Contributed by: Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Mississippi’s Health & Wellness Team
What you should know about diabetes Insulin is produced by the pancreas and serves to help transfer sugar and carbohydrates into usable energy. But in the case of a person with diabetes, the body is unable to produce or properly use insulin. When this happens, the cells cannot get the energy they need and there is an overabundance of sugar in the blood that can lead to serious health consequences.
According to the Mississippi Department of Health, more than 12% of the adult population in our state has type 2 diabetes, the most common type of the disease. It is often associated with lifestyle factors such as obesity, lack of exercise and poor diet, but some other common risk factors include family history, race (African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and Asian Americans are more likely to have diabetes), and age, with the risk increasing as one grows older. Type 1 diabetes, once known as juvenile diabetes, is more commonly diagnosed in children and young adults, although it can develop at any age. Symptoms typically appear suddenly with Type 1, while Type 2 symptoms usually occur more gradually. Both types have life-long health impacts.
Some of the symptoms of diabetes include:
To find out if you have diabetes, or if you are at risk, it’s important to know your blood glucose numbers. Your healthcare provider can determine your glucose or your A1C levels with a simple blood test. If you have diabetes, your provider can counsel you about your treatment options and about the steps you can take to begin managing your disease.
Eating Healthy with Diabetes Eating a healthy diet designed for managing diabetes is essential for your health. Working with a dietitian or diabetes educator can help you develop a nutrition plan that’s right for you. You don’t have to deprive yourself of everything you enjoy! Key to a successful nutrition plan is learning what you can eat, how much of it you can eat and how often you can eat it. Once you’ve mastered the basics and taken the guesswork out of meal planning, you can truly enjoy a healthy eating plan.
If you have diabetes, there are three primary nutritional goals:
• Choosing healthy foods and beverages. Choose nutrient-rich foods like fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid high calorie foods that provide little nutrition like soda and candy. If you are overweight, reduce your calories by 500 to 750 calories per day to encourage a 1 to 2-pound weight loss per week. It may be important to monitor your intake of salt and fat in your diet too, especially if you have high cholesterol or high blood pressure. It is also very important to control your portion sizes of carbohydrates, as these increase your blood sugar. Spread your carbohydrate intake out throughout the day rather than consuming a lot at one time.
• Finding an eating plan that is right for you. There is no “one-size-fits-all” diet for diabetes. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider or dietitian about an eating plan that fits your unique needs. The amount of carbohydrates, protein and fat you need at each meal may vary depending on your age, activity level and current health conditions.
• Maintaining the pleasure of eating. Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t continue to enjoy eating the things you like. But it is very important for you to control your portion sizes and the timing of your meals to manage your blood sugar. Avoid eliminating entire food groups and continue to enjoy a variety of healthy foods.
Exercise Regular exercise is important to a healthy lifestyle, especially if you have diabetes. It can help you achieve or maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderately intense activity, like walking, most days of the week. If this is too much, start with fewer days a week and always follow your healthcare provider’s advice, especially if you are starting an exercise program for the first time.
Follow Your Healthcare Provider’s Advice It’s crucial to have an ongoing relationship with your primary care healthcare provider. Attend all of your necessary office visits, and follow his or her care instructions. You should also monitor your blood sugar at home, and keep track of your results to share with your provider. Keeping a log of your blood glucose levels will allow your physician or other healthcare provider to refine your treatment plan by understanding how your body is responding to treatment.
Living Healthy with Diabetes Diabetes, possibly more than any other chronic disease, can be successfully managed with healthy lifestyle choices and the appropriate medical attention and monitoring. The more you know about your condition and the steps you need to take to regulate your blood glucose, the healthier, more fulfilling your life can be.