Have diabetes, will get fit

November 14 is World Diabetes Day. A diabetic, K.V. PRASAD, writes how the condition is a great motivation to get fit

Are you depressed that you are in your 30s and have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes mellitus? Don’t be.

It can actually make you fit. All it needs is a bit of course-correction with the help of your doctor. It has been called several ominous things, including ‘silent killer’, but if you take it as a warning and fall in line, it can put you on the path to healthy living.

“Many young diabetics I know are now glad that they had an early brush with the disorder, especially when they hear undetected diabetes has led to heart attack and other organ damage,” says diabetologist V. Rajendran, who says that unlike a couple of decades ago, when only those in their 50s and above were detected with it, Type II diabetes can affect even those who are 35 or younger.

“If you have a combination of an unhealthy lifestyle and genetic predisposition, the first thing to hit you will be diabetes, and perhaps at a much younger age,” he cautions. But, fitness and diet discipline begun young will go a long way in preventing diabetes, or at least delaying its onset, he explains.

He also warns that diabetics have lower immunity levels, compared to non-diabetics. “This makes them vulnerable to infections and they have to be aware of this. It is not enough if they are warned of only organ damage caused by uncontrolled diabetes.”

A relatively young diabetic needs both physical and mental conditioning to accept the disorder and the lifestyle modifications that come with it, says Rajendran.

“When a young diabetic parent learns from the risk factors, he/she puts the children also on to healthy food and sporting activities. Exercise and outdoor games become a family activity, instead of TV and junk food. Thus, preventive diabetology begins at home.”

But there are those who struggle to come to terms with the disorder. Fear and confusion drive them to unscientific and invariably dangerous alternatives, in that desperate hunt for the non-existent cure for diabetes. “There is no cure as yet for diabetes. It can only be controlled,” the doctor points out. Unproven methods of treatment can be dangerous.

There is also the danger of overdoing things. For the 35-45 age group, hitting the gym or the jogging track recklessly can cause injury. Moderation is the key.

“Walking is least risky, least expensive, but an effective exercise,” explains the diabetologist. “But, that does not mean that one should not go to the gym or run. Do only what your body can take. It can speak to you. Stop when your body hurts. We cannot have young people acquiring life-long injuries in their bid to keep diabetes under control.”

Fitness trainer R. Linga Bhaskar of 60 Minutes Workout fitness studio in Coimbatore says persons diagnosed with borderline diabetes workout at his gym, but they undergo a thorough evaluation for capacity and ailments or injury that can worsen with weight training. People with diabetes could be hypertensive too.

“We cannot put such people on an intensive workout schedule. Even for a diabetic, we ask for the drug dose and regimen, so that the workout does not turn counter-productive,” he says.

Diabetics on high-dose drugs or insulin may have to be wary of hypoglycaemia (sharp drop in blood glucose level) that can prove fatal. Commonly called “low sugar,” it does not happen during exercise. When a person runs or exercises, his body demands energy. The liver, which stores glucose, releases it on demand. But, the level can drop sharply sometime after the exercise ends. Any delay in having food after the workout could lead to hypoglycaemia. The best way is to tell your diabetologist your exercise schedule and get a suitable diet schedule worked out.

Says Bhaskar, “After evaluating their condition and the drugs they take, we tell them what to eat and how much gap should be given between exercise and their food intake.

Generally, any type of safe and guided exercise helps improve the metabolic rate and this is good for diabetics to normalise their blood glucose level.”

When a young diabetic parent learns from the risk factors, he/she puts the children also on to healthy food and sporting activities... thus, preventive diabetology begins at home

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