Hey, Dr. Cori here, pharmacist, certified diabetes care and education specialist, and creator of Do Diabetes Differently®.
We’ve discussed on the last few Wellness Wednesdays the impact of our lifestyle on our blood sugar. And one way that impact may manifest is type 2 diabetes. People have even coined type 2 diabetes a lifestyle disease more often referring to food intake than some of the lifestyle characteristics I have been describing. Traditionally diabetes education always centered around food, even though there were six other topics within the curriculum, every patient visit focused on food. So that’s what patients focused on, an eat this, not that mentality.
And that focus I think unfortunately changes the dialogue for type 2 diabetes.
So often I hear people talk about type 2 diabetes like it is a punishment for bad behavior. I hear people say things like if you have type 2 diabetes it’s your fault for eating too much sugar. Referring to people as nonadherent or as “diabetic” as if their diabetes defines them. And unfortunately, that leaves people feeling like a victim instead of feeling empowered to do something about their diabetes. I even listen to health care providers threaten insulin if their patients don’t straighten up and eat right, leaving people to be in fear of the complications of diabetes and feeling paralyzed on how to prevent them. Having type 2 diabetes shouldn’t be about fear or punishment. It’s a diagnosis just like hypertension, heart failure, and the flu.
By definition type 2 diabetes is the abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates. There is nothing in the definition about eating too much sugar or drinking too much sweet tea. The abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates leads to an increase in blood sugar. That means you could have other health conditions that may be associated with insulin resistance and predispose you to type 2 diabetes. Examples might be, PCOS or delivering a baby over 9 pounds. And there are risk factors we have no control over like race, gender, and age.
Now I’m not saying there is no personal accountability with type 2 diabetes, but that is true in my opinion for many health conditions. There are known risks for cancer, Alzheimer’s (also referred to as type 3 diabetes), certain inflammatory disorders like irritable bowel syndrome.
In type 2 diabetes, for example, overeating can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. It doesn’t necessarily have to be all cakes and cookies, but consuming too many calories at one time can cause dramatic variability in blood sugar. So if you increase your blood sugar too high from your baseline at every meal, eventually it gets harder for your body to return to your baseline. So ultimately you change your threshold and contribute to the abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates. If you are already at risk for type 2 diabetes or have insulin resistance present, then you shorten your timeline to developing type 2 diabetes. And the opposite is true as well. If you are already at risk for type 2 diabetes and therefore you consciously try to improve insulin sensitivity by eating smaller meals, exercising more frequently, avoiding food that is known to spike blood sugar, you can prevent type 2 diabetes. Do you have to do it all the time? No, it’s what you do most often that counts.
So here’s the take home message. Type 2 diabetes is not punishment for bad behavior, for not eating right, for not exercising. It’s not mandated that you will have type 2 diabetes because everyone in your family does. Type 2 diabetes is a health condition associated with the abnormal metabolism of carbohydrate that results in an increase in blood sugar. It is a health condition that given the right tools you can manage effectively even to the point of normalizing blood sugar. And you should feel empowered to use the tools available to you to get the result that you want.
So that’s our Wellness Wednesday for the week, linking our discussions about blood sugar to type 2 diabetes.
So as always you can catch me here live on Facebook every week, view the recording on IGTV at DrCoriCooper or on Vimeo, and of course on my website at CoriCooper.com.
And of course, if you found this information helpful please share the legacy of health with your loved ones and your communities.