How to Control Diabetes

Changing your lifestyle could be a major step toward diabetes prevention — and it’s never too late to start. Consider these tips.

Lifestyle changes can help control the onset of type 2 diabetes, the most standard form of the disease. Prevention is especially necessary if you’re currently at a increased risk of type 2 diabetes because of surplus weight or obesity, high cholesterol, or a family history of diabetes.

If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes — high blood sugar that doesn’t reach the threshold of a diabetes diagnosis — lifestyle modifications can stop or delay the onset of the disease.

Creating a few changes in your lifestyle now may assist you avoid the serious health complications of diabetes in the future, such as nerve, kidney, and heart damage. It’s never too late to start.

1. Lose additional weight

Losing weight decreases the risk of diabetes. People in one large study lowered their risk of developing diabetes by almost 60% after losing about 7% of their body weight with changes in exercise and diet.

It is recommended that people with prediabetes should lose at least 7% to 10% of their body weight to stop disease progression. More weight loss will translate into even larger benefits.

Set a weight-loss goal based on your current body weight. Talk to your doctor about appropriate short-term goals and expectations, such as losing 1 to 2 pounds a week.

2. Be more physically active

There are numerous advantages to regular physical activity. Exercise can help you:

  • Lose weight
  • Reduce your blood sugar
  • Increase your sensitivity to insulin — which supports in keeping your blood sugar within a normal range

Goals for most adults to encourage weight loss and maintain a healthy weight contain:

  • Aerobic exercise. Aim for 30 minutes or more of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise — such as brisk walking, swimming, biking, or running — on most days for a total of at least 150 minutes a week.
  • Resistance exercise. Resistance exercise — at least 2 to 3 times a week — improves your strength, balance, and capacity to maintain an active life. Resistance training contains weightlifting, yoga, and calisthenics.
  • Limited inactivity. Breaking up long bouts of inactivity, such as sitting at the computer, can help regulate blood sugar levels. Take a few minutes to stand, walk around or do some light activity every 30 minutes.

3. Eat nutritious plant foods

Plants deliver vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates to your diet. Carbohydrates include sugars and starches — the energy sources for your body — and fibre. Dietary fibre, also called as roughage or bulk, is the part of plant foods your body can’t digest or absorb.

Fibre-rich foods boost weight loss and reduce the chance of diabetes. Eat a combination of healthy, fibre-rich foods, which contain:

  • Fruits, such as tomatoes, peppers, and fruit from trees
  • Nonstarchy vegetables, such as leafy greens, broccoli, and cauliflower
  • Legumes, such as beans, chickpeas, and lentils
  • Whole grains, such as whole-wheat pasta and bread, whole-grain rice, whole oats, and quinoa

The benefits of fibre include:

  • Slowing the absorption of sugars and decreasing blood sugar levels
  • Hindering with the absorption of dietary fat and cholesterol
  • Controlling other risk factors that affect heart health, such as blood pressure and inflammation
  • Allowing you eat less because fibre-rich foods are more filling and energy-rich.

Avoid foods that are “bad carbohydrates” — rich in sugar with little fibre or nutrients: white bread and pastries, pasta from white flour, fruit juices, and processed foods with sugar or high-fructose corn syrup.

4. Eat healthy fats

Fatty foods are rich in calories and should be eaten in moderation. To help lose and manage weight, your diet should contain a mixture of foods with unsaturated fats, sometimes called “good fats.”

Unsaturated fats — both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats — promote healthy blood cholesterol levels and a good heart and vascular health. Sources of good fats contain:

  • Olive, sunflower, safflower, cottonseed, and canola oils
  • Nuts and seeds, such as almonds, peanuts, flaxseed, and pumpkin seeds
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, and cod

Saturated fats, the “bad fats,” are found in dairy products and meats. These should be a small portion of your diet. You can limit saturated fats by eating low-fat dairy products and lean chicken and pork.

5. Skip fad diets and make healthier choices

Many fad diets — such as the glycemic index, paleo, or keto diets — may support you in lossing weight. There is little research, however, about the long-term advantages of these diets or their use in preventing diabetes.

Your dietary objective should be to lose weight and then maintain a healthier weight while moving forward. Healthy dietary decisions, therefore, ought to have a strategy that you can maintain as a lifelong habit. Making healthy decisions that mirror some of your choices for food and traditions may be useful for you over time.

One simple approach to aid you make good food choices and eat proper portion sizes is to divide up your plate. These three divisions on your plate promote healthy eating:

  • One-half: fruit and nonstarchy vegetables
  • One-quarter: whole grains
  • One-quarter: protein-rich foods, such as legumes, fish, or lean meats

6. Medication

Insulin and other diabetes medications are designed to lower your blood sugar levels when diet and exercise alone aren’t adequate for controlling diabetes. But the significance of these medications relies on the timing and size of the dose. Medications you take for ailments other than diabetes also can impact your blood sugar levels.

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What to do:

  • Store insulin correctly. Insulin that’s improperly stored or past its expiration date may not be effective. Insulin is quite sensitive to extremes in temperature.
  • Report concerns to your doctor. If your diabetes medications push your blood sugar level to drop too low or if it’s always too high, the dosage or timing may need to be changed.
  • Be careful with new medications. If you’re feeling an over-the-counter medication or your doctor prescribes a new drug to treat another condition — such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol — ask your doctor or pharmacist if the medication may impact your blood sugar levels.
  • Occasionally an alternate medication may be recommended. Always check with your doctor before accepting any new over-the-counter medication, so you know how it may affect your blood sugar level.

