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Diabetes Medications and Diet: Synergistic Success

Help diabetes drugs do their job. A high-fiber diabetes diet and regular exercise are key.

Lose the Weight, Take Less Diabetes Medication continued...

An NIH-funded clinical trial, the Diabetes Prevention Program, helped show the positive effects of healthy lifestyle changes. A significant number of patients in the study were able to reduce their diabetes risk with a healthy diet and regular exercise like brisk walking -- about 150 minutes a week.

In the early stages of diabetes, weight loss can also help reduce the dosage of diabetes medications you're taking, Peters tells WebMD. "I can't guarantee you will get completely off pills if you lose weight. But it's likely you will need less medicine. It depends on where you are in the disease process, because diabetes gets worse over the years."

Diabetes Diet and Insulin: Better Mealtime Control

Sticking with your diabetes diet makes it easier to calculate mealtime insulin. With new forms of insulin -- including small "pens" to give injections -- even taking your insulin is hassle-free. If you're out with friends, no one needs to know you're doing it.

Today's very rapid-acting insulin can be given with a meal or immediately afterward. "You need to make sure you eat within 10 minutes of taking insulin. These insulins act very quickly, so if you don't eat right away you'll have a low blood sugar reaction. The insulin will start working before food is absorbed," Nathan explains.

Insulin pens are nothing like the needles and insulin vials used in the past. The pens are small, and operate like fountain pens with cartridges -- an easy way to give yourself an injection to keep blood sugar under control.

Insulin pumps are another advance -- delivering a constant, computerized trickle of rapid-acting insulin into your bloodstream. At mealtime, you calculate the extra insulin dose you need to match carbs in the meal.

"A patient with an insulin pump often ends up needing less insulin overall," Peters tells WebMD. "It allows us to fine-tune insulin doses, so there's more flexibility and success in general. But to do it right, the patient needs a dietitian and diabetes educator. It takes a lot of education."

Diabetes Diet and Exercise Basics

Be sure to tell your doctor if you're starting a diet and exercise plan. "We can adjust insulin doses for your exercise," Peters tells WebMD. "Let's say you get an insulin shot before breakfast, but you're going to start exercising after breakfast. I might have you take half the dose before breakfast, so you're not too low while you exercise."

The mantra from diabetes experts:

Eat healthy: Get plenty of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and low-fat dairy.

Focus on fiber: Eat "real food," not processed food. Spinach, broccoli, and other colorful veggies should be staples. Feast on berries -- they're highly nutritious, high-fiber, and won't really affect your blood sugar despite their sweetness. Choose brown rice, whole-wheat tortillas, whole-grain bread, oatmeal. If you buy canned fruits or veggies, read labels closely to make sure there's no added sodium or sugar.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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