Since November is Diabetes Awareness Month, here are some helpful tips on how those with diabetes can keep their blood sugar under control.
The body uses glucose (sugar) for fuel by using insulin to transform glucose into energy. In type 2 diabetes, the body isn’t able to process glucose because it is first resistant to insulin’s action and then can’t produce enough insulin. As a result, the glucose level increases. Over time, high blood sugar can lead to serious complications, representing some of the most serious consequences of uncontrolled diabetes, including blindness or limb amputation. Controlling your blood sugars according to ADA guidelines, helps to prevent those complications.
First and foremost, you can’t effectively control your blood sugar if you have no idea what it is. Regular testing using a meter is important to understand how your body is reacts to your medication and / or diet changes. We are always happy to speak with patients about how often and when they should test their blood glucose levels. This may vary depending upon whether or not a patient has type 1 or type 2 diabetes. You may want to consider packing healthy snacks or glucose tablets to have on hand in case of a drop in blood sugar. It is important to plan ahead in order to make timely, healthy decisions.
● Establish a regular exercise regimen. I enjoy helping patients outline exercise and fitness goals because it demonstrates that they want to take an active part in their health care. The frequency and time of day of exercise can have an impact on blood sugar.
● Incorporate foods into your diet that have a low glycemic index (GI). These food provide nutrients such as calcium, potassium, fiber, magnesium and vitamins A, C, and E. What are these foods? Dark green, leafy vegetables (such as kale and spinach) that are low in calories and carbohydrates, citrus fruits, nuts, berries, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. Beans are also another healthy consideration—while beans are considered starchy vegetables, they provide a good dose of protein with less saturated fat than meat. Your blood pressure and lipids will have to be monitored on a regular basis. To keep these parameters in strict control per ADA guidelines, you may require medication.
● Planning ahead can help you avoid last-minute unhealthy menu choices or meals high in carbohydrates that can cause problems with blood sugar levels. When traveling, remember that if you are crossing several time zones, your body may need time to adjust to the change. We encourage our patients to speak with us about their travel plans so we can answer any questions they may have. Remember that if you are traveling by plane, you may need to have a letter from a physician explaining that you have diabetes, and need to carry testing supplies and insulin (if you use it) on board. Some countries require visitors to receive specific immunizations, and sometimes these shots can affect blood sugar levels, so we encourage patients to get these shots a month before they travel.
When it comes to keeping blood glucose levels under control, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. This is why, as physicians, we tailor every health care plan to address specific issues. This is also why those with diabetes should work with their doctors to create an effective, team-based approach toward managing it.