management of diabetes mellitus
Self-Care & Motivation
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Lifestyle Modification for Diabetes Management

How many times, before eating a snack, do we think and ask, “Should I”, “Am I really hungry”, “Did I exercise today or this week”, or “When was the last time I monitored my blood glucose levels ”levels"? Interestingly, we can think of these answers; “Why should I”, “I am just in my 30’s or 40’s”, “Do I need to”, “I don’t have any symptoms”, “maybe, someday I will exercise when my doctor will tell me”. This attitude towards health develops certain behaviours which are not healthy for us ,but due to unawareness or non-willingness to become aware, we avoid listening to health advice or follow it. Eventually, most of us are at risk of developing this lifestyle disorder that is acting as a sweet poison, killing us inside while we are unaware of it. Read more about medications for diabetes.

How is Lifestyle Specific Behaviour related to Diabetes Management?

Diabetes is a lifestyle disorder whose prevalence is increasing with each passing day. It’s a metabolic disorder characterized by insulin resistance and increased blood sugar levels beyond the normal range for extended durations. With the modern lifestyle making people more sedentary, less physically active, and more inclined towards junk food, the risk of diabetes has increased multi-folds during the past 2 decades. Diabetes is also associated with multiple comorbid conditions, including obesity, hypertension, etc. Also know about diabetologist.

Management of diabetes includes the use of anti-diabetic medicines/insulin as well as behavior modification. While it is easier to adhere to treatment strategies as prescribed by your physician; behavior modification requires self-determination and motivation for a dedicated regimen to adopt healthy habits. Your healthcare provider can help you explain the benefits of these behavior changes and effective ways to implement them. Research has shown that some specific behavior modifications can help you manage your diabetes or prevent you from developing diabetes if you are a prediabetic. Also read about how to prevent diabetes

What are some Lifestyle Specific Behaviours to manage Diabetes?

  • Positive Attitude: Developing a positive attitude is crucial to start challenging your unhealthy behaviors. Having awareness about our health conditions and developing a positive outlook towards change can help us to adapt easily and stay committed for longer durations. Telling yourself “I can”, “I will”, “I must”, every time you look into the mirror can help you to develop self-belief to achieve the desired blood glucose levels through behavior modifications. Despite our busy schedules, we have to resolve to start with small steps and stay put.
  • Self-awareness: Having a sense of self-awareness is critical to assess our health and lifestyle analytically. Listening carefully to health advice, thinking about your health condition, level of activity, calorie intake, monitoring your blood glucose levels, and developing control are a few of the important aspects of self-awareness that can be developed over time with motivation. These days various web-based and mobile applications are available that we can use to monitor our activity levels and stay aware.
  • Healthy Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight and Body Mass Index (BMI) is assessed as a crucial step in managing diabetes. While eating something, do we feel, “I should eat some more” or “I should split and just eat half. This forms the basis to maintain a healthy weight or healthy waist. Studies have shown that monitoring calorie intake and adapting to a balanced diet have helped people to manage blood glucose levels and diabetes better. We should aim to increase consumption of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables; and to reduce the use of junk/ processed food.
  • Active Lifestyle: To adapt to an active lifestyle, firstly, we need to assess our activity level and our involvement in household activities. We can practice a few of the following: walking to grocery shop for weekend shopping, taking the stairs instead of a lift in offices and malls, and encouraging our children to do the same, reading food labels for food constituents to stay aware of calorie intake, and taking short breaks and walking to colleagues if we have a sedentary job.
  • Make Exercise a part of your Routine: Monitoring calorie intake alone is not sufficient to manage diabetes. We should exercise daily to include at least 30-minutes of activity that makes us sweat and breathe harder than usual. If not daily, we should try to have a 5-day regime in a week to attain 2.5 hours of exercise per week. Exercise reduces insulin resistance and helps better manage blood glucose levels. Studies have shown that persons who exercise regularly and were eating right could have controlled blood glucose levels, and medication load was reduced.

Also read about benefits of dates for diabetes

Recommended Dietary Modifications for Diabetes Management

Diet plays an important role in managing blood glucose levels. When you are eating it is important to assess whether your body really needs the calories or you are eating out of habit. Abandon unhealthy practices like eating just to finish the food or because you like that taste. Monitor your portions and along with that the calorie intake to maintain a balanced diet. A balanced diet with more whole grains, fruits, and vegetables can help tremendously. Reduce the intake of junk food or processed and canned foods.

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Recommended Food & Water Consumption for Diabetes Management

Food

The best food items for diabetes are vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, seeds, low-fat dairy products, and healthy protein sources like fish. Non-starchy vegetables like broccoli, carrots, and tomatoes should be preferred instead of starchy ones like potatoes and corn. Avoid fried foods or foods high in saturated and trans-fat. Avoid foods high in salt. Limit the consumption of foods that are high in sugar like aerated beverages, candies, baked goods, ice cream, energy drinks, and so on. If you are looking to consume alcohol, moderate the intake and ensure you do not drink on an empty stomach. Know about diabetes treatment.

Water

It is known that high blood sugar can cause dehydration. If you drink enough water then the excess glucose can be reduced in the body through urine. It is recommended that men should consume at least 13 cups of water (3.08 liters) and those who should consume at least 9 cups of water (2.13 liters) every day. If you don't like consuming tasteless water you can make it more refreshing by adding slices of lemon or cucumber to your drinking water.

Recommended Fitness Modifications for Diabetes Management

Exercise is important to control blood glucose levels. It can reduce the medications required to manage them. 30 minutes of activity daily is recommended to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Those 30 minutes should make you sweat and breathe harder than usual, increasing your heart rate. This means cardio is the best form of exercise for those looking for a high-intensity workout. If not every day at least a five-day regimen should be fixed to achieve the minimum exercise per week, which is three hours. 

How to manage your diabetes with follow changes

Keeping your blood sugar range in check is the first and primary goal of diabetes. It can be a challenging task as there can be many different variables that can influence the ups and downs in these levels. Sometimes, fluctuations can also happen unexpectedly. Lifestyle modification for diabetes is the only possible way for its effective management. Here are some of the elements that can play a major role in maintaining blood sugar levels in the range:

  1. Food - Healthy eating is one of the first things that come into play when it comes to dealing with the consequences of diabetes. Even when a person is in the prediabetic range, food will play an important part in that diagnosis not being turned into full-blown type 2 diabetes. Not just the type of food you eat but also the quantity and the combination of food you are consuming will be important.
  • Carb counting and portion sizes – Your diabetes management plan will involve learning how to count carbs. Carbs have a big impact on your blood sugar levels. People who have to take insulin before meals will have to understand the dose they need to take, for this, carb counting will be important. Portion size and proper measurement of foods will help count carbs accurately.
  • Well-balanced meals – Try to incorporate a good mix of starch, fruits, carbs, vegetables, proteins, fibers, vitamins, minerals, etc in each of your meals. Ensure that you are choosing to use healthy carbs and not the ones that will spike your sugar levels instantly
  •  Coordinate meals and medication – Too little food will require the exact amount of insulin. Little food with too much insulin will also result in unnecessary and unwanted episodes of hypoglycemia. Similarly, too much insulin with too little food can cause hyperglycemia.
  • Avoid sugary beverages – These tend to be high in calories and low in nutrition and may result in many high sugar episodes.
  1. Exercise – Physical activities are important in the management of diabetes. Exercise can use up the excess glucose in the body as energy. Regular physical activity can also help your body use insulin more efficiently. These factors together can lower your blood sugar levels.
  • Create an exercise plan – With the help of your doctor, figure out the exercise plan that works and is effective for you. In general, about 45-50 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise should be enough. Make sure that you have a schedule for exercise so that you can follow it well
  • Check your sugar levels – It is important to know and understand what your sugar levels are before and after exercising so that you do not send your body into a state of fatigue with hyperglycemia or a hypoglycemic shock
  • Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water while you exercise as it can cause dehydration and can affect blood sugar levels. Always have a snack with you in case you feel like you are entering into hypoglycemia.
  1. Medication – Insulin and other diabetes-related medications are made to lower blood sugar levels in addition to diet and exercise. The effectiveness of these medications will depend on the timing and size of the dose.
  • Store – Store insulin properly in a refrigerator and ensure that it is not past its expiration date.
  •  Speak to your doctor – In case the medications are not working effectively and are leading to several highs or lows, you should speak to your doctor.
  • Be cautious – Especially with new medications, exercise caution so that you can report any discrepancies to your doctor
  1. Alcohol – The liver releases stored sugar to deal with the effects of falling sugar levels. If your liver is assigned the task of metabolizing alcohol, a blood sugar boost may not happen as needed. Diabetes levels that are under your control and with help from your doctor, an occasional drink may be fine.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach – Eat before you drink especially if you are on insulin so that you do not go into low blood sugars
  • Get your doctor’s approval – Alcohol can aggravate diabetes-related complications. Damage to the nerves of the eyes, feet, etc can lead to issues with excess alcohol consumption
  • Choose your drinks carefully – Avoid sugary mixers or drinks with excess carbs like beers.
  • Check your sugars before bed – Alcohol can lower blood sugar levels, therefore, to avoid nighttime lows, check your blood sugar levels before bed.
  1. Stress – In situations of high stress, the body can produce the stress hormone that is also accompanied by a release of more sugar into the bloodstream. It might also be harder to follow your diabetes management plan when you are under a lot of pressure
  • Identify patterns – Monitor your blood sugar levels and also evaluate your stress levels during those times to recognize patterns

Take control – Try relaxation techniques, yoga, meditation, therapy, etc to get your stress under control

Bottomline

To conclude, the modern lifestyle is pushing us towards such behaviors that are easy to follow and require less effort. Contrary to this, we have to stay motivated and adapt to behavior modifications to lead a healthy life. This sense of adapting to new behaviors has to come from within, and we have to become aware of our health and surroundings. First and foremost is the right attitude to have awareness.

This usually comes through self-control, and once the results are visible, the level of commitment increases. To manage diabetes better, we should eat right, exercise regularly, and lead an active life. If not by leaps, we should try baby steps to develop healthy habits and lifestyle. How many do now say “I will”.

FAQs

What is the best management of diabetes?

The management of diabetes mellitus requires a holistic approach – since several factors play a role in proper blood sugar management, your treatment plan will also involve exercise, diet, proper sleep cycle, no use of substances like alcohol and cigarettes, effective stress management techniques, etc. All of these including regular testing of sugar levels will lead to the most effective management

What is a diabetic management plan?

A diabetic management plan is a strategy that the patient and the doctor come up with together for the person living with diabetes to follow for the best results in terms of sugar levels. This plan often involves several healthcare professionals for a long-term and holistic approach to effectively managing the symptoms of diabetes.

What is the first line treatment for diabetes?

The first line of treatment for diabetes would be an approach that involves dealing with the mismanagement of blood sugars. For example, in case the person is dealing with an episode of high blood sugar levels, the first line of treatment would involve bringing the levels down with the help of insulin or medication. Similarly, in hypoglycemic stages, glucose would need to be administered or consumed for the levels to rise.

Can you manage diabetes without medication?

The management of diabetes without medication can be done under the consultation of a doctor. Here it would be vital to ensure that you are engaging in strict and sustainable lifestyle changes so that you do not need the help of medications. Diet and exercise would be the two pillars of diabetes management without medication.

How to manage your diabetes with diet?

A proper diet plan that involves fewer carbs, no sugar, no processed food, no trans fats, etc should be incorporated. This will result in no spikes in blood sugar levels. Any foods that will lead to high blood sugar can be harmful to a person with diabetes. 

How to manage type 2 diabetes without medication?

Managing diabetes without medication is possible with the help of the right team of healthcare professionals who will help you deal with the condition with a multi-faceted approach. A fitness coach, a nutritionist, a yoga professional, mental health expert, an endocrinologist, etc would help deal with the symptoms of diabetes

How to manage type 2 diabetes with diet and exercise?

Type 2 diabetes is primarily caused due to an unhealthy lifestyle, therefore, it is only fitting that the diabetes management plan will include the involvement of diet and exercise. A diet involving low-carb foods and high-sugar foods along with proper exercise will help burn the excess sugar and will help in proper diabetes management. 

How to control your diabetes during pregnancy?

It will be important to control your diabetes during pregnancy as it can lead to full-blown type 2 diabetes and complications during birth. It can also lead to issues for the child and mother in the later stages. Controlling diabetes via pregnancy with the help of diet, medication, yoga, exercise, etc will be the best approach.

References

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6086609/

Disclaimer

This website's content is provided only for educational reasons and is not meant to be a replacement for professional medical advice. Due to individual differences, the reader should contact their physician to decide whether the material is applicable to their case.