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Diabetic showdown: Exercise, blood glucose, insulin

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Proper education of exercise, nutrition, and monitoring of blood glucose levels is crucial in diabetes. Diabetes is a condition that can be managed naturally.

Management will reduce the associated healthcare costs and promote longevity. Exercise and nutrition have been shown to reduce the amounts of insulin required for our bodies.

Exercise and its effects on blood glucose
Exercise demonstrates positive effects on both the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems. These systems are both directly affected by diabetes.

The cardiovascular system is affected by a decrease in the diameter of arteries, which is secondary to an increase of fat deposits.

This decrease in arterial diameter causes an increased strain on cardiac output in order to maintain proper oxygen levels in the body. When cardiac output is increased, the respiration rate also increases to properly oxygenate the blood.

The pulmonary system is then stressed to match the cardiac output.

This entire cycle is caused by the increased blood-glucose levels in a diabetic patient. An increase of glucose in the body’s vascular system, and the inability to absorb it, leads to increased amounts of sorbitol to be deposited around nerve cells. This will cause diabetic neuropathy, which is damage to the nerves of the body.

The main goal of exercise in a patient with diabetes is to begin the management of blood glucose levels. Blood glucose levels are decreased during periods of exercise. Glucose is lowered by exercise due to increased permeability to glucose in cells. With proper exercise, patients can begin to manage the amounts of insulin required.

Aerobic exercise can also offer a workout to multiple muscle groups. This exercise also increases blood circulation through distal muscle groups of the feet and hands.

This increase in circulation lessens the chance of neuropathy. Aerobic exercise also increases stroke volume and heart muscle contractibility thus increasing vascular efficiency.

Exercise and its effects on insulin
Exercise plays an important role in regulating insulin within the body. Exercise causes insulin not to be readily released from the pancreas due to the lowered blood glucose levels. This auto-regulation allows the body not to require insulin injections.

The body becomes more sensitive to insulin during exercise. Diabetic patients must regulate their blood glucose levels at the beginning, middle, and end of their exercise routines.

Insulin and its effects on blood glucose
Insulin has many effects on the blood glucose levels within the body. Insulin is secreted from the pancreas during increased levels of glucose.

This release of insulin causes an increased uptake of glucose into muscles, red blood cells, and fat cells. This increased uptake balances the glucose levels in the body.

A primary role of insulin also includes processing of various items such as proteins and carbohydrates. Without the correct processing of these items, our bodies begin to metabolise fats. The fats, after being broken down, increase the amount of glucose in our body.

Insulin affects not only the absorption of glucose, but also the synthesis of various molecules. This also leads to an increase in glucose production.

Diabetic patients must understand why insulin injections need to occur at specific times. Injecting insulin before exercise can cause glucose levels to diminish, leading to hypoglycemia.

Insulin must not be injected within one hour of performing exercise. Insulin can be regulated during pre and post-exercise with proper nutrition and blood glucose monitoring.

Exercise guidelines for the diabetic patient
The most crucial guideline for a diabetic patient is to monitor blood glucose levels. Before any exercise programme, a complete medical evaluation should be performed to obtain baseline measurements. Patients must monitor their blood glucose levels when performing exercises.

Footwear
Proper footwear is to protect patients from incurring any injuries during exercise. With decreased sensation from neuropathy, the feet must maintain injury free from bruising and blisters. If not, injuries will take longer to heal, thus causing the patient an extended period away from their exercise programme.

Hydration
Proper hydration is one of the most important factors in an exercise programme. Hydration should not be with sodas or sugary beverages, which will alter the blood/glucose levels. Hydration with water should occur before the onset of thirst.

Snacks
The importance of a snack is to increase blood glucose levels in cases where glucose levels are low. These snacks should also be readily available. A snack should be eaten for every 30 minute session of exercise for a diabetic patient.

Aerobic exercise versus resistance
Aerobic exercise is the best form of exercise for the diabetic patient. Aerobic exercise also allows the ability to increase cardiac muscle strength. This improves the cardio and pulmonary systems efficiency.

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