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Beyond Blood Sugar: Mindful Living with Type 2 Diabetes

Apr 25, 2024

6 min read

Discover mindful practices to help manage type 2 diabetes and live a healthier, balanced life.

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Getting a blood drop from the fingertip for analysis
Dr Lakshmi Vaswani

DR LAKSHMI

VASWANI

Something feels... off. You can’t quite put a finger on it. You’re more tired than usual, that two-week-old cut just won't heal, and bathroom trips? Way too many. Sound familiar? It may be time to see a doctor. These vague symptoms are often the first signs of type 2 diabetes, which, shockingly, has surged by 50% among Indians under 40 in recent years.

When juggling so many balls in the air—work, family, and personal wellness—it's daunting to add one more challenge, like diabetes. But there's good news: You’re not alone, and there’s a way out. We're here to guide you through, offering insights and tips on mindfully managing type 2 diabetes so you can keep living your full, busy life without missing a beat. 

The science simplified: What you need to know about type 2 diabetes

When dealing with a chronic disease, it always helps to know exactly what you’re up against. Nearly 537 million people worldwide have type 2 diabetes, a metabolic condition affecting how the body processes blood sugar (glucose).

The hormone insulin—released by the pancreas, an organ in our abdominal cavity—acts like a special key that opens doors to the cells in our body. Once these doors open, they let glucose in. But with type 2 diabetes, this lock-and-key mechanism stops working. Even though there's plenty of glucose in the bloodstream, it can't get into the cells. So, you always feel tired because your cells aren't getting the fuel they need. 

Insulin helps muscles and the liver stockpile sugar for future energy needs and stops the liver from making extra sugar to control blood sugar levels. Over time, the body may become resistant to insulin's effects or fail to produce sufficient insulin for average blood glucose regulation. Therefore, to manage type 2 diabetes effectively, we need to balance the blood sugar and insulin levels in the body to prevent complications.

The mechanism explains glucose saturation in blood and urine and the absence of glucose traces seen in normal conditions.

Silent signals: Surprising early signs of type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes symptoms often start gradually and can easily be overlooked. Initial symptoms might include: 

  • Persistent hunger
  • Lack of energy
  • Unexpected weight loss 
  • Unusual thirst 
  • Needing to urinate often
  • Blurred vision
  • Wounds that take a long time to heal
  • Gum disease
  • Recurrent yeast or fungal infections 
  • discomfort or numbness in hands and feet.
Early symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes often start gradually and can easily be overlooked.

Onset of serious symptoms over time in Type 2 diabetes

As the condition advances, type 2 diabetes symptoms can intensify and lead to serious health issues, such as eye complications (diabetic retinopathy), reduced sensation, tingling numbness or pain in the hands or feet (diabetic neuropathy) or kidney damage (nephropathy).  People struggling with diabetes are twice as likely to suffer from heart disease and stroke, with nearly two-thirds also experiencing high blood pressure.

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The increase of desk jobs, extensive use of technology and lack of fitness activities coupled with consumption of processed foods, sugary beverages, high-calorie snacks and lack of physical activity have all contributed to overall weight gain, which is often connected to a heightened risk of developing diabetes and faster progression from prediabetes to diabetes. 

Dr Himika Chawla, MBBS, MD General Medicine, DM Endocrinologist and Metabolism at AIIMS and Consultant- Endocrinology.

Assessing the odds: Key factors influencing type 2 diabetes risk

Risk factors contributing to the development of Type 2 Diabetes

Some face a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than others. These include people who: 

  • Have a family history of diabetes
  • Are overweight or struggle with obesity 
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Lack physical activity
  • Have a history of gestational diabetes, or diabetes that occurs only during pregnancy but may persist even after delivery
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have abnormal cholesterol levels

New studies show that those who get only 3 to 5 hours of sleep per night are more likely to have type 2 diabetes, highlighting that healthy eating alone can't offset the effects of chronic sleep deprivation. 

“The increase of desk jobs, extensive use of technology and lack of fitness activities coupled with consumption of processed foods, sugary beverages, high-calorie snacks and lack of physical activity have all contributed to overall weight gain, which is often connected to a heightened risk of developing diabetes and faster progression from prediabetes to diabetes,” says Dr Himika Chawla, MBBS, MD General Medicine, DM Endocrinologist and Metabolism at AIIMS and Consultant- Endocrinology.

Charting the course: Navigating type 2 diabetes treatment options

Type 2 diabetes treatments include lifestyle adjustments such as improved diet, regular physical activity, and sufficient sleep, which form the cornerstone of diabetes management, and medications as prescribed by doctors. 

Each treatment path offers a unique benefit, allowing individuals to choose strategies that best fit their lifestyle and health goals, always in tandem with professional medical advice.

A new normal: Adapting your lifestyle with type 2 diabetes

Facing diabetes is like any chronic condition; it demands continuous self-care, informed choices, the proper support for your mental wellbeing, and sticking to your treatment plan. 

A patient with pre-diabetes expressed the fear she felt when she was diagnosed, she shared that she was terrified because she’d seen her mum struggle with diabetes her whole life. She added that her mother had been to the ER numerous times on account of low blood sugar and even wound up in a diabetic coma once. 

Overwhelming? Maybe at first. 

But is it manageable? With a bit of discipline and the right support system, yes! 

Conscious choices: Ways to mindfully manage type 2 diabetes

Managing type 2 diabetes with exercise, a healthy diet, enough sleep and medications.

Food is fuel:

Choose whole foods, like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains, that sustain energy without spiking your blood sugar.

Pay attention to the portions:

The plate method is an easy way to have balanced meals without counting calories. Divide your plate and fill half with non-starchy vegetables, one-fourth with lean protein, and another fourth with whole grains or starchy foods.

Get moving:

Find activities you enjoy. It doesn't have to be the gym. Dance, hike, bike, or even just walk more. The goal is to be active most days of the week, even if it's just a 10-minute walk.

Consider HIIT or circuit weight training for those short on time to maximise workout efficiency. Alternatively, the 12-3-30 method, walking for 30 minutes at a 12% incline and three mph, offers a robust aerobic routine that's kind to your joints and is suitable for various ages and fitness levels.

Mindful eating:

Pay attention to hunger cues. Eat slowly and enjoy your food. This helps prevent overeating and makes it easier to choose healthier foods.

Stay hydrated:

You may confuse thirst with hunger, leading you to reach for unhealthy snacks during the day.  

Stay stress-free:

Taking care of your mental health is key. Simple things like meditation, yoga, or just taking deep breaths can help lower stress and keep your blood sugar more stable. 

Find your tribe:

Connect with others who understand your journey with type 2 diabetes, either in online communities or within your circle of friends and family. Sharing experiences and tips can provide comfort and practical advice, making the path easier to navigate.

Heading into World Diabetes Day in 2024 (November 14), the theme, ‘Empowering Global Health,’ calls us to actively engage in our well-being and support those on a similar path. It's a reminder that while type 2 diabetes presents its challenges, it doesn't define us.

Medically Reviewed by:
Dr Pankaj Ferwani - Endocrinologist


Dr Lakshmi Vaswani

Dr Lakshmi Vaswani is the Lead Writer at Health Verse, a medical communications agency, and a Marketing Consultant for leading national and international health companies. As a Clinical Pathologist and hospital administrator for over 15 years, she uses her experience to bring a unique perspective to her role as a Medical Content Writer for B2B and B2C audiences in the health, pharmaceutical, marketing and wellness industries. She has also trained marketing personnel and medical and scientific faculty through workshops in medical content creation.


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