Exercise Can Help a Diabetics Avoid Amputation
Television shows that focus on dramatic weight loss frequently highlight someone with Type-2 diabetes. Often after the diabetic has lost weight through a program of exercise, the diabetes appears to have been “cured.” Although it is well known that exercise is healthy, the question is whether or not exercise can really treat diabetes effectively. It turns out that there is a great deal of scientific evidence to suggest that it can.
In the simplest of terms, diabetes is a disease where the body cannot effectively produce or use a hormone known as insulin. Without insulin, the blood sugar increases and carbohydrates and sugars are not used effectively by the body’s cells. Most diabetes treatments focus on controlling blood sugar either by administering insulin directly or through the use medications that change the body’s ability to use insulin.
One of the very best ways to treat diabetes is with exercise. We know that when a patient has diabetes, diet and exercise can significantly change the course of the disease. In fact, studies have shown that after 45 minutes of aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking or running, a diabetic patient’s insulin sensitivity may increase for up to 48 hours.
This is extremely beneficial for type 2 diabetics. A study published in 2009 clearly demonstrated that 150 minutes of exercise each week dramatically increased insulin sensitivity. This increase in the body’s ability to use the insulin that is already present may mean the difference between taking insulin shots or not for a type 2 diabetic.
Not only can aerobic exercise control diabetes by changing the way the body uses insulin, but it also can help a number of other diabetes related conditions. We know that in all people, exercise can lower cholesterol levels. Hyperlipidemia or high cholesterol is another condition affecting diabetics. We know that the VLDL and LDL (bad cholesterol) is lowered with exercise, while HDL (good cholesterol) is increased.
In addition, walking and other forms of regular aerobic exercise can lower blood pressure. Hypertension or high blood pressure is a common complication of diabetes. It has been demonstrated in a number of clinical studies that regular exercise. Typically has the effect of reducing the blood pressure by about 10mm/Hg. Lowering of blood pressure is one of the most effective ways to reduce the risk of death related to stroke and heart attack.
Morbid obesity is a problem that is also very closely related to type-2 diabetes. Obesity alone is a major risk factor for heart disease. It also leads to insulin resistance, making diabetes harder to manage. When someone with diabetes loses 15 to 20 pounds, the fasting insulin levels can drop by 30 to 50%. Because of this there is much better control of the blood sugar.
Heart attacks and strokes are also common in type 2 diabetic patients. In fact, about 20% of type 2 diabetics already have coronary artery disease by the time they are diagnosed with diabetes. Regular aerobic activity such as walking has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
When we compare two identical people, yet one is diabetic and what is not, the one who is diabetic is actually four times more likely to suffer a heart attack. Thanks to the work of Dr. Kenneth Cooper, we know that aerobic exercise can prolong a person’s life. In 1968, he wrote a book entitled Aerobics. At the time he was widely criticized for his opinions about prolonging life through vigorous exercise. 40 years after Dr. Cooper expressed his theories, they are widely accepted as scientific fact.
More recently, a study published by Stanford University researchers provided encouraging news for all inactive adults. So don’t think you need to be a marathon runner in order to benefit from exercise. Those who are completely sedentary and started a modest exercise program cut their risk of a cardiovascular death nearly in a half. This shows that the greatest benefits of exercise in terms of health and longevity are the easiest to achieve.
Your muscles must have oxygen in order to function. Oxygen is carried to the muscles in the bloodstream. The arteries can become damaged by diabetes. Poor circulation known as peripheral arterial disease can gradually decrease the amount of blood flow to your feet. This is one of the circumstances that can put you at risk for development of gangrene. Gangrene is one of the leading causes of diabetic foot amputations.
One way to combat this problem is with exercise. When you begin to walk, the muscles in your feet and legs start to consume oxygen much faster than when you are sitting still. The body will increase blood flow to the area in order to keep up with the demand. If you are in the process of developing peripheral arterial disease, you will have to develop additional blood vessels in order to keep up with the demand for oxygen caused by exercise. Doctors call this collateral circulation. In essence, you develop backup blood vessels, which can prevent you from having poor circulation. This will only occur if you exercise.
All people that have diabetes are at risk for developing open sores on their feet known as diabetic foot ulcers. These open wounds are the precursors that lead to diabetic foot amputations. Because of this, wound healing is very important. A number of studies have clearly shown that exercise helps dramatically speed wound healing. Wounds that heal faster are much less likely to become infected and lead to an amputation.
When the blood sugar is high, the white blood cells that directly fight infection by eating the bacteria are essentially disabled. By reducing the blood glucose, a diabetic patient can increase the effectiveness of his or her immune system. This can mean the difference between a simple open sore and a diabetic foot infection that leads to an amputation.
The primary goal of treating diabetes is to prevent avoidable long-term complications. With so many positive effects of exercise it is clear that any diabetic patient could benefit from exercise. Although exercise may not cure diabetes, there is no doubt that every diabetic can benefit from a structured walking or exercise program. As with any type of exercise, be sure to consult with your personal physician before starting a new exercise routine.