Diabetes Awareness: Nutrition, General Information, FAQs
What Is Diabetes?
Diabetes is a medical condition where the body lacks the ability to produce any, or enough, insulin for the body. This lack of insulin causes the body’s overall glucose levels in the blood to be higher than usual. Regardless of the type of diabetes that an individual has, it means that they have far too much glucose in their bloodstream.
Diabetes is a problem because it can cause more significant threats to the individual’s health in the future.
There are a few classifications of chronic diabetes, depending on certain conditions:
- Type 1 Diabetes
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Gestational Diabetes
Risk Factors of Developing Diabetes
One of the key methods of raising diabetes awareness is to make known the risk factors that contribute to its prevalence. Some risk factors simply cannot be avoided or controlled, like having family members with diabetes or getting older. However, several risk factors can be avoided if the health of individuals is managed properly. The primary controllable risk factors include the following:
- Being overweight
- A lack of physical activity
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy eating habits
You can lower your risk of getting diabetes (even if you’re prediabetic) by taking control of your health and lifestyle and eliminating these risk factors from your life. Talk to your doctor about managing your weight, beginning an exercise program, maintaining a safe and healthy blood pressure, and changing your diet.
Diabetes Awareness and Prevention
Maintaining your health and being aware of the risks and early signs of prediabetes is the key to staying healthy.
It’s far better to be ahead of a sickness or disease rather than dealing with the treatment of it, so aim to get your health, eating habits, weight, and more in top-notch shape as soon as possible. Knowing how to reduce risk factors and make wise lifestyle choices is a key part of preventing diabetes in the first place, and as we learn more about this disease, it’s clear that awareness and prevention are an integral part of reducing the impact it has on our world.
Studies have found that 2 out of 5 Americans will develop Type 2 diabetes during their lifetime. This is due, in large part, to the lifestyle many of us live, with low activity levels, unhealthy diets, and poor weight management. The more we learn about diabetes and the impacts it has on our bodies, the more we can motivate ourselves and those around us to make better choices and live healthier lives to minimize our likelihood of developing diabetes.
Symptoms of Diabetes
If you’re not sure whether or not you or someone you know has diabetes, you can look for these symptoms. Remember that this is not a comprehensive list of all symptoms, nor should it be used to self-diagnose. If you experience any of these symptoms and think you may be at risk of having or developing diabetes, schedule a visit with your NCHS doctor to get screened for diabetes:
- Being hungry and tired regularly, even when you’ve had enough to eat and enough sleep
- Urinating more often and being thirstier than normal
- Having a dry mouth and/or itchy skin
- Blurred vision
- Being easily irritated
- Frequent yeast or other infections
- Slow-healing cuts or sores
- Numbness and/or pain in legs and feet
- Unintentional and unexplained weight loss
Hyperglycemia means that there is a high level of glucose in the blood, which causes the other symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes such as thirst, weight loss and hunger, outlined below. If hyperglycemia remains untreated, it can cause damage to nerves, blood vessels, and organs.
Your body is always trying to achieve homeostasis, or “balance.” So, the high level of sugar in your blood actually attracts water to balance it out. The water can be pulled from all over your body, including your eyes, causing thirst and frequent urination.
Insulin is the hormone that tells your body when to absorb sugar and if your cells do not receive that signal, they will not know how to use the energy in your food. Without energy, your body gets weak and tired. At first, it will try to burn fat and muscle instead, but these sources will be used up quickly without replenishment from incoming glucose.
Since you are not breaking down and using the glucose that you’re consuming, your body will continue to think you are hungry even when you’re providing it with nutrients.
If you experience any of these symptoms or are concerned that you may have diabetes, give us a call today. The sooner you diagnose diabetes, the sooner you can start treatment and get your diabetes under control. Most often, diabetes is not “cured,” per se, but it can be managed well. In some cases, catching diabetes early enough and making widespread and effective lifestyle changes can actually reverse the effects of diabetes! Knowing the risk factors of developing diabetes and the symptoms associated with the disease can help you get ahead of it and give yourself a better chance of preventing it or managing it well.
Living with Diabetes
One of the most important parts of living with diabetes is knowing how to make good choices for your health. It’s key to overcoming the symptoms and associated health issues that come along with diabetes, and if you are able to reverse the effects of diabetes, it will be solely because of the healthy choices you made. While regular exercise and maintaining a healthy weight are very important, you’ll find the energy to do those things by fueling your body well. If you begin your journey by focusing on the food, you’ll have a leg up on your diabetes and will be well on your way to a better and healthier life.
