Diabetes mellitus: The Risks and Prevention

There are many factors which contribute to the likeliness of having Type II diabetes.  These factors are commonly called “risk factors.”  Some of these you can change, (for example, whether or not you smoke) and others may not (i.e., if it runs in your family).

Before we discuss the risk factors involved in Diabetes Type II, I want to give you all a refresher on what Diabetes Type II is and how important it is to address the risk factors and to prevent it from happening.

Diabetes Type II (or Diabetes mellitus) is the commonest form of diabetes, caused by a deficiency of the pancreatic hormone insulin, which results in a failure to metabolize sugars and starch. When the body cannot produce enough insulin or becomes insulin resistant, sugars accumulate in the blood and urine resulting in elevated blood sugar levels. Elevated blood sugar levels and the by-products of alternative fat metabolism disturb the acid–base balance of the blood, causing many health problems and life threatening conditions.

What are some of these health problems and life threatening conditions? Longstanding high blood sugar levels have been shown to lead to vascular complications such as arteriosclerosis, glomerulosclerosis, heart attacks, and retinopathy. Diabetic neuropathy, characterized by pain and paresthesia, is among the most frequent complications of longstanding, poorly controlled diabetes and is often associated with a reduction in physical activity and with sleep disturbances. If diabetes is left untreated, it can eventually lead to convulsions and coma.

Before you get super scared at what I just wrote, it is important to note that this is all for your education and health awareness. Part of health self-empowerment is recognizing the signs and symptoms of diabetes mellitus rather than minimizing any symptoms that prevent you from seeking care early. Even if you already have diabetes mellitus, you can start today by making small changes that have HUGE health benefits. Talk to your medical provider further and discuss whether you are at risk for diabetes or not.

Are you are at risk for diabetes? Here are some things to consider…

Do you have and or experience the following…

High blood glucose(sugar)

History of diabetes during pregnancy, called gestational diabetes (for women)

High blood pressure


Limited or no exercise

Have high cholesterol lab reports? (LDL high; HDL low)


Unhealthy eating

Have a family member with diabetes

Making a few small changes can have a BIG impact on your health and risk for diabetes. Remember, it is what you do most of the time that matters-rather than trying to do “everything-right and-all-at-once-approach” and feeling discouraged. It usually takes about twenty one days to form a new habit. I like to ask the question, “Remember when you were a kid and you HATED brushing your teeth?” Now you don’t even think about it—because it is a HABIT. Be kind to yourself while you are in the process of making small changes into habits that last a lifetime.

The second question that is important before you want to make any changes to your health concerning diabetes is “Are you ready and willing to make changes?” A lot of the time people can feel pressured into making the changes and yet they may not stick to the plan because someone in their family or loved one wants them to. It is important that you make the shift because you want to. This is because when you make the decision to change your lifestyle, everything becomes EASIER to support you to do so.

Lowering your risk factors can be daunting at first, but with a little help things can shift quickly for the better.  A teacher of mine said that he was only willing to work with those who want to get results. I want that for you too. Here is how to get results:

