QuickRead MedCheck – Diabetes, Part 2: Lifestyle Modifications

Contributor: James “Dr. J” Agtuca

 

                  Welcome back to QuickRead MedCheck for the second part of our discussion on diabetes!  Let’s dive into those questions I proposed at the end of my last article: “What does good metabolic control mean?” and “How does one lower their A1C level?”  Now, remember that keeping blood sugar at target levels helps prevent serious health complications.  Refer to the fourth paragraph from my last article for a breakdown on micro- and macrovascular complications that commonly occur in pre-diabetic and diabetic individuals. (Also recall that for every percentage point reduction in A1C level, the risk of microvascular and neuropathic complications is reduced by 40%, with every 1% reduction contributing to long-term reduction in risk of macrovascular and cardiovascular events such as heart attack.)

Whether you’re diabetic or not, I now present to you seven (7) simple ways by which you can lower elevated blood glucose (or “sugar”) levels and, ultimately, reduce the risk of medical issues down the road.

                  Tip #1 – Reduce carbohydrate intake. Researchers have carried out studies showing that eating a low-carbohydrate, high-protein diet reduces blood sugar levels.  The body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars that the body uses as energy.  Some carbohydrates are necessary in the diet; however, for pre-diabetic or diabetic individuals, eating too many carbohydrates can cause blood sugar to spike very high.  Reducing the amounts of carbohydrates a person eats reduces the amount a person’s blood sugar spikes.

                  Tip #2 – Eat the right carbohydrates.  The two main kinds of carbohydrates — simple and complex — affect blood sugar levels differently.  Simple carbohydrates are mainly made up of one kind of sugar. They are found in foods such as white bread, pasta, and candy.  The body breaks these carbohydrates down into sugar very quickly, which causes blood sugar levels to rise rapidly.  Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, are made up of three or more sugars that are linked together.  Because the chemical makeup of these kinds of carbohydrates is complicated, it takes the body longer to break them down.  As a result, sugar is released into the body more gradually, meaning that blood sugar levels do not rapidly rise after eating them.  Examples of complex carbohydrates include whole grain oats and sweet potatoes.

                  Tip #3 – Choose low glycemic index foods. The glycemic index measures and ranks various foods by how much they cause blood sugar levels to rise. Research shows that following a low glycemic index diet decreases fasting blood sugar levels.  Low glycemic foods are those that score below 55 on the glycemic index.  Examples of low glycemic foods include: sweet potatoes, quinoa, legumes, leafy greens, nuts/seeds, and fish.

                  Tip #4 – Increase dietary fiber intake. Fiber plays a significant role in blood sugar management by slowing down the rate at which carbohydrates break down… and the rate at which the body absorbs the resulting sugars.  The two types of fiber are soluble and insoluble fiber. Of the two types, soluble fiber is the most helpful in controlling blood sugar.  Soluble fiber is in the following foods: vegetables, whole grains, and fruit.

                  Tip #5 – Maintain a healthy weight.  Losing weight helps control blood sugar levels. Being overweight is linked to increased incidents of diabetes and greater occurrences of insulin resistance. Studies show that reducing weight by only 7 percent can reduce the chances of developing diabetes by 58 percent. [It is important to note that a person does not need to achieve ideal body weight to benefit from losing 10-20 pounds and keeping it off.]  Weight reduction also improves cholesterol control, reduces the risk of health complications, and improves a person’s general sense of wellbeing.  Eating a healthful diet full of fruits and vegetables — and getting enough exercise — can help a person lose weight or maintain their currently healthy weight.

                  Tip #6 – Exercise regularly.  Exercise has many benefits for people with diabetes [or without!], including weight loss and increased insulin sensitivity.  Insulin is a hormone that helps people break down sugars in the body.  People with diabetes either do not make enough or any insulin in their body… or are resistant to the insulin the body does produce.  Exercise also helps to lower blood sugar levels by encouraging the body’s muscles to utilize sugar for energy.

                  Tip #7 – Hydrate.  Proper hydration is key to a healthful lifestyle.  For people worried about lowering high blood sugar, it is crucial. Drinking enough water prevents dehydration and also helps the kidneys remove extra sugar from the body in the urine. Those looking to reduce blood sugar levels should reach for water and avoid all sugary drinks, such as fruit juice or soda, which may raise blood sugar levels instead.  People with diabetes should reduce alcohol intake to the equivalent of one drink per day for women and two for men unless other restrictions apply.

                  I, myself, struggled with high blood sugar levels when I was pre-diabetic — amongst other health conditions like hypertensive (elevated blood pressure) and obese/overweight — and “trapped” within a sedentary lifestyle.  From someone who’s since adopted the above tips and successfully maintained a more health-conscious approach to eating and exercising, I sincerely hope you make any necessary adjustments to ensure improvements to your overall wellbeing! Come back to the Nu-U Fitness blog in 2 weeks for a surprise follow-up to this article!

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