The following article has been written by Shelby Kinnaird from DiabeticFoodie.com. Shelby is helping us kick-off Diabetes Awareness Month by sharing her 7 keys to a diabetic diet.
7 Keys to a Diabetic Diet
What’s the best diet for a person with diabetes? It depends.
Some people go extremely low-carb, some use a Paleo-style diet, some follow a ketogenic path. Others use the plate method or count carbohydrates. A few even go totally plant-based.
Everyone’s diabetes is different. You’ll need to play around to see which eating plan works best for you. I’ve tried a lot of things since my Type 2 diagnosis 18 years ago. Here are a few things I’ve learned that work for me.
EAT YOUR VEGETABLES
Your mom was right – you really should eat your vegetables. Non-starchy ones like broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, asparagus, zucchini, leafy greens, artichokes, green beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, mushrooms, onions, spaghetti squash, and tomatoes give your body the nutrients it needs. Also, remember that your liver likes raw foods. Try to eat something raw at every meal. Eat at least five servings of vegetables per day (one serving is 1/2 cup cooked or 1 cup raw). Shop at farmers’ markets.
MAKE YOUR CARBS COUNT
You don’t have to avoid carbs entirely, but you do have to be careful about how many you eat at one time. The best choices are carbs that contain a lot of fiber like beans, whole grains, starchy vegetables, and fruit. I try to eat less than 40g carb per meal and that’s more than many other people with diabetes eat. Experiment to see what your body can tolerate.
DON’T FEAR FRUIT
Don’t be afraid of fruit! Yes, fruits have sugar, but they also have fiber and beneficial nutrients like potassium and vitamin C. One serving is approximately 1 cup of berries or 1/2 a large apple or banana. I’ve found the fruits that work best for me are blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, apples, pears, and oranges. Eating fruit with a meal works better for me than eating it on its own. I consider it dessert!
CHOOSE HEALTHY FATS
Fat isn’t the enemy, but you should be aware that some fats are more beneficial than others. I get most of my dietary fat from extra-virgin olive oil, avocados, nuts, and seeds. I totally avoid trans fats. Be careful when selecting dairy foods; sometimes “low-fat” and “nonfat” foods contain more sugar than their full-fat counterparts. Read the labels.
AVOID PROCESSED FOOD
You know that foods you find in the produce aisle are better for you than those that come in boxes, right? My rule is to stay away from any product that contains a lot of chemical-sounding ingredients on the label. Better yet, avoid foods that have labels! Whisk together your own salad dressing (it’s easy). Make your own pot of soup with fresh ingredients (and a lot less sodium). Stay away from the drive-through and cook your own meals.
CUT BACK ON MEAT AND WHEAT
Once I started eliminating some meat and wheat from my diet, my A1C, lipids, and liver enzymes all improved. I also felt less sluggish and bloated. I’m not 100% vegan or gluten-free, but I eat that way about 80% of the time and my body is much happier.
SAY YES TO WATER, NO TO ALCOHOL
Make water and unsweetened tea your beverages of choice. Once a coffee drinker, I switched to green tea when I was diagnosed with diabetes. Why? I can drink hot tea without sweetener, but not coffee. Plus I reap the health benefits of green tea. Get soda (regular and diet) out of your life for good. Alcohol can be okay for some people, depending on what medications they take. However, I’ve found that it’s much harder to control my blood glucose when I drink. So, for the most part, I don’t.
OTHER WAYS TO EFFECTIVELY MANAGE YOUR DIABETES
Whether you’ve been recently diagnosed with diabetes or you’ve been living with it for years, you know how important your diet is to managing it. Individuals with both Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 are better off and healthier when they watch what they eat and make wise diet decisions. As mentioned above, there is not a one-size-fits-all diet for everyone with diabetes. However, certain things are good for everyone, like eating more fruits and veggies and consuming more water. Your diabetic diet is key to a healthy life, but also be sure to check out these other lifestyle changes you can make to effectively manage your diabetes.
