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Diabetes and Weight Loss

There's no question about it. If you're overweight and have type 2 diabetes, dropping pounds lowers your blood sugar, improves your health, and helps you feel better.

You'll want to work closely with your doctor or diabetes educator, because while you're losing weight, your blood sugar, insulin, and medications need special attention.

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In every issue of WebMD the Magazine, we ask our experts to answer readers' questions about a wide range of topics. In our July/August 2012 issue, we asked WebMD's diabetes expert, Michael Dansinger, MD, about the link between diabetes and poor sleep.  Q: I have diabetes, and I'm not sleeping well. Are the two related, and what can I do? A: Yes, people with diabetes often have reduced sleep quality and quantity. Sleep apnea, medications, lack of exercise, and abnormal glucose and hormone...

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No matter what you weigh now, losing weight will make a difference.

Losing even 10 or 15 pounds has health benefits, according to the American Diabetes Association. It can:

  • Lower blood sugar
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Improve cholesterol levels
  • Lighten the stress on hips, knees, ankles, and feet

Plus, you'll probably have more energy, get around easier, and breathe easier.

The Right Balance for Diabetes and Weight Loss

It's important to keep tight glucose control while you lose weight. You don't want to run the risk of high or low blood sugar while you change your eating habits.

Cutting 500 calories a day is generally safe for someone with diabetes. When you're choosing which calories to cut, cut them across the board: from protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Ideally, your calories should come from:

  • 50% to 55% carbs
  • 30% fat
  • 10% to 15% protein

Carbs have the biggest effect on blood sugar. Eating complex carbs (whole-grain bread and vegetables, for example) is better than eating simple carbs like cake, because they are absorbed more slowly into the bloodstream, cutting your risk of blood sugar spikes.

Exercise, Diabetes, and Weight Loss

One of the benefits of exercise is that it helps keep your blood sugar in balance, so you won't have to cut as many calories. Walking an extra 20 minutes a day lets you eat a little bit more. Instead of cutting 500 calories, depending on your level of exercise, you can cut back just 200 or 300 calories and still lose weight while controlling your blood sugar. And the pounds will be more likely to stay off if you lose them slowly and safely.

Keep in mind: Each type of exercise affects blood sugar differently.

Aerobic exercise -- running or a treadmill workout -- can lower your blood sugar immediately.

Weightlifting or working out hard for a long time may affect your blood sugar level many hours later. This can be a problem, especially when you're driving a car after your workout. It's one of the many reasons that you should check your blood sugar before driving. It's also a good idea to carry snacks such as fruit, crackers, juice, and soda in the car.

Physical activity burns both blood sugar and sugar stored in muscle and the liver. If you use insulin or other diabetes medicines, you should closely monitor your blood sugar levels when you start exercising. Over time, as you exercise regularly and work with your doctor, you'll be able to lower doses of medications and insulin.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on June 04, 2013

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
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Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

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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