Finally! Healthcare providers are shifting the focus of care to the needs of patients as individuals. This is a monumental change from the mindset of “Every patient with ABC is treated with the XYZ plan of care.”
Instead of automatically assigning you the same diet, medication and exercise plan as every other diabetic patient, emphasis is placed on what works for you as the individual. In recent years, patients have not been allowed, let alone encouraged to be directly involved in developing their own plans of care. Times are changing, and diabetics have to take advantage.
Educate & Empower Yourself
When it comes to managing diabetes, knowledge is power. The more information you have, the better decisions you can make. Work with your healthcare team to develop a realistic plan of care for your high blood sugar. If your physician prescribes medication, take it as directed. While lifestyle changes are the key to reversing diabetes and achieving your best health long-term, prescription medications can help bring blood sugar to a level that is actually manageable.
Food is life… literally! This may be the most difficult shift in lifestyle when working with your healthcare team. Food is personal, even emotional for many people. Food cultures and traditions are deeply ingrained in us, and can be incredibly impactful to our happiness.
Even if a certain food makes us happy, some things that just aren’t good for the body. Any other French fry lovers out there? However, that doesn’t mean that a healthful diet can’t be delicious and satisfying. How about a little change in perspective?
Start by taking a closer look at the opinions and feelings you attach to certain foods. For example, do you think of a doughnut as an evil enemy sent to tempt and destroy you? Do you picture good health when you see an apple?
Resist labeling foods as good or bad. This gives food too much power and influence over your thoughts. It is true that some foods are better for your body (and blood sugar) than others, but no single food determines your overall health or well-being. When you cook and eat real, quality foods it becomes obvious that nutritious can be delicious. Avocados, berries, even olive oil and garlic are just a few foods that pack a powerful punch!
Avocados have a positive impact on insulin levels. Monounsaturated fats help boost insulin function, and aid in keeping blood sugar lower and more stable. An avocado is a great source of fiber, which helps to regulate blood sugar, as well.
Loaded with fiber and antioxidants, raspberries and blackberries top the list with more than 7 grams of fiber per cup. Blueberries are also a great source of vitamins and soluble fiber. Studies have found that glucose levels reduce over time when blueberries are included in one’s diet.
The world has been enjoying the health benefits of olives and olive oil for thousands of years. Those benefits are due to healthy fats, phytonutrients, as well as, a variety of vitamins and antioxidants. A team of Virginia Tech researchers discovered that the compound oleuropein found in olives encourages the body to secrete more insulin, helping to reduce blood sugar and better control diabetes!
Garlic has been revered as a contributor to better health for centuries. Research is starting to suggest that it may even show promise for lowering blood sugar. A 2005 study which administered garlic orally to diabetic rats recorded significant decreases in blood glucose. Researchers also found that garlic can lower total cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and increase insulin production.
Work with your healthcare team to develop a meal plan to include the right combination of healthy fats, fiber, and protein. Talk about the foods you love and the foods you don’t. Find countless recipes online and find creative ways to adapt them to your taste. Bottom line: if you don’t like it, you won’t eat it. Figure out what tastes best to you!
Regular physical activity contributes nearly countless positive effects on your health, especially for those with diabetes. It helps your body make the best use of insulin and glucose, which controls blood sugar more effectively. In fact, exercise can reduce blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours after working out.
Regular physical activity also lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, and helps control cholesterol levels, thereby reducing risk of heart attack and stroke. Exercise also helps to strengthen muscles and bones, along with burning extra body fat. It’s a great way to boost energy levels and reduce stress, too!
While many Americans fall short of the recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week, research has shown that even a short walk each day can make a major difference in your health.
Talk with your physician about which exercise methods are right for you. Bad knee? Low impact exercises are the way to go. Absolutely love going for a swim? That’s a great way to get active! Just like with food, figure out what works best for you.
The body’s reaction to lack of sleep can mimic insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs due to the cell’s inability to utilize insulin. This results in high blood sugar. Quality sleep is essential to a happy and healthy life for everyone, and especially for diabetics.
One way to help improve your night’s sleep is to form a bedtime routine. Perhaps you enjoy a warm bath each night before bed; add some lavender or chamomile bath oil to relax your muscles and your mind. You may prefer to sleep with a fan in your room for noise and air circulation. Avoid looking at brightly lit screens (television, cell phone) before bed as these devices stimulate your brain and keep you awake.
Some people need more sleep than others. Track your sleep and talk with your physician about what you find. Does 6 hours of sleep leave you feeling refreshed or more like a zombie? Do you need 9 hours just to feel more human than bear? Don’t skip this step – sleep is key!
Feeling stressed or anxious? Studies have shown that coming home after a long day and preparing a meal can significantly lower stress and anxiety!
How you ask? Your mind becomes occupied with the task at hand – finding a recipe, collecting all of your ingredients from the fridge and pantry, compiling them one by one to create something delicious, then getting to sit down and enjoy your hard work. That “present” mindset can be very helpful in reducing anxiety, and cooking meals at home is a great way to get started.
Research has also found that just a few minutes of meditation every day alters the pathways in your brain, making you more resilient to stress. This helps to improve not only your mental sense of well-being, but your physical one, as well. Give it a try! Meditation, prayer, or yoga are all great options for decreasing stress and increasing energy.
Don’t be afraid to talk with your healthcare team about how you’re feeling. This endeavor to improve health and blood sugar is a big deal that comes with big emotions. There is absolutely no shame in speaking with your doctor about your stress levels, inability to sleep, frustrations with diet, lack of support from family and friends, etc. The mind and the body are truly connected. One cannot exist or thrive without the health of the other.
In conclusion, it’s time diabetics take advantage of healthcare’s shift in focus. Get involved in your care – ask questions. Be your own advocate in your journey to better health. That journey is comprised of many steps. Some of those steps may be larger, or more uncomfortable than others. However, the destination of lower blood sugar and better health is worth every single step!
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