Diabetes is rampant in the United States: More than 34 million people suffer from this chronic disease, and about 88 million prediabetics are about to join them.
Whether you have type 1, where your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to regulate your blood sugar, type 2, where your body doesn’t respond properly to insulin, or gestational diabetes, a temporary condition of some pregnancies that makes you resistant to insulin, you need to make some changes in your life.
At Four Peaks Internal Medicine in Phoenix, Arizona, Dr. Fayz Yar Khan and our team of health care professionals are here to help you manage your diabetes and live a full and productive life despite this incurable condition. Here are the top six lifestyle changes that will give you the upper hand as you manage your diabetes.
1. Exercise more
Since one of the contributing factors to diabetes is being overweight or obese, losing a few pounds should be at the top of your diabetes-management list. Exercise is one of the keys in weight loss, as it burns calories and creates lean muscle mass, which also burns calories.
But exercise has another benefit for diabetics — it lowers blood sugar levels. And if you mix in about 30 minutes a day of cardio and get your heart rate up during your session, you can also lower your risk of heart disease. So get moving.
2. Get serious about your diet
Everyone knows that a healthy diet is important, but not everyone chooses to heed the advice. If you have diabetes, though, it’s no longer a choice. Everything you put in your mouth matters.
Food and drink affect your blood sugar, and some can make it spike to dangerous levels. Carbohydrates can be especially problematic, since they turn to sugar in your body. You don’t have to eliminate the foods you love, but cutting back on carbs and sugar will help keep your symptoms — and your weight — under control.
Focus on adding more whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats to your diet, and cut back on red meat, fast food, and sweets.
3. Don’t stress out
Stressing out is unhealthy — it affects your blood pressure, your mental health, your weight, and your blood sugar. When you have diabetes, it’s important to manage the amount of stress in your life.
Identify your sources of stress and reduce or eliminate them. Take a good look at your schedule and pare it down where you can. If you have stressful relationships, prioritize resolving them.
It’s also a good idea to learn how to manage stress when it’s unavoidable. Try focused breathing exercises, take time to pray or meditate, take up yoga — whatever works for you.
4. If you smoke, quit
If you smoke, you’re 30%-40% more likely to get diabetes than those who don’t. And if you continue to smoke after you get diabetes, it makes your symptoms much harder to control and puts you at a higher risk for serious complications related to diabetes, such as:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Poor circulation that leads to amputation
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Peripheral neuropathy
Smoking also interferes with insulin therapy, so not only does it cause diabetes, it makes treating it even harder.
5. Moderate your alcohol intake
There’s a direct correlation between alcohol consumption and blood sugar levels, so if you're diabetic, you need to monitor your drinks. The problem is two-fold: first, alcohol contains carbs, which we’ve already mentioned is a red flag for diabetics, and second, alcohol lowers blood sugar.
But you don’t have to give up alcohol altogether, just drink responsibly. According to the American Diabetes Association, this means men should limit themselves to two drinks a day, and women should have no more than one.
6. Don’t manage diabetes alone
Diabetes may be common, but that doesn’t mean it’s not serious. The list of related complications is long and includes damage to your kidneys, eyes, nerves, gums, heart, and skin. In extreme cases, diabetes can even lead to the need for a limb amputation.
Fortunately, you don’t have to face diabetes alone — in fact, we insist that you don’t. Our team at Four Peaks Internal Medicine partners with you every step of the way, monitoring your overall health, helping you control your blood sugar, and helping you prevent complications.
When you come in for regular, twice-yearly checkups, you gain valuable medical support, including an all-important A1C test to give us a clear picture of what’s going on with your blood sugar, and peace of mind knowing you’re on the right track.
To schedule an appointment to evaluate your diabetes status and gain a lifelong partner in your management of the disease, call our office at 602-357-8349 or book online today.