November 14 is World Diabetes Day, where we spotlight a condition that is claiming millions of lives around the world each year. Created in 1991 by the World Health Organization, World Diabetes Day is intended to draw attention to the important issues surrounding diabetes prevention. The theme for 2022 is Access to Diabetes Care—If Not Now, When?
- What is Diabetes?
- Lose Weight
- Stress Management
- Check Blood Sugar Levels
- A1C Blood Tests
- Monitor Carb Intake
- Daily Exercise
- Prioritize Sleep
- Get an Annual Checkup
- Lifestyle Changes
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a condition that results in people having an excess of glucose in their bloodstream. This, in turn, leads to the release of insulin, a hormone that transports the glucose into our cells. When our glucose energy system is working properly, the insulin takes glucose into the cell to be used as energy. The liver then signals the pancreas to reduce its insulin production.
When a person has diabetes, they are unable to convert glucose into energy. Instead, the glucose builds up in the bloodstream. Lack of energy leads them feeling weak and lethargic.
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that sees the immune system target insulin cells for destruction. In Type 2 diabetes, the pancreas is able to produce insulin but the insulin is unable to transport glucose in cells because of a condition called insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance occurs when the body’s cells do not respond as they should to the actions of insulin. Insulin resistance is largely caused by such lifestyle factors as:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- High blood pressure
- Lack of sleep
If you are a diabetic, you need to carefully monitor the condition to avoid complications. Here are nine lifestyle changes you can make.
Weight loss will help you to better control your blood sugar levels. To do so, you need to maintain a daily caloric deficit, where you are burning more calories each day than you are taking in. The deficit in energy will be met by your stored body fat.
The first step in creating a caloric deficit is to discover what your caloric maintenance level is. Go here to work it out. Aim to eat 250 calories less than your daily maintenance level each day. Burn another 250 calories daily through a combination of cardiovascular and strength training exercise.
Stress makes the symptoms of diabetes worse, elevating your blood glucose levels. While it is impossible to completely eliminate stress from our lives, there are things we can do to reduce it. Create time each day to sit quietly for ten to fifteen minutes to mindfully meditate. Make a daily plan to help you prioritize your day, cut out unnecessary tasks, and give yourself structure.
If stress is becoming an issue for you, take time out. Many people find that exercise is an effective stress releaser, allowing them to do something that is just for them. The feel good endorphins that are produced when we exercise can also help to allay stress.
Check Blood Sugar Levels
You need to be on top of your blood sugar levels all the time. Check them twice daily to see if they are within the levels recommended by your doctor. Keep a journal where you record your levels. Take note, also, of how food and exercise affect your glucose levels.
A1C Blood Tests
Every three months, you should get an A1C blood test. This will tell you what your average blood sugar levels have been over the past twelve weeks. Your goal should be to have an A1C of 7% or lower.
Monitor Carb Intake
Consuming high glycemic index carbs will spike your blood sugar levels. As a result, you need to carefully monitor your carbohydrate intake. Track your carb intake so that you are always on top of what you’re putting into your body. Be especially aware of hidden sugar in food that may sneak up your carb intake.
Focus on low GI carbs, with an emphasis on such high fiber sources as green leafy vegetables, whole wheat bread, and fruit.
Discover how to stop sugar cravings.
Exercise will improve your diabetic condition in a number of ways. It will help you lose weight, reduce your stress levels, and bring down your blood pressure. Plan to get a minimum of thirty minutes of cardiovascular exercise each day. That could be anything from going for an after dinner walk around the neighborhood, playing a sport, walking on a treadmill, or participating in a group fitness class.
Strength training should also be a part of your exercise routine. Do three strength training sessions per week, using free weights or resistance bands to work the main muscles of your body.
Lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain, increase stress levels, and elevate blood glucose levels. People who are sleep-deprived also tend to eat more, leading to weight gain.
Improve the quality and quantity of your sleep by having a set pattern of retiring and getting up each day. Make your bedroom a technology-free zone. That means no phone or tablet with you overnight. Maintaining a cool, dark sleeping environment will also help you get a good night’s sleep.
Get an Annual Checkup
Once a year, you should visit your doctor for a complete physical checkup. As a diabetic, it is important that your physical include the following:
- A dilated eye exam
- Blood pressure check
- Foot exam
- Screening for kidney and nerve damage
- A heart disease screen
The following diabetes prevention lifestyle changes will help you to better control your diabetes:
- Quit smoking
- Drink more water
- Avoid sedentary behaviors
- Optimize Vitamin D intake
- Minimize processed food intake
World Diabetes Day provides an opportunity for all of us to analyze our lifestyles in relation to our personal susceptibility to diabetes. If you aren’t already incorporating the lifestyle habits of regular exercise, healthy sleep, clean eating, and stress reduction techniques, use World Diabetes Day as the prompt you need to take them on board.