You probably already know that being obese increases your risk of several health conditions. Diabetes is just one in that long, long list. Let’s take a look at how obesity in women and diabetes are connected, the inherent risks of the condition, and what you can do to help yourself.
Relation between Obesity and Diabetes
Obesity is one of the risk factors and causes of diabetes. To understand why excessive weight gain is such a huge factor in causing diabetes, you first have to know a little more about how processes sugar.
Everything in the body requires energy to work. Your muscles, cells and tissues derive the fuel they need from glucose or sugar. The level of glucose in your body will determine your energy levels and health, which is why it is crucial that glucose levels remain stable.
Now this glucose cannot just go into your cells directly. After you eat, the sugar first goes into your bloodstream. The pancreas then secretes something called insulin which basically acts as a medium that carries the glucose to the cells. The cells will only respond to the insulin, opening up to receive the sugar only if it is insulin knocking at their doors, so to speak.
What the insulin is essentially doing here is reducing the amount of sugar in your blood. Once this happens, the pancreas will receive the signal that insulin is not needed anymore and the production will gradually stop. This is a delicate system that occurs every time you eat. Blood sugar equals insulin releases, and after blood sugar is reduced insulin production eases off.
Another place your cells can receive this glucose is through your liver. The liver is a truly miraculous organ which not just produces glucose but also stores it. If you go for a long period of time without eating, there is no glucose for your body to use. So the liver receives a signal to release some glucose to tide you over till you re-fuel by eating.
Your body is a wonderful machine, but it is a highly delicate system too. If blood sugar gets too high or too low, problems can occur.
Now if you are obese, the cells suffer and start behaving erratically. For reasons unknown, they fail to respond to insulin’s knock. They do not open to receive the glucose therein. So the glucose just stays in the blood. The pancreas receives the signal to create more insulin to push the glucose into the cells. However, the cells just get used to the higher levels of insulin over time, becoming almost desensitized to it. This means that at some point the levels of your blood sugar will get really high and lead to diabetes.
What are the risks associated with diabetes ?
Diabetes causes some major health complications. Since these risks occur only in the long run, people tend to take them very lightly, preferring to wait until it is too late before they take steps to bring their diabetes under control. Here’s a sobering thought – these complications can be fatal.
Increased Risk of Heart Disease
This is the number one complication of diabetes in obese people. You are at a very high risk for cardiovascular disease if you suffer from both diabetes and obesity. The risk is so great that it can accurately be termed dramatic.
Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s
Recent research has uncovered that those who have diabetes are at a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease. This has something to do with higher levels of blood sugar, although the exact reason is as yet unknown.
The kidneys are one of the most unappreciated organs in the body. So when someone talks about a risk to the kidneys, a normal reaction is to shrug it off. But these little organs perform a vital function – they keep your blood clean. Diabetes can cause horrific damage to the kidneys, preventing them from filtering out the junk from your blood. In severe cases, the condition can get so bad that you may have to have regular sessions of dialysis – an expensive, uncomfortable treatment where a machine has to clean out your blood. A kidney transplant would be a better option, but organ donors are scarce so you may have to wait a really long time before any help from that quarter.
Damages the Eyes
This is a little-known complication of diabetes. The condition can lead to damage of the blood vessels surrounding the eyes, leading to impaired vision and even partial or complete blindness.
The excessive sugar that collects in the blood ends up causing damage to the capillaries as well. The capillaries are really tiny blood vessels that are a source of food for your nerves. Reduced food to the nerves means that they will not work properly. As the condition progresses, you may feel anything from a tingling to outright burning in your extremities i.e. your hands and feet. If your diabetes remains untreated, these nerves will eventually die and you won’t be feeling anything at all after that. Know that this nerve damage will not stay localized in the fingers and toes. It will travel upwards, damaging more and more nerves along the way.
Diabetic people are somehow more prone to skin problems like infections caused by fungi or bacteria.
Oral Health Issues
The vulnerability to infection extends to the mouth as well, making diabetics more susceptible to gum infections or mouth ulcers. You may be at especially high risk for oral issue if you do not practice good oral hygiene.
Is there a cure?
Unfortunately, at this time there is still no cure for diabetes. However, the condition can be managed and brought under control through medication, weight loss, and a change in diet and lifestyle.
Weight loss through food and exercise
Even a small reduction in weight can begin to make a difference to your diabetes as it gives your body a respite from the extra work which allows it to allot resources to healing. Through a combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet, this goal is not that overwhelming.
A diet high in natural, unprocessed food and low in red meat, fried stuff and sugar is a crucial change and one that you will have to stick with in the long run. This will not only put a lesser toll on your system but will also assist you in losing weight.
There are some foods and spices which help to naturally control blood sugar. Try to incorporate these into your diet – cinnamon, magnesium, flaxseed and ginseng. If you are interested in knowing more about natural remedies for lowering blood sugar, see an Ayurvedic doctor or a Chinese herbalist. Although it is not recommended to rely solely on natural remedies, they can often provide help in a safer and more effective way than modern medicine can.
Physical activity is a must, and not just from the weight loss point of view. Even skinny people who do not move around much are at risk of several health problems so you will be fighting off several risks with one stone if you get on the exercise bandwagon now.
Maintaining Normal Blood Sugar Levels
Regular monitoring of your blood sugar is unavoidable. Depending on the type of diabetes you suffer from, you may have to check your blood sugar several times a day or a few times a week. Several things can cause a drastic change in blood sugar such as food, stress, medicine – so it’s important to stay on top of it and monitor regularly so as to prevent your body from going into shock.
You may also have to take regular shots of insulin, depending on the type of diabetes you have.
Sometimes, you may be prescribed medication to assist your body in its battle against diabetes. For example, there are medicines to boost insulin production. Depending on your particular case, your doctor may suggest that you take medication to manage your diabetes.
Surgery for Obesity
Since obesity exacerbates diabetes symptoms, weight loss become a priority. However, weight loss takes time, and the diabetes may be so severe that waiting may result in really severe complications or even death. In such cases, a doctor will suggest bariatric surgery or liposuction or a combination of both so that weight loss is rapid and the complications of diabetes can be stalled.
In a worst case scenario, if nothing works, a pancreas transplant may be the only thing left to do. However, even this will be only a temporary measure if steps are not taken to lose weight first.
In addition to all of the above, it is also important to manage stress, quit smoking, and reduce or eliminate alcohol intake. Equally crucial is developing a mindset that is conducive to healing. Try to be as positive as you can. Do not be ashamed to seek help and comfort from people when you are feeling particularly low. The way that we feel affects our physical body too and negative emotions can often delay healing. Join a support group, either online or in your community, engage help from friends and family, asking for their moral support. Obesity and diabetes are both difficult health conditions, but people across the world triumph over them every single day.