American Heart Month

According to the CDC, more than 37 million Americans have diabetes. Unfortunately, many people who have diabetes don’t know how to manage it, causing it to be the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. For this reason and many others, it’s incredibly important that those living with diabetes know how to manage the condition.

At Prima CARE, we specialize in providing comprehensive healthcare with a personal touch. Our skilled team is dedicated to empowering patients with the knowledge and tools needed for effective diabetes management, ensuring a healthier, more informed lifestyle.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss four essential diabetes management tips for living a healthy life and keeping your diabetes under control.

1. Stay Active

Exercise is a crucial part of managing diabetes, largely because of how it affects blood sugar levels. Regular physical activity can improve your body's insulin sensitivity and help manage your blood glucose levels. 

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that tells the body what to do with blood sugar, or glucose, whether that be to store it or use it for energy. 

  • For people with type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, their pancreas no longer produces insulin properly due to the immune system damaging the pancreas.
  • For those with type 2, their body has become resistant to the effects of insulin, causing the body to overproduce insulin until the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas no longer work properly.

Insulin sensitivity, then, refers to how responsive the body is to the presence of insulin. This issue tends to affect those with type 2 diabetes more than those with type 1, though insulin resistance is becoming more common in people with type 1. There are several factors that can decrease a person’s insulin sensitivity, including low activity levels.

Luckily, by exercising and getting active, a person’s insulin sensitivity can be improved. When your muscles contract during exercise, your cells are able to use glucose for energy whether or not insulin is present. When insulin is present, the cells in your muscles are better at using glucose during and up to 24 hours after working out. 

Ultimately, this heightened insulin sensitivity leads to lower blood sugar levels.
That said, improved insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels aren’t the only ways exercise can greatly benefit a person with diabetes. Exercise also can also help you control your cholesterol levels, reduce your risk of heart disease and nerve damage, and help you lose weight. All of these benefits make exercise an important part of any diabetes management plan.

Recommended exercise goal for diabetes management:

  • Aim for at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of moderate physical exercise per week.
  • Break it down into daily sessions of 20-25 minutes.
  • Everyday activities like housework or lawn mowing can contribute to meeting this goal.

2. Eat Well

Often, one of the biggest lifestyle changes a person with diabetes needs to make is to their diet. A well-balanced diabetes meal plan should include a variety of nutritious foods that don't spike your blood sugar.  

For example:

  • Fruits and vegetables can benefit your health in many ways, but for diabetics in particular, they can be a helpful tool in blood sugar management. In particular, high-fiber options like apples, bananas, oranges, strawberries, carrots, beets, broccoli, and artichokes can help slow the rise of your blood sugar after a meal.
  • Grains are also high in fiber, especially whole grains, which should make up at least half of your grains for the day. Next time you go grocery shopping, keep your eyes out for whole-grain options for bread, cereal, spaghetti, tortillas, English muffins, bagels, crackers, and more.
  • Protein is an important macronutrient that helps your body repair and create cells. You can get your protein from lean meats and skinless chicken or turkey, though plant-based proteins tend to be particularly good for diabetics because they also contain high amounts of fiber. Examples of plant-based proteins include beans, hummus, lentils, peas, edamame, and tofu.
  • Heart-healthy fats like those found in avocados, nuts, olive oil, and fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna can help you lower your cholesterol levels and reduce your risk of heart disease.
  • Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages and opt for water or diet soda as a healthier choice. Water is one of the most important things we can give our bodies. Drink water to support your body and reduce your intake of calories and sugar.

The easiest way to stick to these foods is by shopping smart at the grocery store. Start at home by planning out what meals and snacks you want to have that week, which can help you avoid making impulsive choices at the store. Once you know what you want, make a list of everything you need to pick up. Finally, before heading out, check in with your hunger and grab a snack if you need to. After all, no one likes to shop for groceries while hungry!

3. Maintain a Healthy Weight

There are two ways to get an idea of whether or not you’re at a healthy weight: BMI and waist circumference. BMI, or body mass index, is a measure of your weight in relation to your height; you can use this calculator to see where you fall. However, BMI doesn’t account for belly fat, which plays an important role in predicting a person’s risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Regardless of BMI, we know that women with waist circumferences over 35 inches and men with waist circumferences over 40 inches are at a higher risk for these conditions.

Luckily, losing weight can lower a person’s BMI, waist circumference, and risk. Plus, this doesn’t have to mean losing a lot of weight. Just losing 5% - 10% of your body weight can improve a person’s health. And, for people with diabetes, shedding those extra pounds can make a noticeable difference in blood sugar levels. As discussed earlier, better insulin sensitivity can make managing diabetes much easier, and losing weight can help improve that sensitivity.

Plus, if you start exercising and eating with your diabetes and health in mind, weight loss will very likely happen on its own. However, if you still struggle to lose weight even with these lifestyle changes, consult your doctor to discuss weight loss programs and other options.

4. Keep Up to Date With Your Doctor

Speaking of consulting with your doctor, making regular appointments with your doctor is another big part of diabetes management. Your doctor can help you adjust your diabetes medications as needed and provide guidance on managing low blood sugar episodes. 

Left untreated, diabetes can lead to a number of serious health problems, including heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and blindness. By working with your doctor to monitor your diabetes and keep it under control, you can reduce your risk of these health problems.

