Table of Contents
FUNDAMENTAL TIPS TO CONTROL DIABETES
In this article, we will be talking about fundamental diabetes control tips. I think both type 1 and type 2 requires a holistic approach. We will give tips about diabetic diet, healthy eating, exercise for diabetes, monitoring blood sugars, taking diabetes medications, how to deal with problems around diabetes and coping mechanisms.
7 tips to help control your diabetes and stay in control:
1. Eat Healthily.
2. Exercise regularly at least 3-5 times a week
3. Monitor blood sugar as frequently as necessary.
4. Take your medications religiously.
5. Take action to reduce other risks that contribute to heart diseases such as controlling high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
6. Identify problems preventing you from managing diabetes correctly and address them on time.
7. Learn how to cope with the daily challenges of diabetes management.
Let’s talk about healthy eating tips to help control your diabetes. Having diabetes doesn’t mean you have to give up all of your favorite foods suddenly. But you need to know how foods you eat affect your blood sugar.
But what is healthy eating in reality? You can achieve eating healthy by still satisfying her taste buds and keep your traditions. You just have to keep an eye on added sugars, saturated and trans fats, sodium, and alcohol in your diet. We have a detailed discussion about eating healthy with diabetes in another article.
There are 3 main types of nutrients in food: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Including some portion of all 3 in each meal, helps create a healthy plan for improving blood glucose (sugar) and lipid (fat) levels. There is no one single diet that can fit everyone. So, you can work with your dietitian to come up with a diet that will fit your needs.
Here are some basic diet plans for any diabetic:
Set realistic, achievable healthy eating goals. Eliminating carbohydrates totally from your diet for example may not be achievable or maintainable in the long-term. Rather focus on eliminating carbohydrates that are processed and stick with natural sources. Pay attention to the glycemic index and understand the differences between simple and complex carbohydrates.
Consider a variety of healthy eating options. There are so many recipes and so many different food groups that you may not be aware of. Always look for alternatives for carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar if you do not or cannot eliminate that food from your diet. For example, you can adapt to a 1 slice of whole-grain bread instead of white bread. For more detailed food options please look at our article “what to eat and what not to eat for diabetes”.
Develop a meal plan that fits your lifestyle. If you try to adapt to a totally different diet that you have never tried before the chances of failing are very high. Rather, try to stick with food groups that you like and try to find healthier options. For example, use olive oil instead of butter or hydrogenated oils.
Learn about appropriate portion sizes. Try to reduce the size of your plate. Avoid overfilling your plate. Never go over one-third of your plate for your carbohydrates.
Try to eliminate carbohydrate snacking.
Understand the Nutrition Facts Label to make healthy choices. Most people are still confused between total carbohydrates versus sugars. Remember to look at total carbohydrates. Remember to eat food with high-fiber which will help reduce the amount of carbohydrates effect on blood sugar. Also, remember that nutrition facts are not solid facts. Typically there is a 10 to 20% chance of error in nutritional labels which can significantly affect your blood sugars especially for patients with type 1 diabetes.
Be aware of sodium and saturated/trans-fat content of foods/beverages. Since diabetes is a cardiovascular equivalent you will need to avoid any food groups that can increase your risk of heart disease and insulin resistance. Healthy fats are okay to eat however saturated and trans-fats are definitely very toxic for your heart.
Adjust meal plans for physical activity, holidays, and travel. Remember: Physical activity will reduce your blood sugar. It will also reduce the need for medications. So you may need to adjust your medications. If you tend to have low blood sugars after physical activity, for example, having a healthy carbohydrate snack before or during physical activity can be helpful.
Remember, taking a short walk after a meal can significantly help your blood sugars more than you think. Being sedentary after a carbohydrate-heavy meal is an open invitation for very high blood sugars.
When you go on vacation or travel you need to be mindful of your diabetes. This includes remembering to pack your medicines, keeping them at an appropriate temperature, and remembering to take them. Remember, you are going out on a vacation not going on a “drug holiday”. Staying healthy and keeping your blood sugars regulated while traveling we will keep your energy level high as well.
Few activity tips and learning points to help control your diabetes. Being active and exercising is not just about losing weight. It has many health benefits like reducing cholesterol, improving blood pressure, minimizing stress, and anxiety. It can also improve your mood. If you have diabetes, physical activity can also help keep your blood sugar levels normal and help you keep your diabetes in control.
Why should you be active?
• Lose significant body fat which will reduce insulin resistance
• Boost the immune system and reduce inflammation
• Improve muscle strength and aerobic endurance
• Reduce blood glucose
• Improve your mood
• Help control blood pressure and cholesterol
• Feel less overwhelmed and stressed
• Reduce your chances of premature death
Activity Tips to help control your diabetes:
Choose your favorite activities which could be walking, swimming, running. Think of activities you are more likely going to stick to in the long-term.
Take it slow. No need to rash. You are not trying to run a marathon next month. Start with five or 10 minutes of exercise and slowly improve your workout time to 30 minutes at a time, five days a week (or more, if you can).
