Living a diabetic life can be quite a challenge! As you need to constantly monitor your diet and ensure that your blood sugar level is well under control to avoid any complications. Diabetes is one of the major diseases affecting millions of people in the country today. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States; ADA in its report states that more Americans die from diabetes every year than from AIDS and breast cancer combined!
Diabetes is a condition in which a hormone called insulin produced by the pancreas is unable to break glucose into energy and with that the blood sugar level in the body increases. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 79,535 deaths occur each year due to diabetes, along with other complications that occur due to diabetes like:
- 50,000 Americans begin treatment for kidney failure every year due to diabetes, it accounts for 44% of all new cases of kidney failure.
- Each year, diabetes causes about 73,000 lower limb amputations, which accounts for 60% of all lower-limb amputations.
Everything that one consumes, the efforts that one takes to burn extra calories, and the determination with which one monitors regular sugar levels play a crucial role for diabetics and can help tremendously! Physical activity is a must, to ensure insulin is utilized properly by the body. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or have pre-diabetes symptoms and looking for ways to keep a check on your blood sugar level, here are some tips on how to control sugar:
Count your carbs
As discussed before, insulin is responsible to break down the glucose (which comes from the carbs that we consume with every meal) and move the sugar into cells to be utilized by our body. Consuming too many carbs or having problems with the functionality of insulin can spike up your blood glucose levels. For instance, choosing lean meats and lots of fresh veggies, along with cutting down on fats, starches, and sugary foods can help you stay on track. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends controlling carb intake using a food exchange system. Many studies also show that a low-carb diet not only helps in reducing blood sugar levels and prevents a rise in blood sugar but also helps in losing weight and staying fit!
Embrace portion control
Having diabetes doesn’t mean you will never be able to have your favorite piece of cake again — the key is portion control! Monitoring your serving sizes can help in reducing calorie intake and subsequent increase in blood sugar. Here are some helpful tips in eating smaller portions throughout the day and being mindful about your carb intake:
- Measure and weigh portions.
- Use smaller plates.
- Read food labels and be aware of the serving sizes.
- Keep a food journal.
- Eat slowly.
Make friends with Fiber
Fiber slows down carb digestion and sugar absorption which promotes a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels rather than sudden fluctuations. There are two kinds of fiber that are insoluble and soluble. While both are important, soluble fiber has shown to lower blood sugar levels at a higher rate. American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends 25 grams and 38 grams of daily intake of fiber for women and men respectively. Foods with high fiber include vegetables, fruits, legumes, and whole grains.
Always stay hydrated
Drinking enough water may not help keep your blood sugar levels low, but also helps your kidneys flush out the excess blood sugar through the urine, keeping them healthy! Along with drinking enough water, you may want to avoid sugary drinks like sodas, soft drinks, or any other flavored water. All these readily available beverages are sources of invisible sugar, which can spike your blood sugar level. One such observational study showed that those who drank more water had a lower risk of developing high blood sugar levels.
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), People with type 2 diabetes should aim for 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity per week. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity and helps your muscles pick up sugars from the blood, utilizing it in a better way which leads to reduced blood sugar levels! The Diabetes Prevention Program found that even a 7% reduction in body weight can decrease your risk of developing diabetes by up to 58%. You can choose from weight lifting, brisk walking, running, biking, dancing, hiking, swimming, and more which are all considered to be good forms of exercise.
Keep your blood sugar and cholesterol levels in check
‘What gets measured, gets managed’ should be the mantra of your diabetic lifestyle! Keeping track, monitoring, and measuring your blood sugar levels will help you determine whether you need to make adjustments in your meals or medications. As a diabetic you are also more prone to higher levels of LDL (bad cholesterol), increasing your risk of incurring heart disease or stroke or other common complications like diabetic dyslipidemia, which lead to clogged arteries causing coronary heart disease due to atherosclerosis, stroke and other vascular problems. To avoid such conditions you should keep your cholesterol levels in check by maintaining a healthy diet which includes avoiding high-fat foods like sweets, deep-fried foods, foods labeled cholesterol-free and junk food, along with and exercising regularly.
Quit smoking and reduce the consumption of alcohol
Being a diabetic, smoking can make you more prone to the complications that arise from diabetes; clogging of the arteries, rising blood pressure, and an increase in your LDL and triglyceride levels and lowers your HDL levels. Realizing the damage that’s smoking can cause to your health, you can take steps to quit today! There are various ways you can do it, like using nicotine patches or using electronic cigarettes to help speed up the process. Although drinking alcohol in moderation doesn’t seem to have serious risks or affect long-term glucose control for people with diabetes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. Try switching to a light beer or wine spritzer or switch to water or another calorie-free drink.
With 1.5 million Americans being diagnosed with diabetes every year, it is necessary to take measures that can be deemed helpful to control diabetes or pre-diabetic condition. As diabetes is a chronic disease that isn’t curable, you need to control it for the rest of your life, which will require time, attention, patience, and good choices. If controlled well, it should not affect the quality of your life but only require some adjustments in your daily routine!