In addition to turkeys and moustaches, November is National Diabetes Awareness Month. The development and progression of this disease are dependent in large part on lifestyle choices.
Diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the US, and one of the major risk factors for kidney failure and dialysis. Uncontrolled, it increases the chance for heart disease, stroke, blindness, nerve damage, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose (sugar) resulting from defects in insulin production, insulin action, or both.
More than 34 million Americans now have diabetes, and it afflicts more than one-quarter of all folks over age 65. Another 84 million have prediabetes—many of these don’t even realize their blood sugar levels put them in this dangerous category. And a good portion of them will go on to have full-blown diabetes within five years if they don’t take care of themselves.
Here are strategies to help better control your blood sugar, from the American Diabetic Association (ADA):
ADA recognizes a variety of food patterns to control prediabetes and type 2 diabetes (the most common type), including the Mediterranean, DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), and plant-based diets.
- Manage your weight. A loss of just 5-7 percent of initial weight improves blood sugar control and reduces the need for glucose-lowering medications.
- Decrease caloric intake by 500-750 calories per day for modest weight loss.
- Emphasize fruits and vegetables, whole grain products, and legumes. The fiber in these foods takes more time to digest, helps you feel full longer, and controls spikes in blood sugar.
- Include nuts and seeds and moderate amounts of low-fat dairy and lean meats.
During exercise, muscle contractions increase the use of glucose for energy, lowering blood sugar levels for several hours. Both resistance training and aerobic exercise improve blood glucose control.
ADA recommends people with diabetes:
- Decrease sedentary behavior; interrupt prolonged sitting every thirty minutes.
- Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise per week spread over at least three days/week, with no more than two consecutive days without activity.
- Engage in strength-training activities two to three times per week on non-consecutive days.
- Participate in flexibility and balance training two to three times per week for older adults.
- Know your numbers. Ask your doctor to check your fasting blood sugar (FBS). The ideal level is less than 100. Doctors also use the A1C test, which reflects a person’s average blood glucose levels over the past three months without daily fluctuations.
- An FBS level of 100 – 125, or A1C level of 5.7 to 6.4, indicates prediabetes.
- An FBS level of 126 or above, or A1C level of 6.5 or above, is diabetes.
- Manage stress and depression, which can raise one’s risk of diabetes.