Diabetes is a significant health problem for many adults. In fact, over twenty million Americans are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes currently, and approximately one million new cases are diagnosed each year. Diabetes is one of the top ten leading causes of death in the United States. It is also linked with other serious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease and various forms of cancer. The good news is there are countless ways patients can manage diabetes, from simple lifestyle changes to medical treatment options.
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Limit Sugar And Starch
The elimination of dietary carbohydrates is not strictly necessary for a diabetes patient to do to effectively manage their condition. However, patients should limit their consumption of unhealthy types of carbohydrates including sugar and starch. Starch is broken down to sugar in the body, which contributes to increased blood glucose. Candy and sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, are common sources of dietary sugar. Crackers, cookies, cakes, tortillas, pastries, bread, pasta, rice, and starchy vegetables (potatoes, corn, et cetera) are sources of starch, and these all contribute to high blood glucose if eaten in excess. Diabetes patients will want to read nutrition labels for exact information on sugar and starch in packaged goods, and transition their diet accordingly.
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Eat More Plants
Plants and whole grains are sources of healthy carbohydrates. These are filling and harder to consume in excess. Individuals with diabetes, therefore, should replace sugary cereals with whole grain varieties, and eat at least four vegetables a day, not including starchy potatoes and corn. They should also eat whole fruit instead of fruit-flavored foods.
The fiber content of packaged foods is listed on the nutrition facts label, which everyone should read before buying a product, whether they have diabetes or not. High fiber foods contain at least four grams of fiber per serving. To increase fiber and decrease starch content in meals, individuals should replace half of the rice or pasta they consume with vegetables. They should focus on substituting starchy foods with high-fiber vegetables. String zucchini makes a great substitute for spaghetti noodles.
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Promote Intestinal Health
The intestines pull nutrients from food for delivery to the body. They are filled with beneficial bacteria called microbiota, which feed on the food in the intestines while promoting intestinal health. Microbiota also guard the intestines against foreign substances and helps the intestines prepare the body for incoming nutrients, which plays a significant role in glucose metabolism and blood glucose levels. This is especially important for patients dealing with diabetes. Large amounts and varieties of fruits and vegetables are needed for healthy microbiota growth. To improve intestinal health, therefore, diabetes patients should eat more plants.
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Maintain A Healthy Weight
Research has revealed the connection between weight and diabetes, which is that excess body fat often leads to whole-body inflammation, which in turn contributes to the development of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, pulmonary disease, and some cancers. Thus, maintaining a healthy weight along with an appropriate body composition is important for patients looking to manage their diabetes effectively. Individuals can increase muscle mass and decrease fat mass through diet, exercise, and healthy behaviors. Diabetes patients will want to work with a registered dietitian and a certified personal trainer to develop a weight management plan appropriate for them.
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Exercise helps regulate blood glucose levels and insulin sensitivity. As an individual's fitness level improves, their exercise routine needs to become more intense to encourage even more improvement. Exercise intensity can be increased by increasing the duration, workload, or both. Exercise stresses the body in a beneficial way. The body adapts to exercise stress by becoming stronger, and with regular exposure to exercise stress, the body is able to endure more physical labor, practice recovering from stress, and improve body composition. All of these exercise benefits aid in diabetes management, even beyond simple weight loss.
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Evidence indicates there is a fairly strong negative relationship between sleep and diabetes. Specifically, the lower the duration and quality of an individual's sleep, the higher their risk of developing or mismanaging diabetes is. Reduced sleep, we know, leads to increased hunger and dietary consumption. Additionally, insulin resistance and high blood glucose levels are associated with reduced sleep duration. None of this is beneficial for anyone, particularly for diabetes patients who must closely monitor their blood sugar. Thus, adults need to sleep seven to nine hours each night to help mitigate these negative consequences.
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The body responds to stress by mobilizing extra fuel to prepare for the 'fight or flight' response. Since glucose can be used by every cell in the body, this stress response means increased blood glucose levels. In healthy individuals, elevation in their blood glucose level is the desired response to stress. The extra glucose would provide energy for the body to flee or hunt. This healthy stress response is meant to be brief and infrequent, so blood glucose levels are elevated for only a short time.
Chronic stress, on the other hand, leads to regularly elevated blood glucose levels. This extra glucose is rarely used in a physical effort and can contribute to insulin resistance and diabetes. As such, managing chronic stress is important in diabetes management. Strategies vary, but common options for stress management include meditation, taking a relaxing bath, listening to music, practicing yoga, and reading.
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Regularly Monitor Blood Sugar
A vital component of managing diabetes is the regular monitoring of blood sugar levels. In healthy individuals, the body can perform this function on its own and address situations where the blood sugar level becomes too high or low. However, the body of individuals affected by diabetes is unable to perform this function. This malfunction means a diabetes patient will need to self-test their blood regularly to know what and when to eat, as well as what medications to take and when to take them. The frequency of glucose testing will be determined by the type and severity of a patient's diabetes. Individuals affected by type 1 diabetes will generally need to check their glucose levels more times a day than a patient affected by type 2 diabetes. Devices are available to assist with regular monitoring of blood sugar, including a continuous glucose monitor. This device allows an affected individual to view their blood glucose level at all times, and alerts them when they are moving beyond a specified range. Regularly monitoring blood sugar can help patients avoid life-threatening diabetes complications.
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Insulin therapy is a key factor in the treatment of diabetes in the majority of patients. Insulin is the hormone the body secretes to bring high blood sugar levels down when they get too high. The bodies of diabetes patients either do not produce any insulin at all or insulin they are unable to utilize. Insulin therapy refers to the injection of insulin through an insulin pen, subcutaneous shot, or an insulin pump. On average, type 1 diabetes patients will need to have two shots of insulin a day. However, this does vary from case to case and has several influencing factors. Insulin therapy goes hand in hand with regular blood sugar monitoring because it determines when and how much insulin the patient needs at any given time. There are several types of insulin medications that vary in speed and duration of their action mechanism. A physician usually helps the patient create a treatment plan individualized to their diabetes. This treatment plan includes guidelines on how often to monitor blood sugar levels and take insulin medication.
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Other medications may be used for a diabetes patient's treatment in addition to insulin, or they may be used alone to manage the disease. Type 1 diabetes patients have to take some form of insulin because they cannot make their own. Individuals with type 2 diabetes, however, have more flexibility with non-insulin options. These individuals may be able to manage their disease with healthy dietary choices, regular exercise, and non-insulin medications. Non-insulin medications commonly used to help treat diabetes work by several different mechanisms. Some medications reduce the amount of glucose the individual's liver produces to help their body utilize insulin more effectively. Another type of medication sometimes used to help type 2 diabetes patients works by stimulating the cells in the pancreas to release insulin. In addition, the kidneys are responsible for the reabsorption of some glucose back into the blood. Some diabetes medications can inhibit this process and allow more glucose to be excreted through the patient's urine. This glucose excretion helps lower blood sugar levels. Medications used in the treatment of diabetes may need to be combined in many cases to manage the disease effectively.