Living with Diabetes: How to Optimize Your Health and Lifestyle
Diet and exercise are the keys to improving your health if you are diabetic. Losing weight and becoming fitter through exercise will reduce your type 2 diabetic symptoms and could even enable you to reduce or come off medication. If your health is not good and you do not feel able to undertake strenuous exercise, even small changes will make a difference to your wellbeing.
Whether you are a type 1 or type 2 diabetic, changing your eating habits can be very beneficial. Poor diet and weight gain may be the reason why you became type 2 diabetic in the first place.
Knowledge of the glycemic index is your best friend when it comes to making changes in what you eat. The glycemic index of a food is a guide to how it raises and sustains your blood sugar. High GI foods, such as candy, cookies, white bread, and cakes cause the blood sugar to shoot up, triggering an answering spike in the production of insulin to lower it again. It is thought that, over time, poor eating habits cause this repeated cycle to dull the response of the body to insulin, so the sugar stays in the blood. This causes all sorts of health problems, with symptoms such as thirst, a constant need to pee and sugar in the urine.
Low GI foods raise the blood sugar much less, and do not provoke the cycle of high sugar – insulin – low sugar – hunger. They therefore sustain the person for longer, releasing small amounts of sugars into the blood over time and preventing the person from experiencing hunger and cravings. Low GI foods have also been associated with lowered risk of cardiac heart disease and raised cholesterol.
Think about your daily diet. Do you tend to start the day with a heaping plate of pancakes smothered in syrup? Try substituting it for a bowl of oatmeal without sugar, but sprinkled with berries, nuts, raisins, or even desiccated coconut.
Change that white bread in your sandwich at lunchtime for rye or wholewheat, and pile up the salad on the plate. At dinner wave away the fries and chicken-fried steak and opt for grilled lean meat or fish with plenty of veggies. If you want dessert, have some lovely fresh fruit instead of a stodgy pie. Your body will thank you.
Exercise may sometimes present problems for people with diabetes of either type, as they may be very obese or have health issues such as peripheral neuritis, which causes loss of sensitivity in the extremities. But again, small changes can bring benefits. Always check with your doctor before you undertake any exercise program.
Park your car further away from your work than you usually do, or get off the bus or subway a stop or two early, and walk the rest of the way. Get out of the elevator before your floor and use the stairs.
If you are actually disabled and unable to participate in exercise such as walking or jogging, ask at your local swimming pools about sessions for the disabled. Or buy a book or DVD on armchair exercises – it will surprise you how much can be achieved even in a sitting position.