Disheartening Love Handles

While a beer gut may be unsightly, studies suggest tummy fat is even harder on the heart than on the eyes.

The visceral (or deep) flab of a pudgy midsection hugs vital organs in the abdomen, which stresses their function. It also strains the circulatory system, spurs inflammation, and inhibits insulin production, bumping up your chances for developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Studies even link belly blubber to higher breast cancer risk.

Help deflate your spare tire with these easy tips:

  • Cut back on the trans–fats, sugar, and alcohol. One study found that trans–fats are more inclined to settle in your stomach, likely because your body is stumped on what to do with them. And because they promote insulin resistance, trans–fats slow your body’s fat distribution process, so more gets stockpiled. Sugar has a similar effect, while alcohol tampers with the torso’s calorie–burning efforts.
  • Step up your aerobics. Fortunately, your highly metabolic love handles are some of the first deposits to respond to fat–burning exercise, so start getting at least 30 minutes a day of walking, jogging, or biking.
  • Eat whole grains and drink water. One study found that eating whole grains helped slim down the waistline. And because drinking plenty of water keeps you hydrated and may lessen your craving for high calorie thirst–quenchers, you reap the benefits of adding fewer calories while providing your body with essential fluid.

Diabesity: Reaching the Crossroads

There is a strong correlation between obesity and diabetes. There are approximately 19 million type 2 diabetics in the US, of which 80% are obese. These 15 million obese type 2 diabetics represent roughly 20% of the 76 million total obese adult population in this country.

If both diabetes and obesity metaphorically highlight two paths of destruction, then insulin resistance would be the intersection where these paths converge. How does insulin resistance and the onset of type 2 diabetes relate clinically to obesity? First, the enlarging fat cells secrete hormones and other factors that promote insulin insensitivity. Second, obese patients tend to eat foods with high glycemic index ratings (quickly converted to blood sugar) that shoot up insulin levels. These factors mixed with a cup of genetic predisposition for insulin resistance and a tablespoon of sedentary lifestyle (inactive muscles not using the consumed energy) create the perfect recipe for pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

There is also a chicken or the egg theory that questions whether diabetes can also promote obesity. Insulin accelerates energy storage into fat. High levels of insulin, combined with large amounts of foods with high glycemic index ratings, leads to elevated levels of fat storage. While this theory is not evidence-based, it does emphasize how intertwined the obesity and diabetes epidemics are.

Influences and trends – the perfect storm is brewing

Our eating habits are based on the past. The American culture long has centered around having three full meals per day. As the productivity of farms increased, so did the volume that people consumed. By the late 1890s, it was the norm for the middle to upper class to even have 15-course dinners.

It is not as if these meals were fat-free either. Growing up on a farm in the early 20th century, all parts of the slaughtered hog were consumed. The butter was real, the milk was whole, and the flavor came from lard. Why was it that diabetes and/or obesity were not problems like they are now? The full answer involves genetic, physiological, psychological, sociological, and economic factors.

Cheap food, more choice and portion size. The technological advances over the last half-century on the production, transportation, preservation, and preparation of food have dropped prices by 12%. Along with the improved convenience, variety, and taste of fast food, this makes it too difficult to resist, especially for struggling, full-time working families that do not have two hours a day to cook meals. The cherry on top would be the societal perception of “value” weighing heavily toward larger volume and portion size.

Sedentary lifestyles. No longer in a farming economy, with the increased number of desk jobs and lengthened commute time, people now have to pay a premium to get physical activity through fitness center memberships. In addition, because of the affordability and improved lifestyle of living in more rural areas, people are spending more time in cars commuting. After arriving to the workplace, the progression of the computers and the Internet has made it norm to sit behind the screen all day. After commuting back home, the entertainment trends have also been affected by the Internet, video games, and TV. Budgeting time to exercise costs time and money (health club memberships and sporting good equipment).

Childhood obesity is a problem. Childhood obesity is also presenting itself to be an unprecedented problem as well. In 2003-2004, approximately 12.5 million children and adolescents were overweight in the US alone. In 2007, 22 million children under the age of five years were overweight worldwide. A few decades ago, junk food was not as available for kids to consume, and kids played more sports and games physically instead of through a video game console. It is estimated that 30% of children eat fast food daily, and that teens consume two times the recommended sugar intake (with 44% being from soda).

Peer pressure (or lack thereof). A compounding factor that has taken the spotlight in more studies is the socially “contagious” phenomena. A person’ chance of becoming obese is much higher if they have a close friend who is obese. Societal norms seem to have a much larger influence than researchers had once thought. What one eats, how much they eat, and how physically active they are depends heavily on the people in their environment. As more people become obese, the less pressure there is to not be obese.