5. Watch Your Alcohol Intake

Keep an eye on how much alcohol you drink. Drinking too much beer, wine, or liquor can make it hard to control your blood sugar. So, if you decide to have a drink, don't have too much. The American Diabetes Association suggests women should not have more than one drink a day and men no more than two.

Drinking alcohol can make your blood sugar go up or down too much. Always check your blood sugar before you drink. This will help you avoid having low blood sugar. If you take insulin or diabetes pills, remember to eat when you're drinking.

Some drinks, like wine coolers, have a lot of carbs. So, when you're counting your carbs, remember to count these too.

6. Quit Smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for various health issues, especially when coupled with diabetes. It can lead to complications such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease, among others. The nicotine in cigarettes can make your blood vessels hard and narrow, leading to poor circulation. This can cause severe problems in the feet for diabetics, potentially leading to amputations.

Smoking can indeed make exercising more difficult. Exercise is crucial for managing diabetes as it helps control weight, lowers blood sugar levels, and increases sensitivity to insulin.

Quitting smoking can be tough, but it's not impossible. There are many resources available that can help:

  • Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT): Nicotine patches, gum, lozenges, nasal spray, or inhalers could ease your cravings.

  • Non-nicotine medication: Drugs like bupropion (Zyban) and varenicline (Chantix) can help reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

  • Support groups: Joining a support group can provide encouragement and motivation. Sharing experiences with others who are also trying to quit can be very helpful.

  • Counseling or behavioral therapies: A counselor or therapist can help you find ways to deal with stress and other triggers without smoking.

Remember, it's never too late to quit. Even if you've tried before and didn't succeed, don't be discouraged. Talk to your doctor about creating a plan that will work best for you.

7. Manage Stress 

Stress can have a big impact on your diabetes. When you're stressed, your body releases hormones that can make your blood sugar levels go up. This is bad news if you have diabetes and are trying to keep your blood sugar under control.

Also, when you're feeling anxious or stressed, you might forget to take care of yourself. You might forget to do your exercise, eat healthy food, or take your medicine. All these things are important for managing your diabetes.

So, it's very important to find ways to relax and reduce stress. Here are a few things you could try:

  • Deep breathing: This is a simple technique where you take slow, deep breaths. It can help you feel more relaxed.

  • Yoga: Yoga is a type of exercise that involves stretching and breathing exercises. It can help reduce stress and also be good for your physical health.

  • Hobbies: Doing something you enjoy can be a great way to relax. This could be anything from reading a book, gardening, painting, or listening to music.

8. Make Sleep A Priority

Sleep plays a pivotal role in managing your health particularly if you have conditions like diabetes. Lack of sleep can leave you feeling sluggish and tired during the day, leading to cravings for quick, high-carbohydrate foods such as chips or sweets.

When you're sleep-deprived, it's easy to turn to these types of foods for an energy boost. However, this can lead to a cycle where eating more carbohydrates causes your blood sugar levels to rise, which then makes it harder to manage your diabetes.

Here are some ways to prioritize sleep:

  • Maintain a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even on weekends. This can help regulate your body's internal clock and make it easier to fall asleep and wake up.

  • Create a Sleep-Inducing Environment: Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and cool. Consider using earplugs, an eye mask, or a white noise machine if necessary.
  • Limit Screen Time Before Bed: The light emitted by phones, tablets, computers, and TVs can interfere with your body's production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

  • Avoid Stimulants: Caffeine and nicotine can interfere with your ability to fall asleep, so try to avoid them close to bedtime.

  • Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and enjoy deeper sleep.

Good sleep is just as important as healthy eating and regular exercise for managing your diabetes. If you're having trouble sleeping, don't hesitate to seek help from a healthcare provider.

Your Partner in Diabetes Care: Prima CARE

Living with diabetes requires a comprehensive approach to health, incorporating regular physical activity, a balanced diet, weight management, and consistent medical care. These lifestyle changes not only help in managing blood sugar levels but also reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes. By embracing these tips, individuals with diabetes can lead a healthier, more fulfilling life and effectively control their condition.

At Prima CARE, our dedicated team of diabetes specialists is committed to supporting you in every step of your diabetes management journey. We understand the unique challenges that come with living with diabetes, and we are here to provide personalized care tailored to your individual needs. Whether it's adjusting your diabetes medications, offering dietary advice, or helping you develop an effective exercise regimen, our experts are equipped to guide you towards better health.

Don’t let diabetes control your life. Take charge of your health today by scheduling an appointment with Prima CARE. Our team is ready to work with you to create a diabetes management plan that fits your lifestyle and helps you achieve your health goals. 

Contact us now for expert guidance and support in managing your diabetes effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do different foods and activities affect blood sugar levels?

Different foods and physical activities can significantly affect blood sugar levels. High-carbohydrate foods tend to raise blood sugar levels more rapidly than protein and fat. Physical activity, on the other hand, generally lowers blood sugar levels and improves insulin sensitivity.

What are the key aspects of disease control for diabetes?

Key aspects of disease control for diabetes include regular monitoring of blood glucose levels, adhering to a balanced diet, maintaining physical activity, managing stress, and following medication regimens prescribed by healthcare providers.

What are common health complications associated with diabetes?

Common health complications associated with diabetes include cardiovascular diseases, kidney damage, neuropathy (nerve damage), retinopathy (eye damage), and an increased risk of infections.

How do I choose the right diabetes medications?

The right diabetes medications should be chosen based on individual health needs, the type of diabetes, blood sugar levels, and any other health conditions present. It’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider to determine the most suitable medication regimen.