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November is American Diabetes Month. But did you know that approximately 788,000 adults in North Carolina have diabetes? Even worse, the occurrence of diabetes in The Tar Heel State is far greater than the national average – and is expected to increase in years to come.

Fortunately, Type 2 diabetes can be controlled by your eating habits and lifestyle. And while there are millions of people with diabetes, your treatment plan should be specific to you. Making the right lifestyle choices can delay the onset of Type 2 diabetes, and possibly delay the need for adding expensive medication to manage diabetes in the future.

If you have Type I diabetes, the right choices will help you maintain control, in addition to insulin therapy.

Here are four tips to help you manage your diabetes, stay healthy and live well.

Eat the Right Foods

If you are overweight, weight loss is the primary goal. And, contrary to popular belief, not all healthy foods taste like cardboard. A healthy diet is one of the most important aspects of managing diabetes, yet most individuals do not change their diets after receiving their diagnosis. But don’t worry, you can still eat healthy and enjoy your foods. Here’s how:

  • Start with small changes. You do not need to give up all of your favorite foods at once. Making one small change a week can make a big difference in the long run.
  • Eat good carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes and low-fat dairy.
  • Substitute wheat pasta for regular pasta. You could even try substituting spaghetti squash for traditional pasta noodles.
  • Try ground turkey or veggie burgers instead of hamburgers at your family cookout.
  • Replace high-fat creamy salad dressings with vinaigrettes. If you can’t give up the creamy dressings just yet, just have half a serving.
  • Choose fiber rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole wheat flower, wheat bran and nuts.

 

Plan Your Meals

This can be difficult if you’re constantly on the go, but the benefits of meal planning can outweigh the inconveniences. Set aside a few hours each weekend to prep healthy snacks and meals to eat throughout the week. Having nutritious food waiting for you at the end of a long day will help you resist the urge to order takeout or skip meals.

 

Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels

Staying in tune with your body is vital to successful diabetes management. Monitoring your blood sugar levels routinely will let you know how your management plan is panning out. A simple prick of your finger can prevent you from becoming severely ill.

Be sure to write down the results of your glucose check to see how food, activity and stress affect your blood glucose levels. Doing so can help you uncover patterns or activities that tend to cause your blood sugar to spike. Identifying these patterns takes time, so routinely monitoring your glucose levels is a huge step in the right direction. Bring these records to your doctor, who can answer any questions you have and make recommendations for how to better manage your diabetes.

 

Get Active

Diabetes management isn’t all about healthy eating. It is also important to get your daily dose of exercise. Staying active has many benefits, such as improving your mood, helping you staying fit and – especially important for those with diabetes – helping control your blood glucose level.

The types of exercises you do can vary. You can start with a walk around the block to get your blood pumping. As you progress, you can increase the intensity of your exercise to continue challenging yourself. As with any goal, starting small can increase your chances of obtaining the desired results. The most important thing is finding an exercise you enjoy and sticking to it.

If you are pressed for time, taking a walk during your lunch break can clear your head and provide the exercise needed to control your condition. To make this fun, ask friends or family to join you on your search for a healthy lifestyle. Getting a workout partner can hold you accountable and can also make your workouts more enjoyable.

 

Take any medications for diabetes as directed by your provider.

If your provider has prescribed medications, they are key to controlling diabetes and preventing complications of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes will require insulin. Type 2 diabetes can be treated with oral medications and/or insulin.

 

Prevent complications

Once you have been diagnosed with diabetes, there are additional exams that are recommended. For one thing, checking and controlling blood pressure control become even more important. You will need routine blood work including hemoglobin A 1 C, which measures long term blood sugar control, and regular cholesterol screening. You will need yearly special eye exams, and urine and blood work to check your kidneys. Make sure your feet are checked regularly, and volunteer to take off your shoes and socks when visiting your provider. Take any blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering medication, once prescribed. Vaccines against the flu and pneumococcus are recommended.

Dr. Larry Wu

About Dr. Larry Wu

Larry Wu MD is a regional medical director for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and provides consultative services for employee health solutions, prevention, chronic disease, care management, medical expense and utilization management. He is a family physician with over 20 years in clinical practice, has served as clinic director in the Indian Health Service, Kaiser Permanente and Duke Family Medicine and currently maintains a part-time clinical practice.