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Diabetes with Nina Hirvi and the CKNW Health Check

Diabetes with Nina Hirvi (bio)

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Diabetes is a fairly common disease and although some people are born with it, other times it can actually be prevented. Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, Nina Hirvi, chatted with Lynda Steele & Drex at CKNW to discuss common questions about diabetes and options for prevention.

What is type II diabetes?

Type II diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when your body does not produce enough of a hormone called insulin, or when insulin cannot do its job properly. Ordinarily when we eat food our bodies are able to turn it into glucose in our bloodstream to be used for energy. However, with type II diabetes the transfer of that glucose from the blood into the cells of your body is not happening properly. This results in a build-up of glucose in the system which can lead to many health issues in the long run.

How do you develop type II diabetes?

Type II diabetes can be developed a number of ways, however it is largely genetic. Some people are also be at a higher risk than others. You may be at a higher risk if you:

  • have a family history of diabetes,
  • are over the age of 40,
  • have given birth to a baby over nine pounds,
  • have high blood pressure or cholesterol,
  • are overweight or carry extra body fat, or
  • lead a largely sedentary lifestyle

What are the symptoms of diabetes?

For the most part, diabetes is a fairly silent disease and many people will not display any symptoms. If you are displaying symptoms, some obvious warning signs can include frequent urination, feeling thirsty, or feeling tired.

What happens if you don’t address or diagnose these symptoms?

The biggest problem is when your blood sugar levels get too high. When that happens, glucose isn’t making its way into the cells of your body where it can be used. This makes for sticky blood vessels, and complications from it are essentially risks for blood vessel disease. Glucose can damage and hurt tiny little blood vessels that lead to your heart, or in your eyeballs or kidneys. It could also affect the nerves in your stomach.

What can you do to prevent and treat type II diabetes?

At Copeman, we look for people who have significant risk factors for diabetes and monitor them early on. We do regular blood work, lifestyle counseling and coaching. This allows us to compare their blood work to their lifestyle changes on a fairly frequent basis – once every one to three months if needed.

What can you do to manage type II diabetes once diagnosed?

If you’re diagnosed at a young age, in your 40s, you will likely require significant changes in your lifestyle to properly manage it. It will be a matter of monitoring your diet, weight and exercise regime, plus it’s likely that you will need more medication and perhaps even insulin as time goes on.

If you are diagnosed later on, perhaps in your 70s, you might be able to get away with just diet and lifestyle changes, and a little bit of medication. Every situation is different, but research has shown that diabetes gets harder and harder to manage physiologically as time goes on.

If I have been diagnosed with type II diabetes, what can I do about it? Is it manageable?

It’s absolutely manageable and it’s important to look at the sort of lifestyle changes and opportunities you might be willing to make with respect to diet and food. This includes spacing food evenly throughout the day, eating very little processed foods and maintaining a significant amount of activity. Blood checking is also pretty easy and, even if you do inject insulin, the needles are tiny. Overall though, you get the most bang for your buck with lifestyle changes and modification, as I’ve seen with a lot of our clients.

What can you do to help prevent type II diabetes?

One of the most important things is to really be mindful of your lifestyle, particularly your weight. One study showed that people who were in a pre-diabetic stage could delay the onset of diabetes by up to 10 years with some simple lifestyle changes. This includes 150 minutes of moderate daily activity, and even just a loss of 5% to 7% of their body weight (10 pounds off 200 pounds) can make all the difference.

It’s also important to be screened and diagnosed early on, especially if you do have a family history of type II diabetes. This could be as early as 8 or 10 years old, and the earlier we know, the longer we can delay that diagnosis – maybe forever. It’s definitely worth a chat with your doctor to look at your current risks and what you can do now for prevention.