LEARN WHAT EATING PLAN WORKS FOR YOU
One of the first questions newly diagnosed diabetics ask is, “What is a good diabetic diet?” It can be incredibly challenging to figure out what a healthy diabetic diet looks like for you, but you will need to make changes soon after a diagnosis to feel your best and be healthy. Start by minimizing processed foods and anything high in sugar, and then make other changes you feel would help, starting with the recommendations in the list above. If one thing doesn’t work, try something else. You need to figure out what eating plan works for you to keep your levels in check and to feel your best. That way, when someone else asks you, “What is a diabetic diet?” you’ll have answers for them and can help them begin their own journey towards a healthy diabetic diet.
GET UNDER CHIROPRACTIC CARE
Many people don’t know this, but chiropractic care can bring about significant improvements in those with diabetes. Diabetes occurs because of a miscommunication between the pancreas and the immune system. Both of these are controlled by the brain, and the messages sent from the brain travel through the spinal cord and nerves throughout the entire body. If there is any sort of disruption in the nerves or spinal cord, dysfunction occurs, such as in the instance of diabetes. Chiropractic care realigns the spine and removes that nerve interference, allowing the body to function more effectively. Chiropractic care has proven effective in helping those with diabetes manage their health, and it has even helped some individuals experience complete eradication of the disease!
No matter which type of diabetes you have, maintaining an active lifestyle is vital to your health. Particularly if you have type 2 diabetes, staying active and losing weight can greatly improve your health and quality of life. Pairing your healthy diabetic diet with increased activity levels can actually help some people get rid of type 2 diabetes altogether. Regularly exercising brings about a slew of amazing benefits, including increased insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, more energy, weight loss, a healthier heart, and so much more. A mere 30 minutes a day for 5 days each week can bring about all of these advantages and more!
Your diabetic diet is just the starting point. Managing your diabetes may be a lifelong thing, but it doesn’t have to be horrible or incredibly hard. Make these few simple changes and begin implementing a healthy diabetic diet, and you’ll be on your way to better health!
A single “diabetic diet” that works for everyone does not exist. Take charge and figure out what foods make YOUR body work the best it can. Hopefully, some of the things that work for me will help guide you.
Shelby Kinnaird, publisher of Diabetic Foodie (http://www.diabeticfoodie.com/), was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 1999. Her last A1C was 6.4%. You can find her on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/diabeticFoodie/), Twitter (https://twitter.com/diabeticFoodie), Pinterest (https://www.pinterest.com/diabeticfoodie/), and Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/thediabeticfoodie/).
Celebrate Diabetes Awareness in Your Community, Nation, and the World
Lowering your risk by eliminating risk factors is by far the best way to prevent diabetes, which is why the International Diabetes Federation began World Diabetes Day in the first place and why America has our own Diabetes Day every year as well. Each of these days began because of the passion a few individuals had for educating people about the risks, prevention, and management of diabetes. World Diabetes Day is on November 14 every year, and American Diabetes Day takes place on the fourth Tuesday in March. Both are helping more and more people become aware of the disease and take control of their health.
World Diabetes Day
Every year, across the globe we try to raise awareness for certain medical conditions as a way to help more people prepare themselves to defend against those conditions. On this day, we try to raise awareness for diabetes in a variety of different ways. Raising awareness is a global initiative and requires the help of many people across the globe, even if there are major organizations throughout the world that try to spearhead the initiative to raise awareness about diabetes.
Nearly 10% of Americans (over 30 million people) have diabetes. Another 80 million have prediabetes, which generally leads to diabetes within 5 years if not treated. The prevalence of diabetes in our society is not something to ignore or take lightly, which is why the International Diabetes Federation and the World Health Organization began World Diabetes Day in 1991.
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, which seeks to promote awareness of the disease of diabetes, including its risk factors, possible complications, and prevention. National Diabetes Day is November 14th, which has an even more pointed goal of showing people the impact diabetes can have on the lives of those affected by it and by bringing awareness to prevention techniques, management methods, and risk factors.
World Diabetes Day is the largest campaign to promote diabetes awareness, and its impact reaches over 1 billion people in 160 different countries. The campaign strives to encourage individuals and organizations to recognize diabetes as a critical global health issue and take action in confronting and combating it, both before and after a diagnosis.
Making World Diabetes Day a success requires the help of everyone involved. As the whole goal of World Diabetes Day is to help raise awareness of diabetes and reduce the number of diagnoses, the more people that get involved, the better.
There are many ways you can get involved in World Diabetes Day. The easiest way to start is to make small yet important changes in your own lifestyle. Promoting health and well-being in your family and community. You can also get involved by helping other organizations raise awareness and organizing community outreach initiatives on your own.
