Understanding Diabetes -- Diagnosis and Treatment
Nutrition and Meal Timing for Diabetes
Eat a balanced diet is vital for people who have diabetes, so work with your doctor or dietitian to set up a menu plan. If you have type 1 diabetes, the timing of your insulin dosage is determined by activity and diet. When you eat and how much you eat are just as important as what you eat. Usually, doctors recommend three small meals and three to four snacks every day to maintain the proper balance between sugar and insulin in the blood.
A healthy balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats in your diet will help keep your blood glucose on target. How much of each will depend on many factors, including your weight and your personal preferences. Watching your carbohydrates -- knowing how much you need and how many you are eating -- is key to blood sugar control. If you are overweight, either a low-carbohydrate, low-fat/low calorie, or Mediterranean diet may help you get your weight to goal. No more than 7% of your diet should come from saturated fat, and you should try to avoid trans fats altogether.
Exercise for Diabetes
Another crucial element in a treatment program for diabetes is exercise. With either type of diabetes, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. Exercise improves your body's use of insulin and may lower blood sugar levels. To prevent your blood sugar from falling to dangerously low levels, check your blood sugar and, if necessary, eat a carbohydrate snack about half an hour before exercising. If you start to feel symptoms of low blood sugar (called hypoglycemia), stop exercising and have a carbohydrate snack or drink. Wait 15 minutes and check again. Have another snack again if it is still too low.
Exercise helps some people with type 2 diabetes lower their blood glucose levels and may help prevent the disease in those at risk.
For people with either type of diabetes, exercise can lower the chance of having a heart attack or stroke and can improve circulation. It may offer stress relief, as well. People with type 2 diabetes who need to lose weight can benefit from moderate exercise. Most people with diabetes are encouraged to get at least 150 minutes each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, like walking. Strength training is often recommended at least twice a week. Talk to your doctor about what type of exercise is right for you.
Lifestyle Changes for Diabetes
It is a good idea to wear a MedicAlert bracelet or tag that says you have diabetes. This will make others aware of your condition in case you have a severe hypoglycemic attack and are not able to make yourself understood, or if you are in an accident and need emergency medical care. Identifying yourself as having diabetes is important because hypoglycemic attacks can be mistaken for drunkenness, and victims often aren't able to care for themselves. Without prompt treatment, hypoglycemia can result in a coma or seizures. And, because your body is under increased stress when you are ill or injured, your blood sugar levels will need to be checked by the medical personnel who give you emergency care.
Be sure to take good care of your teeth and floss regularly. Diabetes can worsen gum disease.