If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911 or seek care at an emergency room.
Diabetes is an epidemic in the United States. In fact, 30.3 million Americans have diabetes—an amount that has doubled since 1997. As a result, it’s more important than ever for people to understand ways they can successfully manage their diabetes.
Appropriately managing diabetes is vital because having too much or too little sugar in your blood can make you feel sick and cause larger health problems down the road, such as damage to the:
Through my work with diabetes patients over the years, I’ve come up with a few essential ways to help you manage your diabetes. Read on to learn about them and why they are important.
1. Know What You Can Eat
The No.1 type of food we typically recommend people with diabetes eat is nonstarchy vegetables, as they don’t negatively affect your blood sugar and have a lot of fiber, which helps curb your appetite.
During meals, we recommend that you follow the plate method. This consists of making half of your plate nonstarchy vegetables; a quarter of your plate protein, preferably a lean protein, such as chicken, fish, or turkey; and the other quarter a type of starch or carbohydrate. When you eat carbohydrates, opt for whole grains—such as brown rice or whole-wheat pasta—as they contain more fiber than refined grains.
Make sure you also drink plenty of water and avoid sugar-sweetened beverages, such as juice, soda, and sweet tea. I’ve seen patients who used to drink beverages high in sugar significantly reduce their blood sugar levels just weeks after cutting it out of their diet in favor of water.
While adjusting your diet, keep in mind that you don’t have to make your diet overwhelmingly restrictive, as those types of diets don’t often last long. Try to focus more on the foods you can have, rather than the ones you shouldn’t. For example, I usually ask patients during the holidays what one food they most look forward to. Then, we either discuss ways to prepare that food in the healthiest way possible or how they could adjust their diet, such as taking in fewer calories or limiting certain ingredients, for the rest of the day after eating their favorite food. This type of approach can be utilized year-round, not just during the holidays.
2. Create a Realistic Exercise Routine
Exercising regularly is one of the best things you can do for your health if you have diabetes, as exercise helps lower your blood sugar and boosts your body’s sensitivity to the hormone insulin (which can help your body counter insulin resistance, a common cause of increased blood sugar levels).
We recommend that you get about 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise each week—averaging out to about 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. When it comes to creating your exercise routine, keep in mind that everyone is different. Some people prefer taking a five- or 10-minute walk every few hours, while others enjoy going to the gym multiple days a week and using exercise machines for 30 minutes. Do whatever sounds most convenient, realistic, and fun for you.
If you haven’t exercised in some time, you should begin by working with your doctor, physical therapist, or trainer to slowly work your way up to moderate-intensity exercise. For people who have difficulty running or walking, low-impact exercises can be a terrific option. These can include doing water aerobics or using an elliptical or a stationary bike.
3. Take the Right Medication
Medication is often necessary to successfully manage your diabetes. In fact, one study found that people who took their oral diabetes medications at least 80 percent of the time were 46 percent less likely to have poorly controlled blood sugar, compared to those who took their medications less than 80 percent of the time.
If you avoid taking your medication due to its side effects, schedule an appointment with your doctor. This way, you can go over your other medication options, as well as any lifestyle modification questions you have, to more successfully manage your diabetes.
Our Diabetes Bootcamp
The MedStar Diabetes Bootcamp is a one-year program in which we regularly work with people with type 2 diabetes, helping them reach their diabetes health goals and feel better.
Participants of the MedStar Diabetes Boot Camp use a blood glucose meter that sends their blood sugar numbers in real time to our team through the Cloud. Our diabetes educators keep track of participants’ numbers Monday through Friday, allowing us to provide them with personalized recommendations that work with their lifestyle. For the first three months, participants are contacted at a minimum of one time per week, and more frequently if needed, such as when their blood sugars are less than 80 or above 350. At the end of the three months, we contact participants weekly to support the changes that they’ve made and assist them in making further changes to their lifestyle and medication plan. We regularly provide updates to patients’ doctors, so that they’re aware of any medication or lifestyle changes that were made, and we also provide their doctors with a report at the end of the program that summarizes the progress the patients made.
To qualify for our Diabetes Bootcamp, you must have an A1C (a blood test for diabetes that measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months) of 9 percent or above. To learn more about the program, please call 202-877-2383.
Successfully managing your diabetes is vital to your overall health. Follow these recommendations to help reduce your risk, and make sure to reach out to your doctor or medical team if you have any questions.