Saturday is Halloween, and you know what that means: sugar, sugar, and more sugar!
Seems earlier and earlier each year when stores begin taunting and tantalizing you with prominently displayed festive treats for Halloween. I’m pretty sure one grocery store I frequent started setting up before BBQ’s had cooled off from the 4th of July weekend. Oh so conveniently packaged in small, “fun size”, easy to (over) eat servings. By the time the actual Halloween rolls around, bags of this stuff have been lying around your office for weeks.
Many of our holidays highlight some aspect of eating. Getting together with friends and family and enjoying some good food is a big part of making these social gatherings memorable, and a part many people look forward to. I hesitate to call Halloween a holiday, however it wins the prize for being the most focused on anything but good food. Forget dinner, candy and other sweet treats are the center of attention!
And no matter how good you have been so far, and how hard you try to avoid it, before the week is done you will find yourself in a confectionary confrontation. That, I promise you.
Will you give in?
While one piece of candy is not likely to make or break your health, few have the self-control to stop at one, itsy, bitsy, little, fun-size candy out of the bowl – at the office, the bank, the checkout, and at parties this weekend.
That mindset of “everything in moderation” takes a cumulative toll on your body, and is manifesting itself more and more in the current epidemic of Type 2 Diabetes.
Am I being dramatic by calling it a spook-tacular, spreading epidemic fueled by Halloween? No. The statistics don’t lie. In 1990, less than 5% of the U.S. population had diabetes, and now that figure is now up 9.3%, or more than 29 million people. Nearly a 100% increase in just 25 years. In less time (about 20 seconds) than it takes to put away that fun-size candy, someone is diagnosed with diabetes.
What is diabetes?
As your food is digested, a large portion is broken down into various sugars. As the sugar is absorbed into the bloodstream, the pancreas senses the sugar spike and produces a hormone called insulin. Insulin is responsible for pushing that sugar move from your bloodstream into the cells in your body where it can be used, or stored, for energy.
When you have diabetes, your body either does not make enough insulin or it cannot use the insulin that is produced. This results in a surplus of sugar in the bloodstream, rather than being shuttled into the cells.
Two simple blood tests can show where you stand on the spectrum of regulating your sugar just fine, or sliding towards diabetes:
- Fasting glucose – Ideally the level is checked about 8 hours after your last meal, and should be less than 100. 100-125 is considered pre-diabetes, and greater than 126 mg/dL on two separate tests indicates likely diabetes. A normal fasting glucose however does not completely rule-out diabetes.
- Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) – This is a measure of your average blood sugar over about three months. The number you are looking for is less than 5.7, 5.7-6.4 is pre-diabetes, and greater than 6.5 confirms diabetes. This is part of our BioScore assessment we do with clients and patients looking to transform their health.
High circulating levels of blood sugar cause extensive damage to your body by a process called glycation. The glucose molecules stick structures together like putting sugar in a gas tank. The amount of glycation in your body is a primary factor in the rate at which your tissues age, and can contribute to increased risk of early heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and even amputations. And, adults with diabetes are twice as likely to die early as those without diabetes.
What’s the connection between this week, weekend, and your long-term health?
Should be clear.
The more sugar you eat, and the more often you eat it, the more likely the chance of developing diabetes and the other diseases and medical complications above.
The cells that produce insulin can be completely burned out by “over-use”.
Now that I squashed the building excitement for you Halloween party, what is the good news?
Type 2 diabetes is entirely preventable. Your genes may be responsible for as little as 20% of the picture. This means that by living a healthy lifestyle, it is very likely that you will not have to experience this disease. And if you already have Type 2 diabetes, and you have not completely burned out your pancreas, it can be reversed.
The strategy to help bullet-proof your body from diabetes:
- Maintain a lean, healthy body weight. Need help? Check into one of our Medical Fitness programs. This is what we do every day with patients and clients
- Eat real, whole foods daily without added sugar
- Get your heart rate up every day for at least 30 minutes, 7 days per week. Again – we can help with this if you need some extra motivation.
- After your Halloween festivities, eliminate the left over goodies from your house and workplace so you are not tempted to trick yourself into a treat every day.
These simple lifestyle changes may prevent diabetes, and will add quality years to your life.
This Halloween, choose your future health over present pleasure.
Live a little. Enjoy one or two treats.
Then stop. It’s not worth the potential price to your health you will pay later.
Committed to your health,