A passionate diabetes patient-expert shares small but powerful changes that can help people with diabetes lead a happier, healthier life.
Each year, we spend upward of a dozen hours with our healthcare providers, leaving more than 8,700 hours that we must take care of our diabetes.
The decisions we make every day, such as whether to follow a healthy diet, make time to be active, adhere to our medication schedule, implement lifestyle changes to improve our lab results, and maintain a positive attitude — can have a major impact on our health with diabetes.
As someone who speaks to patients and healthcare providers at conferences and health events, I’ve seen that many people with diabetes are confused about how to manage their disease. I’ve heard people ask, “Can I ever eat another piece of fried chicken?” and “Why is my doctor putting me on another pill if my blood sugar is perfect in the morning?”
Unfortunately, most people with diabetes lack the information they need to create their best health and prevent complications. Having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 18, I live by my personal mantra: “Learn, learn, learn, and do.”
Whether you have recently been diagnosed or you have been living with diabetes for decades, these seven health must-dos can help you begin to take better care of yourself — and enjoy life more, starting today.
1. Say Goodbye to Diets
Diets don’t work. At best, they’re a temporary fix — most people regain the weight they lose, and more. Carrying extra weight, particularly around your midsection, can make you resistant to insulin, but the solution isn’t a restrictive diet. Instead, limit your portion sizes, and replace one or two unhealthy foods you eat with healthier food choices each week.
2. Get the Real Skinny on Fat
To help Americans drop pounds, the weight-loss industry once told us that fat was the enemy. Yet, as a nation, we are now fatter than ever. While it’s true that carbohydrates contain fewer calories per gram than fats, carbohydrates that we eat but don’t burn for energy are stored in the body as fat — and they may be just as responsible for contributing to weight gain.
3. Shun ‘Made for Diabetics’ Foods
No one needs to eat fare labeled this way. And compared with the original foods they’re replacing, they often contain more carbohydrates or fat. Plus, many sugar-free foods contain sugar alcohols, which can cause stomach distress.
4. Know How to Delay or Prevent Diabetes Complications
Over time, high blood sugar can lead to complications, like heart disease, kidney damage, foot ulcers, amputation, nerve damage, and vision loss. According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), the best way to reduce your risk of complications is to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range. For most people, that means targeting a blood sugar between 70 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and 130 mg/dL first thing in the morning and before meals, and under 180 mg/dL two hours after a meal.