Diabetes is a health condition that disturbs the way your body converts food into energy. Your body breaks down the food you eat into glucose and releases it into your bloodstream. When the blood sugar level rises, it sends a message to the pancreas to release insulin. Insulin opens the gate to let the blood sugar into your cells to be used as energy.
Diabetes does not allow your body to create enough insulin or optimally use the insulin available. This results in leaving too much blood sugar in your bloodstream. This condition can result in serious health issues like heart disease, vision loss and kidney disease.
Diabetes is a chronic health condition that has no cure. It cannot be eliminated but can be managed well by weight management, diet management and following a fitness regimen combined with minimum medication.
As you are probably aware, there are three types of diabetes -
- Type 1
- Type 2
Type 1 diabetes is caused by an autoimmune reaction. For some reason, the body doesn’t allow the production of insulin. Around 5-10% of diabetic patients fall in this category. This diabetes develops quickly and can be diagnosed in children and young adults. A daily dose of insulin is needed to survive and there is no preventive measure available.
Type 2 diabetes under which 90-95 % of diabetic patients fall occurs when the body is not able to use insulin properly and regulate blood sugar levels. This takes time to diagnose and only regular tests will reveal its onset. This type of diabetes can be managed by introducing lifestyle changes.
Gestational diabetes develops during pregnancy in some women who have no history of high blood sugar. This is a temporary condition and goes away after the delivery. This may increase the possibility of developing type 2 diabetes later on. The baby is also at risk of developing the same.
What are the lifestyle changes that can be introduced?
Since diabetes is a chronic health condition, managing it requires several lifestyle changes to be implemented. This will broadly include
- Watch what you eat
- Keeping fit
You will need to watch what you eat and maintain your fitness levels to combat this condition
Let us explore both heads in detail.
Watch what you eat
Maintaining your blood sugar levels requires you to make changes to your diet and strictly adhere to them. You will need to balance your food habits with physical activity and medicine to keep your glucose levels within the acceptable range.
- Create a diabetes meal plan
You do not need to go without your favourite foods if you have diabetes. You should just be disciplined enough to limit them to small portions or reduce the frequency.
- Eat a variety of foods from all food categories in the prescribed quantities
You can eat non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, carrots, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes etc and starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn and green peas. Oranges, melon, berries, apples, bananas and grapes can be consumed among fruits. You should consume more whole grains like wheat, rice, oats, cornmeal, barley and quinoa.
For your protein intake, you can consume lean meat, chicken, fish eggs etc. If you are a vegetarian you can look at nuts, peanuts, dried beans, chickpeas, split peas and tofu for your daily dose of protein.
You can consume dairy products like milk, yoghurt and cheese.
Cook food using heart-healthy oils instead of butter or ghee. Canola oil, Olive oil, nuts, avocado and fish like salmon, tuna and mackerel are good sources of heart-healthy fats.
- Limit some food and drinks if you have diabetes
You are better off avoiding fried foods, food high in salt, sweets, cakes, candy, ice cream, beverages like juice, soda or energy drinks. Drinking water is a healthier alternative. You should replace the sugar in your coffee or tea with stevia or any other sugar substitute.
Alcohol should be strictly in moderation ( maximum of 1-2 drinks per day) to avoid complications. It is better to consume food if you are drinking to avoid a drop in your blood sugar levels.
- Stick to a daily routine
Most people with diabetes and consuming medicine need to stick to a daily meal routine. They may need to eat the same amount of carbohydrates at the same time every day to keep their blood sugar levels from dropping too low.
- Do not overeat
You would need to eat the right quantity of food to manage your blood sugar level and weight. Any indulgence may lead to your sugar levels going haywire and is best avoided. You are better off following a weight loss plan. Plan the number of calories you consume on a daily basis and stick to your plan to maintain your target weight.
Now we come to the second part of the change in lifestyle which involves staying fit. Staying fit is extremely important to manage your diabetes. Having an active lifestyle can help you in many ways.
It can help you in the following ways -
- Reduction in blood sugar levels
- Reduction in blood pressure levels
- Boost in memory and concentration
- Better sleep
- Weight management
- Better blood circulation
A combination of a diabetes meal plan with physical activity will help you to manage diabetes better.
- Aim at 30 minutes of daily walking
Spending 30 minutes walking every day can do wonders for your body. It will help you to manage your weight, make you feel energetic and manage your blood sugar levels. This has been proved by several studies. It boosts blood circulation and lifts your mood too.
In case you need to lose weight, you may increase your physical activity time to 60 minutes daily for better results.
- Stay hydrated
Make sure you drink plenty of water before, after and during the physical activity. It will help you to stay hydrated.
- Consult your health advisor before starting a new fitness routine
It is advisable to consult your health advisor before embarking on a new fitness routine. They will be able to assist you regarding the target blood sugar levels. You should also time your fitness regimen so that it is aligned with your meal plan, daily schedule and insulin dose.
- Manage hypoglycemia
When you are engaging in physical activities, you should protect yourself against hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels. This can happen if you skip a meal before exercise. It can happen after an intense workout as well. If you are on insulin, you may be advised to reduce the insulin or have a small carbohydrate snack before, during or after the activity. Blood sugar levels would need to be monitored before and after the activity.
- Avoid intense activity if you have hyperglycemia
You are better off avoiding intense activity if you suffer from type1 diabetes. Ketones are created by the body when the blood sugar level is high and the insulin level is low. This can be dangerous and you should avoid intense physical activity.
- Wear the right footwear
Diabetics are well-advised to take care of their feet. High blood sugar levels can cause poor blood circulation and affect the nerves. You are better off wearing comfortable shoes and protecting your feet to prevent damage.
- Add some variety to your routine
Find some novel ways to add physical activities to your daily routine. You can walk around inside the house. You can do some gardening or dusting or washing your car. Take the longest route to your car when you park. Swap the lift for the stairs. Do some activity every 30 minutes instead of sitting in one place. Move your arms and legs. Pace up and down the room while on the phone. These little things do add up at the end of the day. Do aerobics, stretching exercises or yoga. Figure out what you are most comfortable with and go for it.
Keeping your diet right and raising your fitness levels can do wonders for your health and you will definitely be able to manage your diabetes better. Getting worried about your condition but not willing to make any lifestyle changes will not help. Diabetes can be managed rather well with some self-discipline and moderation. Let it not limit your happiness. Learn to embrace the condition and figure out the best way to deal with it.