Diabetes is a serious disease. If it isn’t managed, it can damage many parts of the body, leading to heart attacks, strokes, amputation, blindness, kidney failure and nerve damage. But there is good news: diabetes complications can be prevented or delayed by properly managing blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Eating healthy, being physically active and quitting smoking also can help lower the risk of diabetes complications.
Recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050, and an additional 79 million Americans are at high risk for developing type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association estimates that the total national cost of diagnosed diabetes in the United States is $245 billion. (Information from the American Diabetes Association).
As people get older, their risk for type 2 diabetes increases. In fact, in the United States about one in four people over the age of 60 has diabetes. If you already have diabetes, you may find that you need to adjust how you manage your condition as the years go by.
Here are a few tips on managing diabetes:
Make Healthy Food Choices
In the past, diets for people with diabetes were very restrictive. Things are different now. There isn’t a “one size fits all” diabetes diet. While you may need to make some changes in what and how much you eat, you have flexibility in deciding what’s on the menu. With a little planning, you can still include your favorite foods.
A great way to begin meal planning is the “Plate Method”. You can use it anytime whether you are cooking for yourself or eating away from home.
To use the “Plate Method”, start with a standard 9-inch plate. Imagine drawing a line down the middle of your dinner plate. Then on one side, cut it in half again so you will have 3 sections on your plate. Fill the largest section (1/2 your plate) with non-starchy vegetables like salad, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, or carrots. Then, in one of the smaller sections (1/4 your plate), put starchy foods such as noodles, rice, corn or potatoes. In the other small section (1/4 your plate) add meat, fish, chicken, eggs or tofu. You can also add an 8oz glass of milk and one small piece of fruit, or ½ cup of fruit salad.
Practical food tips when eating away from home:
• Start your meal with a broth-based soup or a salad.
• Ask for sauces and dressings on the side.
• Choose vegetable or fruit side dishes.
• Use the Plate Method.
• When your order arrives, divide portions before you start to eat. Take the extras home and save them for another meal.
• Try to avoid buffets and all-you-can-eat deals.
• If you want dessert, split it with friends or family.
Manage Your Weight
If you are overweight, losing weight can help improve your diabetes management. You don’t have to lose a lot of weight to start seeing results. Just 10 to 15 pounds can make a difference.
There are many types of weight loss plans to choose from. Even the Plate Method can help with weight loss. The key to losing weight in a healthy way is to do so gradually. Avoid extreme diets, and above all, follow the guidance of your doctor to create a diet that will work for you.
Be Physical Activity
Being active is another part of living healthy and managing diabetes. Any type of physical activity you do will help lower your blood glucose. How exercise affects your blood glucose will vary depending on how long you are active and other factors. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise plan, and always pack a snack if you’ll be out and moving for several hours.
Benefits of physical activity include:
• Improving your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol
• Having more energy
• Relieving stress
• Burning calories to help you lose or maintain your weight
• Keeping your joints flexible
• Increasing your strength
• Improving your balance to prevent falls
• Lowering your risk for heart disease and stroke
*Information from the American Diabetes Association, Living Health with Diabetes guide for adults’ age 55+.
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