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9 Tips for Managing Diabetes

August 31, 2023

Managing diabetes can be difficult. But with the right approach, you can limit the potential for significant health complications. The key is understanding the disease and how to modify your diet and lifestyle.

With that in mind, let’s look at nine strategies for keeping diabetes under control.

Count your carbs. Limiting carbohydrates is important, and a good goal is aiming for less than 150 grams of carbs each day.  Reading nutrition labels and weighing or measuring your food are easy ways to track your carbs. Sugary drinks and sweets are obvious sources of carbs, which make them easier to avoid. Things like rice, bread and potatoes don’t taste sweet, but they are packed with carbohydrates, too.

Pick foods with fiber. Going hand-in-hand with carb counting is choosing foods that are high in dietary fiber. Fiber is actually a type of carbohydrate, but one that your body can’t digest. Where other carbohydrates are broken down into sugar molecules known as glucose, fiber passes through your body. So, these fiber carbs don’t count against your total for the day. For example, the average banana has 28 grams of carbs and 3 grams of fiber. So, the banana counts as 25 grams of carbs. This is one of the reasons fruits and vegetables make healthy snacks, as long as you don’t overdo it.

Monitor glucose levels. This can mean different things, depending on where you are with the disease. If you have Type 1 diabetes, you are probably keeping track of your blood sugar levels either with continuous monitoring or with several finger sticks each day. For Type 2 diabetes or pre-diabetes, this probably means regular blood tests. Whichever the case, this is critical for keeping track of where you are and providing guidance on how your eating and lifestyle habits are affecting your health.

Stick with your exercise plan. Exercise is important both for diabetics and for people who are trying to avoid the disease. Your goal should be 30 minutes of brisk aerobic activity each day. You don’t need to run marathons, but you do need to get your heart rate up and break into a light sweat. For older adults, a brisk walk may do the trick. For younger adults and children, it may require something more intense – jogging or swimming laps, for example. The key is regularity. Find something you enjoy and make it a habit.

Lose weight. This one may take care of itself if you follow the advice in the previous items. Excess weight or obesity is a major risk factor for diabetes. It affects the way your metabolism works and limits your body’s ability to control blood sugar. Your doctor can help you find a target for your body mass index, a calculation using your height and weight. A BMI of 30 or higher is considered obese.

Watch your medications. Medications can have an impact on your glucose levels. There are medications that need to be taken multiple times a day, some that need to be taken with food and others that need to be taken on an empty stomach. Work with your doctor to make sure you are taking your medications appropriately to get the maximum benefit.

Don’t forget associated conditions. Elevated blood sugar levels can cause organ damage over time. That’s why it’s important to have annual screenings for eye, foot and kidney complications to catch problems before permanent damage is done. Diagnosing diabetes reduces potential complications of the disease. Diabetes is common, but it’s rare for someone to die from it. Related conditions like stroke and heart disease are a bigger threat.

Watch the alcohol. The problem with alcohol is that even though it doesn’t taste sweet, it raises your blood sugar levels. Excessive drinking can also encourage overeating and other bad habits. If you are going to drink, it should be done in moderation – no more than one or two drinks a day. But if you are diabetic, it’s a better idea to treat alcohol the same way you do sugary snacks like cake, pie and ice cream: Reserve it for special occasions.

Reduce your stress. High stress levels can produce a hormone response in your body that raises your blood sugar. And when people get stressed, they’re more likely to engage in unhealthy behaviors like eating junk food, drinking alcohol and smoking. If you find yourself under too much stress, look for healthier coping mechanisms like exercise, medication and enjoyable hobbies.

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