More than 100 million U.S. adults are now living with diabetes or prediabetes, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Diane Waple, chief dietitian at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, has some advice for how to live with diabetes and how to prevent other complications that can arise from the disease.
Diabetes is a disease brought on by either the body’s inability to make insulin (type 1 diabetes) or by the body not responding to the effects of insulin (type 2 diabetes). Type 2 diabetes can be reversed with the right lifestyle changes.
Insulin is a hormone that helps the glucose get into your cells to give them energy. People with type 1 diabetes produce no insulin and must use insulin injections to control their blood sugar. With type 2 diabetes, the body continues to produce insulin, although insulin production by the body may significantly decrease over time.
First, you should be aware of some of the signs and symptoms of type 1 and 2 diabetes, including increased thirst, frequent urination, extreme hunger, unexplained weight loss and fatigue. You can prevent type 2 diabetes by cutting out sugar and refined carbs from your diet, working out regularly, losing weight if you’re overweight and quitting smoking.
Exercise is a major part of treatment for diabetes, as it lowers blood sugar and burns calories.
“It is recommended to get 150 minutes/week of activity, but be cautious,” Diane said. “Vigorous aerobic exercise may cause hemorrhage in the eye or retinal detachment, because those with diabetes are at risk for retinopathy, or damage to the retina of the eyes. They are also at risk for peripheral neuropathy — weakness, numbness and pain from nerve damage, usually in the hands and feet — so proper shoes and foot care are key.”
When it comes to eating, developing a healthy choice lifestyle is ideal, i.e. vegetables, fruits, legumes and whole grains, Diane said. Portion sizes are also very important. Eating the right amount of carbs will help you control your diabetes. Most carbs come from breads, starchy foods, grains and sugar.
“Losing just 7% of your body weight if overweight can help with glucose control, blood pressure and cholesterol,” Diane said.
A registered dietitian can educate you on how many carbs to aim for per day based on age, gender, weight and daily activity, Waple said. When dining out, avoid too much pasta, rice and potatoes. Restaurant entrees in general are high in sodium and fat.
Carb counting is not for everyone, however, and it’s best to seek out a registered dietitian first, Diane said.
Having diabetes affects your whole body, and high blood glucose can contribute to poor circulation in your legs and feet and nerve damage, or a feeling of burning, aching or pins and needles in your feet and legs.
Diabetes can also increase your chances for heart disease or stroke. These are the leading causes of death in people with diabetes. But many of the things you do to control diabetes also help your heart and blood vessels. Proper diet, exercise and taking prescribed medicine can help.
It’s important to follow up with your doctor frequently if you suffer from diabetes. How often depends on the person, age, support systems in place and how well controlled the disease is, Waple said.
Lastly, sleep is important and is now considered the “other vital sign,” Waple said. “Sitting is the new ‘smoking’ – so get up and move every 30 minutes!”
Contact your physician for more information, or learn more about healthy dining and living options at each of our locations: