Newsletters & Publications
LIVING WITH DIABETES
Balance your Blood Glucose with
Good Nutrition, Exercise, and Medication
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disorder of blood sugar regulation. In other words,
your body does not produce any or enough (type 1) or properly use
insulin (type 2) to effectively control your blood glucose level.
Diabetes is a very common disease. In the United States alone,
there are over 8 million people who are diagnosed with diabetes,
and it is estimated that there are another 8 million undiagnosed
diabetics. Currently, there is no cure; however, once you have
been diagnosed, it is possible to control this disease and live
a healthy life. First, take an active role in managing your diabetes
by discussing your condition with your doctor, diabetes educator,
or dietitian to develop a comprehensive treatment program you can
live with. Diet, exercise, and drugs are three critical components
of effectively treating diabetes.
According to the National Institutes of Health, an average American
with diabetes spends over $11,000 annually on diabetes treatment.
In the past 100 years, dietary treatment for diabetes
has changed greatly. For a long time the typical "diabetic diet" was
very restrictive. But, because of new research findings, the American
Diabetes Association has liberalized its guidelines. Now individuals
are encouraged to follow a diet that can help them control their
blood glucose and prevent long term complications of the disease.
People with diabetes, especially newly diagnosed patients, are
strongly encouraged to see a registered dietitian (R.D.) to help
them develop an eating plan that fits their own individual needs.
This diet will consist of a variety of foods found in the Food
Guide Pyramid. Whole grain products from the bread group, and fruits
and vegetables will make up the bulk of your meals. Fiber in these
foods will delay your blood sugar from rising too quickly, as well
as keeping the diet low-fat and nutrient rich. Foods from meat
and dairy groups should also be included. People with diabetes
usually are at higher risk for heart disease, thus a low-fat diet
(30% of calories from fat) is very appropriate for diabetics. Moderate
amounts of alcohol and sweets can occasionally be incorporated
into your diet. Your dietitian can help in fitting these items
into your dietary plan. Timing of meals is important in achieving
proper blood sugar levels, therefore eat and take your medications
at scheduled times.
Some diabetics will eat smaller meals and frequent
snacks instead of 3 full meals each day. This may help keep blood
sugar levels from peaking too quickly. Snacks or meals made with
eggs can easily satisfy your hunger without adversely increasing
blood sugar levels. Also, eggs provide many important vitamins
and minerals in varying amounts yet only contribute 70 calories
per one large egg. Studies have shown that cholesterol in the egg
yolk does not significantly increase blood cholesterol levels in
the majority of people. However, if you have been advised to limit
your dietary cholesterol by your doctor, you can still enjoy egg
whites. Egg whites are cholesterol free.
Exercise is another important tool you can use
to help control diabetes. Aerobic exercise such as walking, swimming,
bicycling, etc. can help your body use insulin more effectively.
In addition, exercise can lead to both weight loss and a reduction
in body fat, two more ways to help your body effectively use insulin.
Exercise can also result in decrease in your insulin and diabetes
medication need. However, be sure to talk to your doctor before
starting an exercise program, and never change your medicine on
Medical treatment of diabetics has also changed
immensely due to new discoveries. New medications and improved
insulin quality has greatly improved the ability of people to maintain
good blood glucose control. Your doctor or diabetes educators can
inform you further about your specific medical needs.
Blindness, kidney disease, nerve damage, amputation,
heart disease, and stroke are examples of the many complications
which can occur as a result of poor glucose control. The best way
to avoid or delay these complications is to keep your blood glucose
level as close to the goal you and your doctor previously set.
Signs of high blood sugar
- Blurry vision
- Frequent urination
of low blood sugar
low blood sugar with
- 1/2 cup (4 oz.) fruit juice
- 3 graham crackers
- Glucose gel (see package for dose)