HOW CAN I MANAGE MY DIABETES THROUGH LIFESTYLE?
THE DIETITIAN SAYS… A
DIABETES IS A CHRONIC DISEASE THAT causes high blood sugar levels, which can damage your organs, nerves and blood vessels. Depending on the severity, you may be able to control the disease through lifestyle changes, particularly with the way you eat.
When you eat carbohydrates, they are broken down into glucose in your blood. Your doctor or dietitian will talk to you about controlling how many carbohydrates you eat and choosing more complex carbohydrates, which break down slower.
But it’s not enough to stick to your prescribed amount of carbs; you need to be selective with the type of carbs as well. Focus on getting plenty of fibre (25 to 38 grams each day, depending on your age and sex), which is an indigestible form of carbohydrate that slows food absorption, and reduce your intake of added sugars (no more than 25 grams a day) because these ready-to-use carbs rush into your bloodstream quickly, causing unhealthy spikes in blood sugar. Added sugars include those found in baked goods, honey and fruit juices. Though fresh fruits are a nutritious option, they contain more naturally occurring sugars than other whole foods, so limit yourself to no more than two or three servings of fruit each day.
Most of your carbohydrate intake should come from whole grains, such as barley, quinoa, oatmeal and sprouted grain breads, as well as legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas. These options are packed with fibre. Legumes also include protein, which slows digestion. Another healthy way to slow the absorption of carbs is to add healthy fats, such as salmon, nuts, avocado and olive oil.
Planning meals and snacks throughout the day so that you never go for more than four hours without eating will also help keep your blood sugar stable. Every meal and snack should contain fibre, protein and unsaturated fat.
THE KINESIOLOGIST SAYS… A
EVERY TIME YOUR BODY MOVES, YOUR muscles use up the sugars in your blood. I teach diabetes patients to manage their blood sugar through physical activity. To get you started, I would give you a stress test to measure your baseline fitness level. Based on that, I would prescribe a plan that specifies a speed and distance for you to walk, cycle or run five days a week. For people who have been sedentary, walking will be enough of a physical challenge; for those who are more active, jogging might be appropriate. I would also recommend doing moderate weight resistance exercises for all your major muscle groups two or three times a week.
For the first week of a workout plan, it’s a good idea to check your blood sugar before and after being active. Everyone responds differently, but exercise shows nearly instant benefits to blood sugar for most people (it might drop from 12 to 8 mmol/L after a 20-minute walk) so keeping track can be very motivating. It’s also important to test regularly because, if you’re taking insulin or oral medications that stimulate insulin secretion, the added drop in blood sugar could put you at risk of hypoglycemia. Many patients end up talking to their doctors about lowering their doses after beginning exercise programs.
You’ll also see the benefits in your hemoglobin A1C test, which reflects how well you managed your blood sugar over the past three months. High levels of sugar in the blood make it hard for red blood cells to get through small arteries to deliver oxygen. The A1C test looks for that glucose buildup in the blood. By effectively managing your diabetes, which is affected by medications, stress, food, sleep and exercise, you can keep your A1C levels below seven percent and reduce your risk of heart disease, kidney failure and stroke.