Top tips for Diabetes Prevention and Management

November is National Diabetes Month!

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Diabetes is a chronic health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. Over time diabetes can cause serious health problems, such as heart diseasevision loss, and kidney disease.

There are two different types of diabetes - Type 1 and Type 2 and there are different risk factors associated with each type.

Risks for Type 1 Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is caused by an immune reaction which means the body attacks itself by mistake. Risk factors for type 1 diabetes are not as clear as for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes. Known risk factors include:

  • Family history: having a parent or sibling with type 1 diabetes.
  • Age: you can get type 1 diabetes at any age, but it’s more likely to develop when you’re a child, teen, or young adult.

Risks for Type 2 Diabetes

You are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes if you:

  • Have prediabetes
  • Are overweight
  • Are 45 years or older
  • Have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes
  • Are physically active less than 3 times a week
  • Have ever had gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or given birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds
  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, or Alaska Native (some Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans are also at higher risk)
  • If you have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Currently, there are no known ways to prevent Type 1 diabetes. However, there are measures you can take to help prevent Type 2 and manage both types to minimize complications. Discipline and lifestyle choices have a significant impact, and an overall balanced and healthy lifestyle is the best way to help prevent (Type 2) and manage diabetes.

By paying attention to lifestyle choices, you can make great improvements in your overall health. Keep in mind, nobody is perfect! Even small improvements can have a significant impact.

6 essential lifestyle choices to monitor daily, helping to prevent (Type 2) and manage diabetes:

  1. Healthy Diet

Paying attention to your diet is critical when you have diabetes. What you eat directly affects your blood sugar level. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains along with low fat dairy products and lean protein such as fish and chicken. Be sure to limit foods that are high in sugar and fat and remember that complex carbohydrates like brown rice and sweet potatoes are far better than simple carbohydrates like chips and cookies.   Carbohydrates turn into sugar, so watch your carb intake. Keeping your weight within a healthy range is very important.

  1. Exercise

Don’t beat yourself up if you are not active now! Simply start an exercise routine at your own current physical level. You will see that with the continued routine, exercise will become easier, and you will be able to add more as the weeks go by. You don't have to join a gym and do cross-training. Just take a walk, ride a bike, go for a hike in nature, or consider playing a sport like tennis or golf. The goal is to be active and not sedentary for a minimum of 30 minutes, most days of the week. Any activity that makes you sweat and breathe is great. An active lifestyle will help you control diabetes by bringing down blood sugar and lowers your chances of getting heart disease. Added benefits are potential weight loss and stress reduction.

  1. Regular check-ups

Diabetes raises your odds for other diseases such as heart disease, eye disease, nerve damage, kidney disease, and other complications so be sure to see your doctor at least twice a year, with a full physical and blood drawn at least annually. Be your own health advocate and learn your numbers such as cholesterol, blood pressure, A1c (average blood sugar over a 3-month period), and your healthy target weight. Get an annual full eye exam and see a podiatrist if you experience foot ulcers or nerve pain.

  1. Stress management

With high levels of stress, your body releases more cortisol, the stress hormone. And, a higher cortisol level causes the body to decrease insulin secretion.1  Chronic stress can lead to prolonged high levels of cortisol and lower insulin secretion, with higher sugar levels in the long run. This makes stress both dangerous for those with diabetes and a possible risk factor for triggering the onset of diabetes.1  Stress prevention and management is very important for diabetics. Exercise and mindfulness practices such as yoga and meditation are great tools to help manage stress. It’s an impossible task to avoid all stressful situations. Planning, establishing healthy boundaries and implementing stress-reduction tools can help.

  1. Quit nicotine use (smoking, vaping, e-cigarettes)

According to the CDC, people who smoke cigarettes are 30%–40% more likely to develop type 2 diabetes than people who don’t smoke. And people with diabetes who smoke are more likely than those who don’t smoke to have trouble with insulin dosing and with managing their condition. Diabetes makes you more likely to have health problems like heart diseaseeye disease, strokekidney diseaseblood vessel disease, nerve damage, and foot problems. If you use nicotine your chance of having these problems is even higher. There are many options to help you quit using nicotine. Make quitting a priority and talk with your doctor about your best plan.

  1. Limit alcohol intake

Not only is alcohol high in calories, but it can also affect blood sugar levels. While moderate amounts of alcohol may cause blood sugar to rise, excess alcohol can actually decrease your blood sugar level causing hypoglycemia. According to Diabetes Education Online, if you are managing your diabetes with diet and exercise alone, drinking alcohol can still increase your risk of low blood sugars. And if you take insulin or types of diabetes pills that stimulate insulin production, drinking alcohol can lead to even more serious low blood sugar reactions. So, if you choose to drink, don't overdo it. The American Diabetes Association says that women should have no more than one drink a day and men should have no more than two.

  1. Kamba A, Daimon M, Murakami H, Otaka H, Matsuki K, et al. Association between higher serum cortisol levels and decreased insulin secretion in a general population.PLoS One. 2016 Nov 18;11(11):e0166077. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0166077
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