Diabetes. Who me?
Diabetes could happen to you! It could happen to someone in your family! It could happen to anybody! According to the American Diabetes Association 2011 statistics, diabetes has already been diagnosed in 25.8 million American adults and children. That is 8.3% of the population. Of that total number, 7.0 million are undiagnosed. There is also estimated to be another79 million people with prediabetes. These are sobering statistics to be sure, but let's go beyond the numbers. What does a diagnosis of diabetes mean to the person?
There are basically 3 different types of diabetes: Type 1, usually diagnosed before 20, formerly called juvenile diabetes; Type 2, can be diagnosed at any age these days, formerly called adult-onset diabetes; and gestational diabetes, diagnosed during pregnancy. There are some differences between the types of treatments and control strategies but their commonality is the lifestyle changes that need to happen to make the diabetes manageable. And that should always be the focus: diabetes is manageable. With the exception of gestational diabetes, which usually goes away after pregnancy, the diagnosis of diabetes is for life. Does that mean your life ends? Absolutely not! With a few healthy lifestyle changes, your life can go on bigger and better!
Our body needs sugar (glucose) to work all of the systems. Carbohydrates (carbs) are its preferred source of energy. Therefore, we need some carbohydrates to make our body's systems work. The trick is to eat smaller amounts throughout the day and chose healthier carbs (such as fruit) rather than "empty" carbs (such as soda). Portion control of our carbohydrates is a large part of diabetes management. It's usually not "what" we eat but "how much" we eat. Learn to read labels and observe the "Total Carbohydrates", not just the sugar. A diabetes educator or a dietitian can help set up a meal plan that is individual to you. No one wants to be told they can never eat their favorite food again. Truthfully, there are very few foods that can't be eaten by someone with diabetes. However, they have to be eaten at the right time and in the right amount. Eating a diet rich in non-starchy vegetables, lean meats, whole grains and fruits, makes us healthier, whether we have diabetes or not.
Another important component of diabetes management is physical activity. We need to get our bodies moving! Expensive exercise equipment is nice but not necessary. Just simple walking for 30 minutes 5-6 days a week is the recommendation. If you want to do more, great! If you want to do less, that's acceptable if you have the goal to gradually increase to at least 30 minutes most days. Any type of movement of any part of our body will use up some of that extra sugar in the bloodstream. You can break that 30 minutes up to 15 in the morning and 15 in the evening. There are even DVDs that are just for walking! No need to go outside! Just walk in your own house. Sometimes finding a walking buddy is helpful. Or walking the neighbor's dog! Take dancing lessons! If you watch TV in the evening, get up and walk during the commercial. Be creative!