  1. Exercise-I know you’ve heard it and this goes along way! It is important to make goals that are realistic and obtainable. Something that I call “small successes” rather than getting up and deciding to run a marathon the next day (when you have spent the past few years doing not much activity).  Find times in your day where movement fits easily into your schedule. Are you a morning person? Night time? Only have a 30min break in the day after lunch to spare? That’s ok.
  2. Movement can easily fit into your life no matter what the demands you have. It doesn’t have to be hard or complex—only if you make it that way.  Don’t enjoy going to the gym? There are so many ways to move and have it not feel like doing exercise. Use stairs instead of the elevator at work. Walk around the block with your dog for 15-20min. Dance in your living room. –Don’t like exercising alone? Sometimes we need some motivation. People love finding a buddy and or joining a meetup.com group where you can meet friends that love to exercise. I worked with a patient who loved hiking (at risk for diabetes and heart disease) but didn’t want to do it alone. I encouraged him to join a local community college hiking class (that met on the weekends) and he walked 15 miles a week! He loved it and made lots of friends outside of the class and still hikes with them today! Granted, you don’t have to start walking 15 miles a week, you just have to ask yourself “what form of activity do I love to do?”  It is always important to engage in movement that you LOVE to do, rather than doing something that you feel you HAVE to do.
  3. Increase vegetable consumption. Steamed or raw.  Let this be your motto (as it is mine), “Anytime you eat a vegetable—you win.” This helps people feel that they are making progress into big successes. Skip the butter and heavy dipping sauces for vegetable flavoring. Try balsamic vinegar and olive oil instead for a dip. Experiment with spices. As long as your vegetables are NOT fried, YOU WIN. Plain and simple. (Want to learn tasty healthy dressing recipes? Check out the book: Healthy Salad Dressings by Jackson Crawford).
  4. Know where to shop in the grocery store. Learn how to recognize and control your intake of foods that raise blood glucose levels.  Not only do high-sugar foods like candy, cookies, syrup, and soda lack nutritional value, but these low-quality carbohydrates also cause a dramatic spike in blood sugar levels and can contribute to weight gain, both of which can worsen diabetes complications. A rule of thumb that I like to say is “If it comes in a box, it probably is NOT FOR YOU.” Have you noticed that all the healthy items in the grocery store are usually on the periphery isles? All the junk that is not good for you (that is loaded with preservatives and chemicals and refined stuff to keep diabetes and heart disease close at hand) are in the central isles.  By sticking to the “edges” of the grocery store, you are buying WHOLE FOODs that are healthier for you in the long run and that are less likely to complicate the risk factors of diabetes.
  5. Limit consumption of refined grains such as white bread, white pasta, chips, white rice, and white sugars. A teacher of mine used to say, “No white sugar, no white breads, no white pastas, no white pastries. NO WHITE DEATH!!” He was basically saying that any “white refined foods” should be eliminated from EVERY person’s diet. Not that you can’t eat them EVER AGAIN but you must LIMIT the consumption as these items can cause spikes to your blood glucose levels that make it much more difficult for your body to change to a healthier state. Try incorporating different grains that don’t tend to spike glucose levels such as quinoa or millet.
  6. Learn to satisfy your sweet tooth by snacking on high-quality carbohydrates such as fresh fruit. Apples, grapes, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries have sweet, juicy flavors and are packed with fiber to help slow the absorption of glucose, making them a much better choice for blood sugar control. When snacking on fruit, pair it with a protein food, such as a piece cheese, or handful of nuts, to further reduce the impact on your blood sugar levels.
  7. Incorporate all natural sweeteners such as stevia into your diet for your sweet cravings. Want to lose weight fast? Replace all white sugar and sweet cravings with stevia. Stevia is an herb that is sold as a “dietary supplement” in the United States. It does NOT spike blood glucose levels and is considered safe for diabetics, pre-diabetics, and anyone who wants to wean off of white refined sugar.  If you are curious as to how cook with and make healthy food recipes involving stevia, please check out the book, “The Stevia Cookbook,” by Donna Gates and Ray Shelian, M.D. It will open your world to a new beginning!
  8. Know your health care options. Alternative medicine has become quite the mainstream craze in the United States and is now labeled as “Complimentary Care” to any form of western medicine treatment (which is primary care). Herbs such as Cinnamon, Ginseng (Korean), Turmeric, and Astragalus are just a few examples of herbs of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that are being studied to help treat and possibly prevent the onset of Diabetes Type II. Speak to your local Traditional Chinese Medical Specialist or Acupuncturist with an herbal medical license who can help formulate herbal prescriptions that can help you reduce any risk factors. The beauty behind Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal therapy is that there are virtually no side effects and each herbal formulation is specific to you. Make sure to work with someone who is medically licensed with a TCM background as they will understand about herb-drug interactions and which herbs can help reduce the risk factors most effectively.

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