Managing Diabetes Takes a WHOLE-istic Approach to Health

By Kim Thomas of US Health Corps

For people with diabetes, keeping close tabs on blood sugar levels is essential, even when they’re feeling fine. But there is much more to managing the chronic condition than simply monitoring glucose levels and managing medications. Your diet, lifestyle, and even your support system can have a huge impact on how successful you are in dealing with diabetes. Here are some key areas to consider if you’ve been diagnosed.

Seeking Support from Family

Research has shown family members’ behaviors can have a significantly impact how well adults with diabetes control the condition. For example, family members could subtly sabotage a person’s efforts to control blood sugar levels by tempting them with unhealthy treats from their favorite restaurants, bakeries, and bars or neglecting to pack healthy foods and drinks for family picnics, according to a study from Vanderbilt University.

At the same time, supportive family members could contribute to care by taking some simple steps. For example, if you tend to forget to take medications while at dining out, ask family members to bring along a backup supply and remind you to take meds on schedule until it becomes a healthy habit for life.

Watching Your Weight

Losing weight can boost your insulin sensitivity and help control blood sugar levels, but experts advise against skipping meals to shed pounds. In fact, if you take rapid-acting insulin and don’t eat anything or eat less than expected, your blood sugar could drop to dangerously low levels.

Instead, you should opt for meals that are around the same size with a similar healthy carbohydrate content throughout the day. Try to strike a balance between healthy fats and proteins and  less-processed carbs that are high in fiber. Fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans are good carb choices for everyone, especially those with diabetes.

Staying Strong

Exercise is also a critical component to weight control and can lower your blood glucose for up to 24 hours after each session. Walking and biking are great options for aerobic exercise, and your routine should also incorporate strength training. Strength training builds and maintain lean muscle mass, which boosts insulin sensitivity. Simple strength training moves might include bicep curls and shoulder raises with an inexpensive set of hand weights or performing push ups and other old-school exercises that use your own bodyweight to build muscle mass.

Getting Healthy Hydration

Many people with diabetes understand the importance of avoiding sugary drinks such as juice and non-diet soda to keep their blood sugar levels where they should be. But they might not know how other beverages, such as alcohol, can impact them.

For you, the answers can depend on several factors, including whether your diabetes is under control and what medications you take to help keep it in check. For instance, if you’re on insulin or some oral diabetes medications, drinking could cause your blood sugar to plunge because it puts your liver to work removing the alcohol rather than doing its part to regulate blood sugar levels. This is especially true if you are drinking excessively or quickly.

Among other advice, The Diabetes Council recommends talking to your doctor about alcohol use, drinking in moderation if you do, and opting for calorie-free drink mixers, light beer, or wine spritzers when you are indulging in alcohol. It’s also worth noting that binge drinking and high alcohol consumption may increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, especially in women.

On most occasions, water is the best beverage choice for people with diabetes. Staying healthfully hydrated helps your kidneys flush out extra sugars in your bloodstream and encourages good blood flow, which helps carry diabetes management medications to the tissues and cells that need them.

While living with diabetes isn’t always a piece of cake — especially when the sweet treat itself is tempting you — healthy habits and a strong support system can make turning down that cake in favor of your waistline and your well-being a lot easier.

Kim Thomas’ mission is aligned with that of US Health Corps, and that is to triumph over chronic disease. Her mission is to advocate for those suffering from chronic disease and she enjoys writing about maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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