Evolution plays its part, genes matter. Genetic makeup does play a large role in fat storage. Our ancestors lived through cycles of feast and famine. The ones who survived were the ones who could store large amounts of energy to get through weeks without any calorie consumption. Unfortunately, survival of the “fittest” did not lead to our generation being physically fit. Some individuals have a genetic makeup to pack on pounds and therefore, are more prone to be obese.

Motivated by profit margins is just satisfying a basic need. It’s business as usual. Food and beverage companies are doing everything they can to satisfy their customers. Biologically, we crave sugar, salt, and fat. Americans spend $61 billion on soda and $30 billion on pizza every year. We consume about 2 to 3 pounds of sugar per week. The diabesity perfect storm is brewing.

Understanding your blood pressure for diabetes

Myth “You know if you have high blood pressure because it gives you headaches”

Truth High blood pressure does not always give you symptoms, and it is often found by chance during routine health checkups. Having your blood pressure checked at your annual diabetes reviews, and more frequently if your health professional suggest it, will be a more reliable indicator of whether your blood pressure is high.

My doctor tested me for Type 2 diabetes because I am having treatment for high blood pressure. Why is that?

Type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are both linked to insulin resistance, so if you have one of these conditions it is common to have the other, too. If you keep both your blood pressure and your blood glucose level under control, your chances of developing long-term complications, especially heart disease, are greatly reduced.

What is high blood pressure?

If your larger blood vessels become more rigid and your smaller blood vessels start to constrict, your blood has to flow through a narrower space than before. The result is greater pressure on your blood vessel walls, which is known as high blood pressure or, medically, as hypertension. Having high blood pressure is common when you have Type 2 diabetes.

I have high blood pressure but I don’t feel sick. Why does it need to be treated?

Having high blood pressure makes you much more prone to cardiovascular disease (CVD) – a serious condition that develops over many years as your blood vessels gradually become narrower and less flexible. You may have high blood pressure without knowing it and, if it remains untreated, you may develop angina (severe chest pain) or have a heart attack or a stroke. Taking your blood pressure treatment as prescribed and having regular checkups can help prevent these serious conditions.

What should my blood pressure be?

If you have Type 2 diabetes your blood pressure should be below 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). In some situations, for example if you have already developed kidney damage (nephropathy), you may need to keep your blood pressure lower, for example, 125/75 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) to prevent further damage. Discussing your ideal blood pressure level, and ways to achieve it, with your health professional will give you the level that is right for you.

Why are there two figures in my blood pressure measurement?

The top figure refers to the level of pressure in your blood vessels as your heart contracts and pumps blood around your body. This is known as the systolic blood pressure. The second figure is the lowest pressure as your heart relaxes between beats. This is known as the diastolic blood pressure.

What can I do to lower my blood pressure?

Stop smoking and lose weight if you need to, eating more fresh fruit and vegetables and less saturated fat and salt (for example, less processed or commercially prepared meals) to help reduce your blood pressure. Physical activity will also lower your blood pressure. Take any blood pressure pills that you have been prescribed, even if they do not affect the way you feel, to help keep your blood pressure in the recommended range.

How low can my blood pressure go?

It would be unusual for your blood pressure to be under 100/60 mmHg if you are otherwise healthy. For every 10 mmHg drop in your systolic blood pressure (the first figure) toward this level, you benefit by reducing your risk of heart attack or stroke.

Physical Activities for Diabetes

Myth “You have to spend a lot of time being active to get any benefit”

Truth The recommended amount of activity is 30 minutes five times a week. But you don’t’ necessarily have to dedicate specific times to this – you can feel the benefits just by being more active in your day-to-day life. Everyday things such as climbing stairs, going shopping, gardening, and housework all count as activity.

Will I still need to take my diabetes medication if I become more active?

Yes, but you may need a lower dose to achieve the same effect. If you are on insulin-stimulating pills, you may be more at risk of a hypoglycemic attack when you become more active, so you may need a reduction in the dose of your pills or a change to a different type of pill. Also, if you are more active, you may find that you lose weight. If you lose more than a few pounds you are likely to need a lower dose of pills or insulin.

I’ve been told I have impaired glucose tolerance. Will being more physically active help me?

Yes, people who have impaired glucose tolerance are more likely to go on to develop Type 2 diabetes. Becoming more active, especially if you also lose weight, will help your natural insulin work as effectively as possible to regulate your blood glucose level. You will always be at risk of developing diabetes, but the more active you are, the longer it may take to develop.

How does being more active help prevent the long-term complications of diabetes?