7. Illness

When you’re sick, your body begets stress-related hormones that allow your body fight the illness, but they also can increase your blood sugar level. Changes in your appetite and normal activity also may complicate diabetes management.

What to do:

  • Plan ahead. Work with your health care team to create a sick-day plan. Include instructions on what medications to take, how usually to measure your blood sugar and urine ketone levels, how to change your medication dosages, and when to call your doctor.
  • Continue to take your diabetes medication. However, if you’re incapable to eat because of nausea or vomiting, contact your doctor. In these cases, you may require to adjust your insulin dose or temporarily reduce or withhold short-acting insulin or diabetes medication because of a risk of hypoglycemia. However, do not stop your long-acting insulin. During times of illness, it is necessary to monitor your blood sugars frequently, and your doctor may instruct you also to check your urine for the presence of ketones.
  • Adhere to your diabetes meal plan. If you can, eating, as usual, will enable you manage your blood sugar levels. Keep a supply of foods that are easy on your stomachs, such as gelatin, crackers, soups, and applesauce.
  • Drink tons of water or other fluids that don’t add calories, such as tea, to make sure you stay hydrated. If you’re taking insulin, you may require to sip sugar-sweetened beverages, such as juice or a sports drink, to keep your blood sugar level from dropping too low.

8. Alcohol

The liver normally discharges stored sugar to counteract decreasing blood sugar levels. But if your liver is busy metabolizing alcohol, your blood sugar level may not get the growth it requires from your liver. Alcohol can result in low blood sugar shortly after you drink it and for as long as 24 hours afterward.

What to do:

  • Get your doctor’s OK to drink alcohol. Alcohol can worsen diabetes difficulties, such as nerve injury and eye disease. But if your diabetes is under control and your doctor agrees, an occasional alcoholic drink is fine.
  • Moderate alcohol consumption is described as no more than one drink a day for women of any age and men over 65 years old and two drinks a day for men under 65. One drink equals a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
  • Don’t drink alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach. If you take insulin or other diabetes medications, be sure to eat before you drink, or drink with a meal to control low blood sugar.
  • Choose your drinks wisely. Light beer and dry wines have fewer calories and carbohydrates than other alcoholic drinks. If you prefer mixed drinks, sugar-free mixers — such as diet soda, diet tonic, club soda, or seltzer — won’t increase your blood sugar.
  • Calculate your calories. Remember to have the calories from any alcohol you drink in your daily calorie count. Ask your doctor or dietitian how to include calories and carbohydrates from alcoholic drinks into your diet plan.
  • Check your blood sugar level before bed. Because alcohol can decrease blood sugar levels long after you’ve had your last drink, check your blood sugar level before you go to sleep. If your blood sugar isn’t between 100 and 140 mg/dL (5.6 and 7.8 mmol/L), have a snack before bed to counter a drop in your blood sugar level.

9. Menstruation and menopause

Changes in hormone levels the week before and during menstruation can result in substantial fluctuations in blood sugar levels.

What to do:

  • Look for patterns. Keep thorough track of your blood sugar readings from month to month. You may be able to anticipate fluctuations related to your menstrual cycle.
  • Change your diabetes treatment plan as required. Your doctor may suggest changes in your meal plan, activity level, or diabetes medications to make up for blood sugar variation.
  • Check blood sugar more often. If you’re likely approaching menopause or undergoing menopause, talk to your doctor about whether you need to watch your blood sugar level more frequently. Signs of menopause can occasionally be confused with symptoms of low blood sugar, so whenever possible, check your blood sugar before treating a presumed low to ensure the low blood sugar level.

Most forms of birth control can be used by women with diabetes without a problem. However, oral contraceptives may increase blood sugar levels in some women.

10. Stress

If you’re worried, the hormones your body makes in response to extended stress may cause a rise in your blood sugar level. Additionally, it may be harder to closely follow your usual diabetes management routine if you’re under a lot of extra pressure.

What to do:

  • Look for patterns. Log your stress level on a scale of 1 to 10 each time you log your blood sugar level. A pattern may soon appear.
  • Take control. Once you know how stress impacts your blood sugar level, fight back. Learn relaxation strategies, prioritize your tasks and set limits. Whenever possible, avoid common stressors. Exercise can usually help reduce stress and decrease your blood sugar level.
  • Get help. Learn new techniques for managing with stress. You may find that operating with a psychologist or clinical social worker can help you identify stressors, solve stressful situations or learn new coping skills.

The more you know about elements that affect your blood sugar level, the more you can predict fluctuations — and plan accordingly. If you’re having trouble maintaining your blood sugar level in your target range, ask your diabetes health care team for help.


The Bottom Line

There are numerous ways to naturally manage your blood sugar levels.

Many of them contain creating lifestyle changes, like controlling your weight, stress levels, and sleep quality, exercising, and staying hydrated. That said, some of the biggest gains have to do with your dietary preferences.

Be sure to talk with your healthcare professional before making lifestyle changes or trying new supplements— particularly if you have issues with blood sugar management or are carrying medicines.