Diabetes is one chronic condition that affects many Americans and is one of the top 10 leading causes of death in Americans. Several lifestyle factors can prevent or lower the risk for diabetes as well as help manage blood glucose levels for those who already have diabetes.
Preventing diabetes and managing diabetes are both important for lowering insurance costs. For example, car insurance with diabetes (dmii insurance) should not be more costly unless the individual is involved in a car accident. Diabetes can cause some short-term and long-term issues that may impact driving, so staying healthy and managing blood glucose levels is important for anyone with diabetes.
All About Diabetes
There are a few different types of diabetes. Type 1 and Type 2 are the main two types of diabetes that can affect individuals of all ages. Gestational diabetes is diabetes that occurs during pregnancy and typically goes away after the baby is delivered.
To understand how diabetes affects the body, we first must understand what happens when we eat carbohydrates in the diet. Glucose is the simplest form of carbohydrates and is a result of the body metabolizing the carbohydrates from the foods we eat. Glucose is the body’s preferred source of energy and also fuels the brain.
Insulin is a hormone that acts like a key to unlock cells to allow glucose from the blood to enter the cells as needed for energy. Insulin is released after carbohydrates are eaten and absorbed as glucose.
Diabetes involves either insulin insufficiency or insulin resistance. When there is not enough insulin or when insulin does not work properly, the glucose builds up in the bloodstream because it cannot get into the cells. This causes blood glucose levels to rise.
Type 1 diabetes is less common, usually diagnosed during childhood, and results in insulin insufficiency. Cells in the pancreas are unable to produce insulin. This would be like forgetting a key (insulin) to open the door (cells).
Type 2 diabetes is more common, can be diagnosed at any age, and results in insulin resistance. The pancreas does produce insulin, but the cells do not respond or are not receptive to the insulin. This would be like using a broken key or the wrong key (insulin) to open the door (cells).
There is no cure for diabetes, so this is a condition that requires a lifetime of daily self-management. Individuals with Type 1 diabetes must have a consistent source of daily insulin, either through injections or a pump. Those with Type 2 diabetes may need insulin or may take a prescription medication that can make insulin work more efficiently.
It is crucial for those with diabetes to manage their blood glucose levels daily. This is best done by eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough rest. There are some early warning signs of diabetes, like excessive thirst, excessive urination, fatigue, and slowly healing wounds.
If blood glucose levels are not managed properly, this can lead to complications with other areas of the body. Nerve damage, vision issues, or kidney damage can occur as a result of uncontrolled diabetes. Diabetes also puts individuals at a higher risk for other chronic conditions like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels.
Preventing and Managing Diabetes
Preventing diabetes comes down to living a healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, Type 1 diabetes cannot be prevented because there is no known cause of this type of diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes can be prevented. The two biggest risk factors for Type 2 diabetes are overweight/obesity and a sedentary lifestyle. Healthy eating and physical activity can go a long way in preventing Type 2 diabetes.
There are a number of strategies that can help manage diabetes if you have already been diagnosed with this condition. Living a healthy lifestyle to manage blood glucose levels is vital for those who have diabetes.
A diabetes educator or registered dietician can help make a healthy meal plan that can keep blood glucose levels in control. Managing blood glucose levels is an important factor to prevent or delay the complications associated with diabetes.
Keeping up with regular visits to health care providers is crucial. This means having a primary care provider plus at least annual appointments with medical professionals to assess vision, kidney function, heart health, and foot health.
Healthy Eating Tips for Diabetes
One of the most important diet considerations to prevent or manage diabetes is to control carbohydrate consumption. Carbohydrates should be spread out throughout the day at each meal and snack to avoid a spike in blood glucose from consuming a large amount of carbohydrates at once.
Consistent carbohydrate consumption keeps blood glucose levels steady throughout the day. A healthy diet should focus on plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low-fat or fat-free dairy, whole grains, nuts/seeds, and beans.
An emphasis on a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will provide important healthy nutrients like fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Antioxidants help reduce inflammation in the body and protect against many chronic conditions.
Fiber is an important nutrient for diabetics. Fiber helps prevent spikes in blood glucose levels, helps with the feeling of fullness, and can also help lower cholesterol levels.
A common misconception is that people who have diabetes cannot eat sugar. Sugar does not need to be avoided but should be moderated. Simple carbohydrates, processed sugary foods, and sugary beverages like soda should be minimized or avoided because they will cause a spike in blood glucose levels quickly and contain very few nutrients.
Many healthy, nutritious foods have naturally occurring sugar like fruits and dairy products. These products can cause a rise in blood glucose levels, but they also have vitamins and minerals for good health. Fruits have fiber, which can help blunt the effect of rising blood glucose levels.
Sugar is one type of carbohydrate and does affect blood glucose levels. However, complex carbohydrates affect blood glucose levels the same as sugar. The key is to manage all carbohydrates, not just sugar.
Exercise and Physical Activity Tips for Diabetes
Exercise and physical activity improve insulin sensitivity, which means that insulin works better to unlock the cells to take in blood glucose for energy. A regular exercise routine is also beneficial to those with diabetes in a number of other ways.
It is important for those with diabetes to have a medical exam before beginning a new fitness or exercise program. Health care providers can provide important information about managing blood glucose levels before, during, and after physical activity.
Not only does physical activity help manage blood glucose levels, but it also helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease, enhances energy levels, improves sleep quality, helps manage stress, strengthens muscles and bones, and improves daily movement and activities. Some tips to help start exercising include setting goals, finding exercises you enjoy, and working with a personal trainer.
A regular exercise routine should include at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity cardiorespiratory activities per week. Cardiorespiratory activities include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, or dancing. For example, a 30-minute walk for five days a week can help meet this recommendation.
Strength or resistance training should also be done at least two times a week. These exercises can be done with weights or bodyweight as resistance and help strengthen muscles and bones. Flexibility exercises should be done a few times a week by stretching or yoga activities.
Any amount of physical activity is better than none. That means even a 10-minute walk a few times a week has some health benefits. It may not be enough to meet the physical activity guidelines, but it can improve health.
The Importance of a Healthy Lifestyle
Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires daily management, but living a healthy lifestyle can go a long way in preventing or managing diabetes. Even though diabetes impacts all parts of your life, even life insurance, it doesn’t have to make your life miserable.
Healthy eating, regular physical activity, regular medical exams, managing stress, and taking medications are important to maintain health to prevent or manage diabetes.
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