Regular physical activity helps the insulin you have produced or injected work more efficiently, which in turn contributes toward keeping your blood glucose and your blood pressure in the recommended ranges. These two benefits make the long-term complications of diabetes less likely.

How will being active help my heart?

Regular activity helps lower your blood pressure and your blood cholesterol levels, and consequently, you have less chance of having a heart attack or a stroke. It also makes your heart stronger and more efficient so that it can pump more blood with every heartbeat, and it reduces your risk of having a heart attack from clots forming in your coronary arteries. The more active you are, the less likely you are to have a heart attack, and the greater your chance of surviving a heart attack if you have one.

I’m prone to depression. Will being active help me?

Yes, activity raises your levels of endorphins and serotonin. These brain chemicals influence your mood and sense of well-being and have a strong antidepressant effect. Some types of activity, for example, playing golf or tennis, also entail spending time with other people, and this can help lift your spirits, too.

I don’t’ take pills or insulin yet. Will staying active allow me to continue without medication?

Because of the progressive nature of diabetes, you will probably need pills or insulin eventually, but with an active lifestyle, you may delay the need for medication because regular activity reduces your insulin resistance. Activity can help at any stage. If you already take tablets, increasing your activity levels may help delay the need to start injecting insulin and reduce the dose you need.

Understanding Diabetes

What is Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes and used to be called “maturity onset” or “non-insulin-dependent” diabetes. When you have diabetes your body cannot use glucose (your body’s main source of energy) in the usual way. Normally, glucose is absorbed by your body cells and burned as fuel. In Type 2 diabetes, glucose stays in your bloodstream either because your natural supply of insulin – a hormone that regulates the level of glucose in your blood – is not working properly or your body is not making enough of it. A raised blood glucose level can give you a range of symptoms including intense thirst and frequent urination. You are also much more prone to heart and circulatory problems because it is one part of a syndrome or collection of conditions, known medically as the metabolic syndrome, that causes high blood pressure and high blood fat levels. A high blood glucose level, without treatment, can damage your kidneys, nerves, and eyes. However, you can do a great deal to reduce the risk of these complications.

What is the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes?

People with Type 1 diabetes usually develop severe symptoms over a short time in childhood or early adulthood and their bodies cannot absorb any glucose without the help of a continuous supply of insulin either by injection every day or by an infusion of insulin through a pump. People who are prone to Type 1 diabetes have a specific genetic makeup that causes their bodies to destroy some of their own cells.

Is Type 2 less serious than Type 1 diabetes?

Definitely not. In some ways, Type 2 diabetes is a more serious condition than Type 1 because you could have it for a number of years before you are diagnosed. Consequently, you could already have developed some of the long-term complications of diabetes without being aware of them. In particular, Type 2 diabetes is linked with heart disease because of its association with high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. These cause progressive thickening of your arteries over years that reduces your blood flow and increases the likelihood of a heart attack or stroke. Being overweight, particularly if you carry surplus weight around your waist, makes the risk of heart disease even greater.

Why does Type 2 diabetes develop?

There is no single reason why you develop Type 2 diabetes. A combination of factors affects how likely you are to develop the condition. Being overweight and inactive are two major factors that increase your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Other factors that put you at a higher risk include a family history of diabetes and being a member of certain ethnic groups, such as African-American, Hispanic, or American Indian.

How common is Type 2 diabetes?

About 130 million people worldwide have Type 2 diabetes, and this number is increasing each year. In the US, more than 17 million people are known to have diabetes. About 90-95 percent of these have Type 2 diabetes. There are also many people who have Type 2 diabetes but have not yet been diagnosed with the condition.

Why is Type 2 diabetes becoming more common?

Today, people are much less active in their daily lives than those of previous generations. Therefore, they are more likely to be overweight or obese, which, in turn, increases the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. More children and teenagers are developing Type 2 diabetes for this reason.

What does insulin do in my body?

Insulin is a hormone (body chemical) that is made and released by your pancreas, which lies behind your stomach. Insulin acts like a key to let glucose (which comes from carbohydrate foods) move from your bloodstream into your cells, where it is used to produce energy. Your body normally produces more insulin immediately and for some time after a meal, when there is more glucose around, and less at other times. Another hormone called glucagon (also produced by your pancreas) prevents insulin from letting your blood glucose level drop too low.

What would my blood glucose level be if I didn’t have diabetes?

If you didn’t have diabetes, your insulin and glucagon would keep your blood glucose level within a narrow range (75-130 milligrams of glucose per deciliter (mg/dL) of blood). As a result, whether you eat a lot of carbohydrate or only a little, your body has the constant supply of energy it needs to work properly.

How high can blood glucose rise in someone with Type 2 diabetes?

