Jewish World Review Feb. 14, 2003 / 12 Adar I, 5763

BODYLESSONS: The road to type 2 diabetes --- what you can do to change course

By Judi Sheppard Missett | The rise in cases of Type 2 diabetes is big news. One out of every 10 Americans is estimated to have the disease. Yet we know the single greatest reason for the alarming increase is obesity. And that's actually good news because each of us has the power to alter the course of the disease by making lifestyle changes.

The road to Type 2 diabetes usually begins with a condition called glucose intolerance, an inability to process sugar from food. Glucose intolerance is defined by blood sugar levels of 140-200 milligrams per deciliter (measured two hours after consuming 75 grams of glucose).

Glucose intolerance combined with excess body weight puts individuals at high risk for Type 2 diabetes. Full-blown Type 2 diabetes occurs when the pancreas is unable to produce sufficient amounts of insulin, the hormone that allows glucose to enter and fuel the body's cells.

Being overweight is the single most important predictor of diabetes. Experts use Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine if an individual is too heavy. (You divide your weight in pounds by the square of your height in inches, then multiply by 703.) People with a BMI of 25 or higher are considered overweight and at greater risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. But there are additional risk factors as well, including:

Ideally, if you have even one of the risk factors listed above, you should launch a prevention program. The dangers of diabetes are well known, including nerve damage that can lead to blindness, kidney failure and loss of limbs. Studies indicate that lifestyle changes are highly effective at preventing and managing Type 2 diabetes. In fact, scientists in the Diabetes Prevention Program found that high-risk individuals who changed their diet, weight and exercise habits had the greatest success, lowering their incidence of diabetes by 58 percent when compared to individuals who did nothing. Individuals who took medication, without making any lifestyle changes, achieved only a 31 percent lower incidence of the disease. Your prevention program should include:

Exercise is equally important for individuals who already have diabetes, as exercise lowers blood sugar levels. So get out and get active! After breaking a sweat for at least 30 minutes, cool down with the following yoga-based hip-flexor stretch, which improves your balance, as well as flexibility.

Kneel on an exercise mat or other padded surface, and take a giant step forward with one leg. Place your front foot flat on the floor, aligning your knee directly above your ankle. Gently press your hips forward until you feel a stretch along the front of the extended hip. Breathe naturally, holding the stretch for at least 10 to 20 seconds. Stretch only to the point of mild tension, never pain. Repeat on the other side.

For more of a challenge, lift your torso to an upright position, press your palms together, and reach your arms upward toward the ceiling. Be sure to stretch your spine tall and engage your abdominal muscles to support your lower back as you reach upward. This is a challenging position to maintain and may take a little practice to develop the balance and strength needed to master it.

Judi Sheppard Missett is CEO of Jazzercise Inc., an international aerobic-dance instruction company. Comment by clicking here.


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