lifestyle-related. It typically begins as insulin resistance resulting from poor eating habits coupled with a sedentary lifestyle. If insulin resistance persists, the pancreas gradually loses its ability to produce insulin. In many cases, Type 2 diabetes is a factor related to metabolic syndrome, a condition affecting nearly 35 percent of American adults. The disease consists of a cluster of disorders including obesity, hypertension, inflammation and diabetes, all precursors to heart disease. They are all interrelated and feed off one another, causing disease to escalate unless actions are taken to reverse the disorder.
Obesity associated with low levels of physical activity, high levels of mental stress and poor nutritional choices is at the root of metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Abdominal obesity in particular has been pinpointed as a major contributor. Fat in the abdominal area often surrounds and infiltrates the vital organs, undermining their function. Regular daily physical activity coupled with a nutritionally dense high fiber diet are the first steps to managing obesity.
Inflammation and Diabetes
In healthy people, beta cells of the pancreas secrete insulin into the bloodstream in order to regulate blood sugar levels which rise after eating. In the early stages of Type 2 diabetes, the body’s cells become resistant to insulin because they are already storing more sugar than they can use. In that phase, the body produces immune cells called microphages that attack the beta cells in the pancreas to reduce insulin production. Microphages surround the beta cells and cause inflammation.
Hypertension and Diabetes
Chronic mental stress common to our modern lifestyles is frequently associated with hypertension. Stress changes your body chemistry, causing the secretion of hormones related to the “fight or flight” syndrome. Those hormones drive up blood pressure and stimulate your immune system. In earlier times, hormonal stress levels would return to normal once the threat of imminent danger abated. But the demands of modern Western culture keep us in an unhealthy state of perpetual stress. When coupled with poor nutrition and inactivity, prolonged stress causes you to store visceral fat and adds to the inflammation that drives metabolic syndrome and diabetes.
Control and Reversal
The good news is that the conditions that make up the diabetes-metabolic disease complex are highly responsive to physical activity. When you work out, your body uses glucose stored in your muscle cells to provide energy. Reduced glucose stores lower your cells’ resistance to insulin. Exercise also helps reduce stress and inflammation, lowering blood pressure. The responses of blood pressure and insulin sensitivity are acute, meaning that even one workout has an effect. Adding regular exercise into your weekly schedule is the fastest way to begin to turn diabetes and metabolic syndrome around. Eliminating processed foods, grains and sugar and replacing them with a Mediterranean-Style diet will speed up the process.
As a fitness professional, the more you understand about your clients’ health, the better qualified you will be to provide appropriate interventions. To learn more about the roles exercise and nutrition play in preventing and reversing disease, consider enrolling in a W.I.T.S. online course. Many of our courses count toward the continuing education requirements for your certifications. Nutritional Concepts, Exercise Program Design for Special Populations, and Certified Personal Trainer are all courses that will enhance your understanding of diabetes and other metabolic disorders.
References and Credits
American Heart Association: About Metabolic Syndrome
Current Atherosclerosis Reports: Diabetes and Hypertension: Is There a Common Metabolic Pathway?
Medical News Today: Type 2 Diabetes is an Inflammatory Disease, Say Researchers
Obesity Action Coalition: Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes
*Images courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net.