By Angelina Renteria
Many individuals have a connection with diabetes; either they have a relative who has it or know of someone who is affected by it, but what exactly is diabetes and how does nutrition and exercise play a vital role in managing it? In order to understand this concept, let’s address the basics of diabetes and how blood glucose functions in relation to this condition.
Diabetes is a condition in which your body is not able to produce enough insulin, causing blood glucose levels to be very high. Blood glucose, also referred to as blood sugar, is a driving force for our bodies to function.
There are 3 main types of diabetes - Type 1, which is insulin dependent, meaning the body does not produce insulin; Type 2, which is insulin resistant, meaning the body does not use insulin properly; and Gestational Diabetes, found during pregnancy, which starts when your body is not able to make and use all the insulin it needs for pregnancy. t is important that everyone understands what affects glucose levels, but especially important for those living with diabetes.
One option as a first line of defense for a person living with diabetes is to manage the condition using diet and exercise. It is important for those affected by diabetes to have blood glucose levels under control as reactions to low or high glucose levels will vary. Over time responses from dangerous levels left without medical attention can result in severe complications, for example, infection, diabetic coma or in extreme cases, death. A healthy diet and exercise is one of the most effective ways to manage blood glucose levels and prevent complications.
To prevent and treat diabetes, keep glucose levels under control by following these simple guidelines:
1) Stick to the healthy-plate method to keep your diet well balanced and glucose levels under control. Pairing carbohydrate and protein foods can aid in slowing the of absorption of glucose into the bloodstream.
• 1/2 of the plate should consist of non-starchy vegetables
• 1/4 of the plate should have lean protein (turkey, fish, chicken)
• 1/4 of the plate should have carbs (bread, pasta, potatoes)
2) Never skip breakfast as it is the most important meal of the day. Skipping meals or not eating enough can result in poorly managed blood glucose.
3) Understand the way your body functions. Check blood sugar levels before, during and after physical activity to monitor how your body reacts and adjust insulin, diabetes medications or food according to your body’s needs.
4) Partake in various forms of exercise as it aids in the management of blood glucose levels and, for Type 2 and Gestational Diabetes, increases insulin sensitivity.
• Walking is the simplest and most effective exercise to manage blood glucose. It is a great option especially for those who are beginning a new exercise program.
• Note: For some individuals, high intensity physical activities may elicit a stress response, which may be responsible for elevating blood sugar. To avoid this response, it is recommended that intensity levels increase slowly as the body’s fitness level increase.
• Stress Management techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises can help prevent high glucose levels due to stress. 5) When engaging in exercise, the recommended pre-exercise blood sugar range for individuals with diabetes is between 100 and 249. Therefore, should your blood sugar be below 100, do not exercise. Eat a healthy carbohydrate snack to increase your levels, re-test after approximately 15 minutes to ensure you are within the recommended range. Once within range, begin your workout. Should your pre-exercise blood sugar level be greater than 249, you may face various risks and should consult with your doctor.to determine the reason for the elevated levels.
6) It is important to remember that while diet and exercise aid in the management of diabetes, there are also other treatment methods, for example oral medication and insulin that may be used in conjunction with exercise. Additionally, Type 1 requires the use of insulin at all times. The required dosing for Type 1 will depend on several factors including diet, energy expenditure and other factors.
7) It is advised that you work with a medical professional, Certified Diabetes Educator or Registered Dietitian to better understand how food fuels the body and effects blood glucose levels.
By applying the above points, those affected by diabetes can keep the diagnosis under control. Understanding the way the body naturally functions by regularly checking blood glucose levels is a good preliminary step to managing diabetes. For those without diabetes, applying the above points can aid in the prevention of a future diagnosis. Please note that those affected by diabetes should work closely with their doctors in managing the diagnosis.
Angelina Renteria is Senior Manager of Mission Delivery at the Greater San Diego Area of the American Diabetes Association. You may contact Angelina at (619)234-9897 or firstname.lastname@example.org.