Very rarely, a blood glucose level of up to 1,800 mg/dl can be recorded when you are first diagnosed with diabetes. The most common situations is for your blood glucose to reach a level of 180-360 mg/dl – at which stage your symptoms would lead to you being diagnosed.

What goes wrong in Type 2 diabetes?

Because your body doesn’t produce enough insulin, produces it more slowly, and/or your cells are resistant to the action of insulin, your blood glucose cannot be as finely regulated as it would be normally. As a result, it is difficult for glucose to pass into your cells to be burned for energy, so it builds up in your blood.

What does insulin resistance mean?

This term means that, even if you still produce insulin, your body cannot use it in the normal way to let glucose into your cells. Insulin resistance is linked to being overweight and being physically inactive. If you have Type 2 diabetes, you are also more likely to have high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels.

Howe can I tell if I have Type 2 diabetes?

You may not have any symptoms, in which case your diabetes might only be found at a routine medical or eye test. Many of the symptoms you might experience can be part of growing older – for example, feeling tired, or getting up at night to urinate – and you may not think you have diabetes, particularly if these symptoms are mild.

Will I have to inject myself with insulin every day?

Controlling your weight, eating healthily, and keeping or becoming physically active may keep your blood glucose level in the recommended range without any medication, sometimes for a short time or, in some cases, for years. If your blood glucose is regularly too high, despite your best efforts, you will be prescribed pills and, eventually, you are likely to need insulin injections.

Beat the statistics for heart disease

HOPE BEATS THE statistics and will help you overcome the threat of cardiovascular disease. In the United States, over 800,000 people a year die from disease related to the cardiovascular system. Nearly another 150,000 die from strokes, which are the equivalent of a “heart attack of the brain”. While the good news is that these numbers are on the decrease, the bad news is that cardiovascular disease is till the leading cause of death in the United States. Instead of becoming one of these statistics, you can take positive steps naturally and spiritually to beat heart disease. The risk of heart attacks can still be greatly lessened through dietary and lifestyle changes.

In fact, cardiovascular disease is one of the most treatable and preventable of all afflictions, despite the fact that it causes more than one in three of all deaths in the United States every year. That means you can fight back, overcome, and win the battle. Through lifestyle changes, good nutrition, prayer, and Scripture reading, you can respond in confident hope to this disease.

The initial symptoms and warning signs of heart disease are not a death sentence, but they are a life warning. Change is required. Positive steps must be taken. The way you live and eat cannot remain the same if you want to have a healthy and strong heart. Take courage, and be hopeful.

HAVE YOU EVER considered the marvelous design and operation of your cardiovascular system? It’s the body’s amazing superhighway. The large arteries within it are much like interstate expressways, and the smaller arteries are like streets and side streets. The primary function of the circulatory system is to deliver oxygen and nutrients to all the cells in your body and to remove cellular debris and waste.

Each day your heart beats approximately 100,000 times pushing about 2,000 gallons of blood through the 60,000 miles of blood vessels in your body, which include arteries, veins, and capillaries. Despite this incredible distance, blood circulates throughout your entire system about once a minute. Thus your heart will beat over 2.5 billion times if you live an average lifespan, and it will pump over 50 billion gallons of blood! This superhighway system is truly wonderful. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to keep this blood vessel superhighway free of traffic jams?

Yes, we might think of heart problems in terms of traffic flow – and a traffic jam. The worst contributor to a potentially deadly backup is a condition called atherosclerosis, which attacks the heart’s blood vessels. The arteries that supply the heart with blood and nourishment are the coronary arteries. These are the most stressed arteries of the body because they’re squeezed flat from the pumping action of the heart.

Atherosclerosis is the hardening of these arteries most commonly due to excessive amounts of plaque. This plaque contains cholesterol, calcium, white blood cells, collagen, elastin, platelets, and other materials. You could compare plaque to a buildup of debris in a pipe. As the plaque builds up in the arteries, blood flow is eventually decreased to vital organs, including the heart and brain. This buildup can lead to an interruption of blood flow to an artery in the brain, which causes a stroke. When blood flow is interrupted in a coronary artery, a heart attack occurs.

If atherosclerosis is the cause of a traffic jam in the blood flow, you’ll be happy to know that forces are at work in your body to free up the traffic jam. Explain this best by breaking the process into two parts: (1) the problem of free radicals, and (2) the problem of inflammation.

High-glycemic foods are linked to the incidence of obesity, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes. Low-glycemic foods – foundation of a nutritious diet release energy slowly and do not cause sudden blood glucose spikes and crashes. Therefore, you don’t feel hungry as quickly, which may help you lose weight.