A diabetes diagnosis can seem overwhelming. You'll be wondering how to control diabetes, and how the disease will affect you. But with a proper plan that includes exercise and diabetes management, you can take control of your life.
Managing diabetes begins with understanding what causes diabetes, what you can and can't eat, why exercise and diabetes are inseparable, and what target blood sugar levels are. Knowing these things can help you take charge of your health.
Let's look at five of the most frequently asked questions about diabetes.
1. Does Sugar Cause Diabetes?
First, there are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when your immune system attacks and destroys the cells in your pancreas, which produces insulin. Scientists aren't sure exactly what causes type 1 diabetes; they think it could be caused by genes and environmental factors that trigger the disease.
Type 2 diabetes is caused by several factors. Eating more sugar than you should does not directly cause diabetes, but it leads to weight gain, and excess weight gain is one of the major risk factors for type 2 diabetes. Sugar is a carbohydrate with empty calories, and it gets converted into fat in our body. Eating excessive amounts of sugar also interferes with the action of insulin, which breaks down sugar in our blood.
Regular consumption of sugary beverages can raise your blood sugar levels and increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. But many popular beverages now have sugar-free options that won't knock your glucose levels out of whack. You can switch to some of the readily available sugar substitutes if you just can't give up your sweet tooth.
2. What Can You Eat if You Have Diabetes?
There's no special diet for people with diabetes. You don't even have to give up sweets entirely as long as you practise a healthy lifestyle, get regular exercise and follow a healthy eating plan that includes complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, fibre and protein to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
It's important to choose foods carefully because some raise blood sugar more than others. Carbohydrates have a higher impact on your blood sugar compared to fats and proteins, so choose complex carbohydrates like brown rice, oatmeal, fruits, vegetables, lentils and beans. Reduce your consumption of simple carbohydrates — processed foods, pastries and anything with refined sugar are full of simple carbs — as these make you gain weight and raise blood sugar levels.
Choose fats and proteins from plant sources, and be sure to moderate your intake of salt and sugar.
You can still have your favorite cake or candy. Just keep your indulgences in moderation, and be sure to pair a treat like a small slice of birthday cake with an otherwise balanced meal.
3. What is the Normal Blood Sugar Range?
Normal blood glucose levels may vary depending on when the reading is taken. The recommended reference range for daily normal blood sugar is:
- Fasting blood sugar, or range before a meal: 80–130 mg/dl
- Two hours after a meal: Less than 180 mg/dl
You can also check your levels over a longer period — from weeks to months — through an HbA1c test. If you have diabetes, your target range for this test is around <7%. Remember, though, that blood sugar levels vary according to your situation, so consult your doctor for a plan that's right for you.
4. Are There Tips on How to Control Diabetes?
In addition to following a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy weight, here are some other tips if you're wondering how to control diabetes:
- Monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol to prevent complications.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels to prevent kidney disease and diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to blindness.
- Manage your stress levels.
- Stop smoking; as this can increase insulin resistance.
- Get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.
- Exercise regularly; weight management helps with blood sugar control.
- Take your prescribed medications as directed.
And don't forget to schedule a health screening every year to get a complete picture of your health.
5. Can Diabetes Be Cured?
No. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are lifelong conditions. However, there is no reason that someone with diabetes cannot live a long, fulfilling life.
Fortunately, type 1 and type 2 diabetes can be managed through medication, weight management, exercise and a nutritious diet. Through proper diabetes management, you can maintain your target blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol. By keeping up with this routine, you will minimise your risk of any diabetes complications. And if you're at risk for diabetes, a diagnosis can be prevented by making healthy lifestyle changes.
It will take time to get used to this new normal and learn how to control diabetes, so remember to celebrate all the things you're doing right as you get in the rhythm. Positive words can have a positive impact on people with diabetes, so be kind to yourself. And remember that you can — and will — remain in control of your life.
Disclaimer: This publication/article/editorial is meant for awareness/educational purposes and does not constitute or imply an endorsement, sponsorship or recommendation of any products. Please consult your doctor/healthcare practitioner before starting any diet, medication or exercise.