Being newly diagnosed with diabetes can be confusing and overwhelming with all the new things you have to learn and understand. This page provides a synopsis of the most important information and answers to commonly asked questions.
How do people with type 2 diabetes stay healthy?
No one can tackle diabetes all on their own. It takes a team of medical providers such as nurses, educators, dietitians, pharmacists and doctors. Your primary care doctor will typically be your team lead, connecting you with specialists.
Your job is to consult your team regularly, get all of your questions answered, and follow their recommended treatment plan. The harder you work at making the necessary lifestyle changes, the faster your progress will be. By all means, don’t stop consulting your healthcare providers because you feel well. You need regular check-ups.
Learn about type 2 diabetes.
Everyone with type 2 diabetes needs education about their condition. For most people with type 2 diabetes, lifestyle choice (e.g., diet and exercise) cause the condition, and it’s new lifestyle choices and treatment that will reverse it.
Everyday activities affect your blood sugar. For instance, what you eat, when you eat, how much you eat, and physical activity affect your blood sugar. Insulin affects your blood sugar, too. Insulin type, dosage, and when it is taken in relationship to eating, exercising and resting all impact your blood sugar levels.
The more you know about blood sugar, the easier it will be for you to maintain. Plus, diabetes treatment is continuously evolving. Staying up-to-date with the latest trends and research will help you make informed choices, avoid complications and get the proper treatment.
Work at living a healthy lifestyle.
Adopting and actively participating in a healthy lifestyle is the most important step you can take to control your blood sugar. Your diet, portion control, how often you eat, and regular physical activity work together to make a critical change in your blood sugar. Simply put, if you rely on medication alone to regulate your blood sugar, you won’t get better, and will likely get progressively worse.
Recognize how emotions, illness and travel affect you blood sugar.
Stress and changes to your daily routine will impact your blood sugar. For this reason, it’s important to understand how to stabilize your blood sugar when you’re upset, sick or traveling.
Diet and Nutrition
Getting your daily diet dialed in is critical to the management of your diabetes. As a diabetic you need to know more about the food you eat because it affects your blood sugar, your weight, and your heart health.
One of the resources available to you on this site are our healthy recipes. Many of them follow Paleo, Primal and gluten-free diet standards. Most are also sugar-free or low-sugar.
As a type 2 diabetic, your blood sugar will go up if you eat too many carbs. If you’re being treated with a medication that helps release insulin from the pancreas, or insulin, you must match the carbohydrates you eat to your medication dose. To do this you’ll need to know how much carbohydrate is in your food and regulate how much you eat.
The right way to regulate carbs is to count the carbohydrates in your food. Just a few grams more or less will make a difference in your blood sugar reading and how you feel.
Fats & Oils
The fats we eat, both oil and cholesterol, play an important role in our heart health and body weight. Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States. Over 65 percent of people with diabetes die from heart disease or stroke. Being overweight or obese is the number one cause. Fortunately, making healthy food choices and regular exercise can help prevent heart disease.
Too much fat is not good for your health. You’ll need to limit the amount of fats and oils you consume if you want to lose weight and keep your heart healthy. As a general rule, keep your calories from fat under 35 percent.
IMPORTANT: Fats and oils have more than twice the calories as equal portions of protein or carbohydrates:
- Fat: 9 calories per gram
- Protein: 4 calories per gram
- Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
NOTE: When it comes to your weight, all fats are equal. When it comes to your heart, some fats are healthier than others. You’ll need to learn the difference.
Protein is an essential part of a healthy diet. As with fats and carbs, too much of a good thing is not good for you. For instance, meats contain both fat and protein. So eating too much protein from meat can mean excess calories and fat, increasing your chances of packing on more pounds.
Proteins are available in:
- Beef and pork
- Fish and shellfish
- Dairy products, like cottage cheese and regular cheese
- Plant-based proteins, like beans, nuts and tofu
It’s best to get the protein you need from low-fat sources like lean meats, poultry and fish, low fat or nonfat dairy products, and vegetarian protein sources like tofu.
For most people, the amount of protein you should eat is the same as for people without diabetes. In a balanced diet, protein should typically provide 10-35 percent of total calories. For most people, 15 percent of total calories is about right. This amounts to 6 to 8 ounces of lean meat, poultry or fish daily.
NOTE: If you have kidney problems, your doctor may advise you to limit how much protein you eat.
Alcohol and Diabetes
You may be wonder if you need to stop consuming alcohol. There are some things you should know that will help you make this decision. In any case, check with your doctor and ask if alcohol will interfere with your medications.
When you’re diabetic, consuming alcohol can lead to low blood sugar, often with serious reactions. This is particularly true if you take insulin or oral medication that stimulates the release of insulin. Alcohol has also been shown to affect other medical conditions, such as diabetic nerve damage, diabetic eye disease, and high blood triglycerides.
If you do choose to drink, do so in moderation. Limit your intake to no more than one serving per day for women, and no more than two servings per day for men.
One serving size of alcohol equals:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1½ ounces of distilled spirits (i.e., vodka, whiskey, gin, etc.)
IMPORTANT: Studies have shown that eating 3 ounces of lean protein before having a drink will help regulate your blood sugar by slowing down your digestion. A few ideas include turkey breast, low-fat cottage cheese, and Greek yogurt.
Activity and Exercise
Adopting an active lifestyle is an great way to stay healthy. When you have type 2 diabetes, activity is particularly beneficial, however, you should always ask your doctor for specific recommendations for your personal activity and exercise.
Getting started with exercise can seem daunting, especially when you are starting exercise for the first time. The demands of daily life often keep us from making our health a priority. We all know we need to exercise, yet overcoming the obstacles that get in the way seems challenging. For this reason, it helps to understand how to get exercise in a way that works for you.
Exercise is anything that gets your body moving. You don’t have to be our breaking a sweat your local gym. In fact, all physical activity will help you lose weight and improve your health.
If you’re just starting exercise for the first time, be sure to start at a level that is comfortable. Begin simply by increasing daily activity levels:
- Limit sedentary activities.
- Do stretching exercise while watching TV.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Do errands by foot or bicycle.
- Park your car at the far side of the parking lot.
- Get off the bus one stop away from your destination, and walk the rest of the way.
- Take an after-dinner walk.
- Spend 15 to 20 minutes of your lunch break walking.
- Schedule family time at the park, zoo, beach or doing something active.
Every diabetic’s body responds differently to exercise, making it essential to work with your diabetes health care team to create a have a personalized plan of care, including exercise.
IMPORTANT: It’s critical for diabetics to practice good foot care. Wear proper fitting shoes and absorbent socks. Inspect your feet daily and tell your doctor about any abnormalities. These tips are essential if you have circulatory problems or diminished sensation in your feet due to nerve damage.
Exercise & Blood Sugar
Most physical activity is exercise. This includes activities of daily life, like cleaning, gardening, shopping and taking the stairs at work. Most forms of physical exertion will lower your blood sugar, but not always. Many sports activities, such as swimming, jogging and game of tennis, will lower your insulin requirements. As a result, these aerobic activities may require reducing the dose of insulin releasing pills or insulin, and may require extra carbohydrate consumption to maintain blood glucose.
There are also physical activities that can increase the blood sugar. This happens when the exercise releases glucose counter-regulatory hormones that counteract insulin, causing blood sugar to increase. A good example is bench-pressing weights. Consult your healthcare team for specific questions regarding anaerobic activities.