Don’t overdo it! During exercise, you should be able to make short sentences but you may not be able to have a conversation. That is the intensity you want to stick to unless your fitness allows for more intense exercise. Check your blood glucose before and after exercise. if the activity is more than 30 minutes check it even during the exercise to make sure your blood sugar is in a safe range.
Keep track of your activity. This will help you keep motivated and help achieve your goals. Find a buddy if you can to exercise with. You can push each other. Taking a class at the gym also can also help you keep motivated. Always be on the look out for what the community has to offer. There may be a variety of activities in your local health club etc.
CHECKING BLOOD SUGARS
Blood sugar monitoring tips to help control your diabetes:
Checking your blood sugar levels regularly gives you very important information about your diabetes self-management. Monitoring your sugar helps you know when your blood sugar levels are on target and when it is not. Monitoring glucose levels helps you make food and activity adjustments so that your body can perform at its best.
Checking blood sugar should not be a chore. Here is how monitoring helps to control your diabetes:
Monitoring helps understand how different foods affect your blood glucose (blood sugar), or when the optimal timing for adding activity into your day might help your blood sugar control.
Sticking with a healthy eating pattern by knowing when to eat less or more and how different foods or dishes affect your blood glucose levels.
Being able to check how good your diabetic medications are working for you.
Helps you identify trends so you can act a possible expected high or expected low blood sugar. This could be changing your medication or dosage or adjusting your eating behavior.
Managing your diabetes means more than just monitoring blood sugar levels. Monitoring should include your blood pressure, weight, cholesterol levels, heart health, sleep, mood, medications, and eye, kidney, and foot health at appropriate intervals recommended by your endocrinologist.
Medication tips to help control your diabetes:
Sometimes healthy eating and physical activity may not be just enough and you may have to take medications. There are several types of medications that are often recommended for people with diabetes. This could be pills, injections that lowers your blood sugar, aspirin, blood pressure medication, a cholesterol-lowering medication, or a number of others may work together to lower your blood sugar levels, cholesterol, and blood pressure to reduce your risk of complications such as heart attack, kidney failure, blindness, etc.
Taking medications not only helps your blood sugar but also helps lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney damage. A lot of medications nowadays can help glucose levels as well as blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in your body.
Remember to discuss the benefits and risks of the medications you are on with your diabetes doctor. Realize that no matter how good your diet and activity level, because diabetes is a progressive disease you may and you will need medications sooner or later to keep you and your heart, eyes, and kidneys healthy.
When your doctor prescribes your medication try to feel that medication immediately so you can start as soon as possible. Remember to give feedback to your doctor about the efficacy of the medications as well as side effects you may experience. As a patient, you need to know what medications you are on or at least keep a list of updated medications with you to provide to your doctor when needed.
Try to learn how your medications work. Also, if you are having trouble affording your medications do not hesitate to ask for help. If you are experiencing difficulty obtaining or taking your medication do not hide that from your doctor and do not lie about her medications. Always report herbal or over-the-counter medications you take to your doctor as well.
Problem-solving tips to help control your diabetes. Everyone will have problems with their diabetes care. Problems are part of life. You can’t foresee and plan for every situation you may encounter. Yet, there are many problem-solving skills that can help you prepare for unforeseen situations.
First, you have to identify the problem. Second, you have to think about possible solutions. If you do not have an immediate solution yourself you can ask your diabetes doctor or your diabetes coach for suggestions.
When you start solving problems, this will give you confidence and insight into solving future problems.
Tips to help control your risks diabetes brings. Having diabetes puts you at a higher risk for developing other health problems such as heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, sleep apnea, dental problems, increased risk of infections, vision, and hearing problems. Yet, if you understand these risks, you can take a few steps to lower your chance of diabetes-related complications. These steps will include controlling your blood pressure and cholesterol, seeing your eye doctor and dentist regularly. If necessary, having a visit with a podiatrist for foot care. Other factors that will reduce your risk are getting your vaccinations done on time, quitting smoking, and asking for professional help if feeling depressed. Your endocrinologist will be the main quarterback in managing your diabetes in every aspect. Make sure you choose an endocrinologist who will partner with you and your health first.
Healthy coping tips to help control your diabetes:
Diabetes can affect you physically and emotionally. It’s natural to have mixed or negative feelings about your diabetes. You may experience highs and lows. The important thing is to recognize these emotions as part of living with diabetes and take steps to reduce the negative effect they can have on your self-care.
When we are stressed, we may turn to smoking, overeating, drinking, or alcohol. These are the worst things anyone can do with or without diabetes. As you know stress levels will increase your blood glucose (sugar) levels. When you are stressed you may feel even more negative and you may end up making less healthy choices.
Be good to yourself. Do not beat yourself down if you felt short of a blood sugar goal. When you feel down think positively and think about the days that you have done well and motivate yourself that you can do it again. Remember diabetes is a lifelong disease. One-time or shorter duration of high or low blood sugars should not define your overall diabetes outlook.
Successful people in life are the ones who keep trying even after multiple failures. Perseveration and dedication along with a positive attitude will go a long way in managing and controlling your diabetes.
Ahmet Ergin, MD, FACE, CDCES, ECNU
2260 Palm Beach Lakes Blvd. Ste 212 Unit #7
West Palm Beach, FL