Diabetes is a growing concern… Over 34 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes and more people don’t even know they are at risk for developing it. This month is National Diabetes Month so I thought it would be beneficial to discuss the ins and outs of diabetes.
There are different types of diabetes, but they all have something to do with the body’s ability to make and use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and it helps the body to store and use the energy you get from food. When you have diabetes, the ability to transport insulin is compromised and causes glucose (sugar) to collect in the blood. This will cause damage to be done in the body so your risk of heart attack or stroke increases. There’s also the risk of damaging the kidneys, eyes, and nerves. So it is beneficial to understand the types and risks.
The good news, if you develop diabetes due to diet and lack of exercise, is it is reversible! So let’s get to it so you have a better understanding.
3 Types of Diabetes
- Type 1 – This one is usually diagnosed as a child. The pancreas either doesn’t make insulin or it doesn’t make enough. A small percentage of adults have this type and it can’t be prevented or reversed.
- Type 2 – This is the most common type. The pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin or the body isn’t able to use the insulin that it makes. Most people that get this type are overweight with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25 or more. Other risk factors include a family history of diabetes, history of gestational diabetes, age, and lack of physical activity.
- Gestational – This one happens during pregnancy. The body doesn’t make enough insulin. There is a great risk to the baby if a woman gets gestational diabetes. The baby can be at higher birth weight and will have an increased risk of having diabetes. This type usually goes away after the baby is born, however the risk of getting type 2 diabetes increases.
Believe it or not, if you are diagnosed with type 2 or if you have been diagnosed with “pre-diabetes” you can make changes to your lifestyle to reverse it or prevent it from getting worse. By changing your diet and becoming more physically active, you will lose weight (bringing down your BMI) and lower your risk. If you need assistance with figuring out what changes you need to make, schedule a consultation with a dietitian like me.
Knowing the signs and symptoms to look for will help you greatly in knowing if you need help. Some symptoms include:
- Using the bathroom frequently
- Feeling unusually thirsty
- Losing weight for no reason
- Blurred vision
- Frequently sick
- Feeling numbness in the feet or hands (poor circulation)
If you have these symptoms, you need to see a doctor immediately. They will most likely run some tests like the fasting plasma glucose, A1C, or oral glucose tolerance test. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you should meet with a registered dietitian to help manage your blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of complications.
Tips for healthy eating to manage diabetes
- Limit foods and beverages that have added sugars. I’m a big fan of sparkling waters. There’s a lot of great ones out there. I particularly like Waterloo. I also like the idea of flavoring water. To get great ways of flavoring your water, click here.
- Decrease the portion sizes
- Choose whole grains, fruits, and veggies and limit refined, processed carbs
- Eat less saturated fat and increase the good healthy fats like avocado
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Watch your salt intake
In addition to healthy eating, you should also be physically active. Exercise may improve your diabetes. By walking, jogging, or riding a bike, your heart rate increases. Therefore, blood is pumping through your body more efficiently which will help your body use insulin better. Blood gets to all the major organs like the kidneys and brain. This will help keep your organs healthy. Physical activity will help decrease your risk of cardiovascular disease by improving your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. It will also help reduce your stress level. Stress has been shown to increase your risk of developing diabetes, so it’s a good idea to exercise to decrease it! Before starting any new exercise program, please speak with your doctor.
For more tips, schedule an appointment with me or another dietitian. We can discuss your current diet and lifestyle and I can create a meal plan for you that will help manage your blood glucose and get you on the right track to a healthy lifestyle.
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