Diabetes is a metabolic disease in which blood glucose, aka blood sugar, levels are too high. There are two types of diabetes: type I and type II. With type I diabetes, your body doesn’t make insulin on its own. Type II diabetes is where your body doesn’t use insulin properly.
Insulin is the hormone that controls the amount of glucose in your blood stream. Diabetes can extremely dangerous if it’s not properly managed. Regardless of which type of diabetes you have, there are many things you can do to live a healthy lifestyle. Today, in honor of National Diabetes Month, we will be discussing six tips for managing diabetes.
Pizza, pasta, bread — oh my! These food items are filled with carbohydrates. This is where it gets a little tricky. Carbohydrates are an essential macro nutrient in our diet, our brain and muscle tissue need carbohydrates for survival, and the brain uses glucose from carbs for fuel. But it’s important to keep in mind that not all carbs are created equal. Complex carbohydrates are good for your body, simple carbohydrates are not. Therefore, it’s important to know what type you’re putting in to your body. Complex carbs are things like vegetables and whole grains. These are converted to glucose and used as fuel. They slowly release sugar throughout the day keeping insulin at a stable level, which is extremely important for diabetics. On the other hand, simple carbohydrates — such as cereals and candy — cause an insulin spike, followed by a crash. Think of the way you feel shortly after eating a big bowl of pasta. Controlling your carbohydrate intake when trying to manage your diabetes will help you a lot.
Assemble a great team of doctors
Aside from your primary care physician, you’re going to need other doctors to help you manage your diabetes. First, schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist. Endocrinologists specialize in hormones, and insulin is a hormone. They will be able to figure out exactly why your pancreas stopped producing insulin, or why it’s not producing enough, and they will be able to treat it. If your diabetes has already advanced to your eyes, you may need to see an ophthalmologist to help with any vision issues. Individuals with diabetes also suffer from peripheral neuropathy, which is numbness in the extremities. If left unattended, this can cause severe nerve damage and may result in the need for amputation. Schedule an appointment with a podiatrist to keep your feet healthy. Lastly, you may want to schedule an appointment with a nutritionist or a dietitian. They can help you better understand how food works and which foods you should be avoiding. They will also have you create a food journal, which will be very helpful to managing your diabetes.
Hit the gym
When we exercise our insulin sensitivity increases. Meaning we can better utilize the glucose that is available in our blood stream as opposed to creating more or letting it build up. Muscles use sugar for fuel. Even if your goal isn’t to lose weight, getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity is extremely important when it comes to diabetes management.
No more processed foods
Cut the junk out of your life. Processed foods are full of sugar. You now need to be eating fresh, nutrient dense meals with lots of protein and healthy fat. Remember, don’t cut carbs completely, just be sure they are good quality. Fruit is full of carbohydrates, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. And be sure to keep healthy snacks with you for times when your blood sugar drops. Think almonds, fruit or string cheese.
Put down that cigarette
In addition to causing inflammation and vasoconstriction, smoking raises your blood sugar levels. Therefore it’s extremely important that you quit right away. Smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, and so does diabetes.
Take your medication, and monitor your sugar daily
You need to take your insulin! Just because you don’t notice any symptoms when you forget to take your medication doesn’t mean you don’t need it. When diabetes goes untreated, it can lead to nerve damage or heart disease. And make sure you’re checking your blood sugar each day! It’s the only way to know if your diabetes is being properly managed. It’s also important to know your blood sugar levels because taking too much insulin can be life threatening. Taking too much insulin can cause blood sugar levels to drop which may lead to coma or even death.
I hope you have found these tips helpful for managing your diabetes!