Diabetes is a lifelong, metabolic disease defined by an excessively high level of blood glucose (blood sugar), that over the long haul, can cause severe damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and the nervous system.
Type 2 diabetes, the disease’s most prevalent form, typically presents in adults. The disease manifests when the pancreas can’t produce enough of the hormone known as insulin, which controls blood sugar, or when the body becomes unable to efficiently use the insulin it manufactures. Type 1 diabetes, by contrast, is most often diagnosed in children and young adults, when the pancreas becomes incapable of producing insulin. Patients are required to monitor their own blood sugar levels via daily self-administered insulin injections.
Since 1980, the number of adults living with diabetes globally has nearly quadrupled. In the United States, 29.1 million people or 9.3% of the population have diabetes, with 11.8 million seniors (aged 65 and older), representing more than a quarter of the entire senior population, suffering from the disease.
Unfortunately, type 2 diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed by optimizing lifestyle through diet, exercise, stress reduction and medication (if prescribed by your physician), giving you the ability to lead a long and healthy life.
Maintaining your blood glucose level at a healthy level can pose many challenges, because a wide array of factors can cause your blood sugar level to fluctuate, sometimes quite suddenly. It’s crucial to work with your doctor, as well as your support team, to keep yourself in optimal shape.
Educating yourself about diabetes and knowing what affects the daily variation of your blood sugar is an important part of avoiding serious complications and effectively managing diabetes. Your role in managing diabetes is the most crucial, and includes:
- Choosing what, how much and when to eat
- Engaging in daily exercise
- Taking medication (if needed)
- Reducing Stress
- Learning all you can about diabetes through reading, courses, seminars and talking to others
Eating healthy is the most important piece of the puzzle in controlling diabetes. Patients need to know, not only how different foods affect their blood sugar, but also learn how to keep track of the quantity and combinations they eat them in.
Developing a stable and reliable meal plan is critical in keeping diabetes at bay, as is coordinating your meals with any diabetes medication you may be taking.
They keys to healthy eating include:
- Eating a variety of foods, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, non-fat dairy products, and lean meat
- Avoiding overeating or consuming too much of any one particular food
- Spacing your meals throughout the day and avoid missing meals
- Cutting down on soft drinks, or other drinks sweetened with sugar
- Decreasing consumption of snack foods or other high calorie, sugar-sweetened desserts
Losing weight can also better regulate your blood sugar level and help keep diabetes under control. Obesity and being overweight magnify the possibility of diabetes related problems such as heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. Shedding a few pounds can make a big difference in maintaining your blood sugar levels and enhancing your quality of life.
Physical activity is also an essential component of proper diabetes care. Consistent exercise will enable your muscles to convert the sugar in your blood into energy, and allow your body to process insulin more efficiently. Overall, you’ll feel better, and have more energy as well.
More vigorous workouts tend to provide longer lasting effects, but your blood sugar level will also benefit from lighter activities such as cleaning the house, walking or gardening. You should consult your healthcare provider about which type of exercise would be appropriate for you.
Undue stress can pose a great challenge to one’s health and to effectively managing blood sugar levels. Engaging in activities that reduce stress such as yoga, tai chi, meditation and other relaxation techniques, can go a long way toward helping you cope mindfully with your diabetes.
When diet and physical activity prove inadequate in lowering your blood sugar levels, then your physician may prescribe insulin or other diabetes medications. The timing and dosage of diabetes medicines are critical to their success. Medications taken for other illnesses can also impact your blood sugar levels, so it’s important to stay informed and learn about all medication options.
Keeping a regular eye on your blood sugar levels can assist you in making important decisions about your diabetes medication, diet and exercise. Checking your blood glucose levels at home is relatively simple, and your physician can explain how and when to use a blood glucose meter, which involves a tiny prick on your finger to test a drop of blood, and determine any change in your blood glucose level.
These self-administered tests are typically done before and after eating, and before bed.
The results of your blood sugar analysis will assist you and your health support team in creating a solid plan for controlling your blood glucose.
Your diabetes care team may include:
- Your physician
- Your friends and family
Living with diabetes is a challenge; one needs to balance a healthy body weight with the necessity of keeping one’s blood sugar level within an ideal range. It’s important for patients to consult their physicians to see what is best for them.
There’s a lot you can do to live a full life and prevent the health problems associated with diabetes. You are the one who takes care of your diabetes every day. Positive lifestyle changes and reducing stress can help you achieve and attain an optimal weight and boost your overall health and well-being.