Join or Host Local Meetings
One way you can get involved is to look for local meetings that focus on spreading information about diabetes in a public and contributive manner. If you don’t find anything like this in your own community, you can start your own initiatives.
Attend Community Events
There are many ways to help raise awareness for diabetes. Your organization or personal initiative can increase awareness by bringing information, banners, and more to public community events like sports activities, festivals, conventions, and more.
Utilize Local Media
Local media platforms like the radio, newspapers, or news stations are a great way to get more information out to the general public about diabetes and World Diabetes Day.
Make Personal Lifestyle Changes
While World Diabetes Day is all about raising awareness about diabetes, one of the biggest ways to make a positive change in the world is to start with yourself. If you are at risk of being diagnosed with diabetes, you can make changes in your own lifestyle to reverse the effects of certain stages of diabetes. The quickest way to get started with changing your lifestyle is to look at your diet and eating habits. The food you eat can greatly impact the risk of getting diabetes, and improving your diet to healthier foods can make a tremendously beneficial change in your life.
Contact us today at North County Health Services to get screened for diabetes or find new ways to get involved in your community for World Diabetes Day.
American Diabetes Day
On the fourth Tuesday of March each year, we take some time to recognize the importance of preventing and managing diabetes. According to Healthline, nearly 30 million people in the United States have diabetes, not including over 8 million people who may be undiagnosed or unaware of their condition with diabetes. Trends show that more and more cases are coming up every year, which means that diabetes is becoming a bigger and bigger problem to deal with as a country.
It’s important that you become aware of the symptoms and risk factors of diabetes, as well as how it can affect your body and what you can do to prevent or manage diabetes.
FAQs About Diabetes
What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a type of disease within the body where it prevents proper production of insulin (a hormone), resulting in unsafe levels of glucose in the blood and abnormal metabolism of carbohydrates. Diabetes, if left untreated, can be life-threatening depending on the type and severity of the specific case.
What is considered a normal level for blood sugar before meals (or waking up) and after meals?
We recommend consulting with your doctor about specific blood sugar levels for you, but as a rule of thumb, an average “before-meals” blood glucose (blood sugar) level for people with diabetes is 70-130 mg/dl while after eating (1-2 hours later) the blood sugar goal would be under 180 mg/dl.
Will I have to take insulin if I’m on type 2 diabetes?
Not always. If the condition is detected early enough, your body may still be able to produce adequate amounts of insulin if you carefully regulate blood sugar levels over the years.
Is diabetes (type 2) reversible?
You can moderate your type 2 diabetes, but it can’t be reversed after you’ve been diagnosed. If however you have “prediabetes,” or were just diagnosed with type 2, and then lose a considerable amount of weight, it can put the disease into remission.
How do I learn to accept that I have diabetes?
This can be a challenge for some people at first, but it’s important to work on realigning what you view as “real.” Wishing that you don’t have diabetes won’t make it go away and not getting treatment can have very adverse effects on your body.
How does diabetes affect my body?
Generally, diabetes affects blood vessels and nerves in the body, which means that it can have a direct or indirect impact on virtually every part of the body. Diabetes impacts blood pressure levels, is commonly linked with high cholesterol, and can increase the risk of heart attacks and cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure and cholesterol also raise the risk of having a stroke.
Individuals who have diabetes are also prone to other complications in the eyes, such as diabetic retinopathy, which can result in severe eye disease and blindness. It can also bring about kidney issues, such as diabetic nephropathy or chronic kidney failure. Nerve problems, digestive issues, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, lower limb amputation, and more can also come about due to diabetes.
What are some simple ways to prevent and manage diabetes?
There are many different ways to help prevent and manage diabetes. Also certain lifestyle changes will be more effective than others depending on your unique situation. Generally, people who are looking to minimize their risk of or manage their diabetes should make healthier choices when it comes to their diets and activity levels. Eating less, drinking plenty of water (especially before your meal), getting more exercise every day (e.g., 30 minutes, 5 days a week), making healthier food choices, snack on veggies (instead of sugary foods), keep track of your food consumption, and more will all help with prevention and management of diabetes.
If you have more questions about diabetes, such as getting tests, finding treatment, or just having someone to talk to, check out our Diabetes Screening and Management page here or contact us to learn more or schedule a visit.