Nowadays, it seems like diabetes is so common that it’s everywhere. Most people either know someone who’s living with diabetes or are living with diabetes themselves. It’s a sad reality to live in when diabetes caused 5 million deaths around the world in 2014 – and that number is only going up.
For Australia, this week (July 12-18, 2015) is National Diabetes Week but the message should really be spread worldwide. No matter what country you’re from or live in, diabetes can affect you or your love ones. So this week, we’re focusing on how to prevent diabetes and some management tips for living with diabetes.
What are the risk factors for diabetes?
If your blood sugar levels are high but not quite high enough to be considered diabetic, then you probably fall into a group known as pre-diabetic. These are people who are at higher risk for developing diabetes but the risk factors for both groups are pretty similar:
- Being overweight
- Being physically inactive
- Eating an unbalanced diet
- Having high triglycerides and high cholesterol
- Having high blood pressure
- Having a family history of diabetes
- Having experienced gestational diabetes (for women)
Being pre-diabetic doesn’t necessarily mean you will definitely develop diabetes, it just means you’re at a higher risk than those with normal blood sugar levels. So how do you avoid it? As with many chronic illnesses like heart disease, the most important factors are lifestyle changes like eating healthy and exercising regularly.
The first line of defense is portion size. Limiting the total number of calories and amount of food intake is important. Try to mix up your meals with starches, fruits, vegetables, good fats, and proteins.
But eating healthy with diabetes isn’t the same when you’re just trying to shed a few pounds for beach season, it’s important to learn how different food affect your blood sugar and how the combination of different foods can affect your health.
Carbohydrates have the biggest impact on blood sugar. If carbohydrates are unavoidable, try substituting with whole wheat grains instead.
Always avoid sugary drinks, including those with high fructose corn syrup or sucrose. Sugar not only has no health benefits, but it also raises blood sugar too quickly. The only exception to this is if you’re experiencing low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia), then a few sips can help you maintain a proper blood sugar level.
Regular physical activity has all sorts of benefits on your body but particularly in diabetes. When you exercise, your body uses up glucose, or sugar, for energy so it helps to maintain your blood sugar level. The harder your workout, the better the results – but don’t overdo it to cause any form of injury. And that doesn’t necessarily mean lifting weights or running, even smaller tasks like vacuuming or gardening can help. The important thing is trying to do at least 30 mins of physical activity each day – once you get into a routine, it’ll become much easier to keep it up!
Doctors, nutritionists, or dietitians can help you set up a proper workout plan or meal plan. Or if other forms of managing your blood sugar are necessary, like medications, always talk with your doctor first.
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