Educators describe diet and exercise as the cornerstone of diabetes self-management, the goal of which is to live a long healthy life.
Type 2 diabetes is a growing health concern and with more than 20 Canadians getting diagnosed with this disease every hour, we are – each of us – increasingly likely to know someone who is affected by it.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease in which your pancreas does not produce enough insulin, or your body does not properly use the insulin it makes. As a result, glucose (sugar) builds up in your blood instead of being used for energy. Your body gets glucose from foods like bread, potatoes, pasta, rice, milk and fruits. To use this glucose your body needs insulin. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body control the level of glucose in your blood.
Exercise will help
Diabetes educators describe diet and exercise as the cornerstone of diabetes self-management. The goal with diabetes self-management is to live a long healthy life. Along with diet and exercise, medications and insulin can be used to achieve your target blood glucose.
Health professionals agree that regular physical activity can have many health benefits for people with or without diabetes, such as weight management, lower blood pressure, reduced stress, lower rates of heart disease and increased energy levels. Extra benefits for people with type 2 diabetes include improvement to the body’s sensitivity to insulin and help in managing blood glucose levels.
People with diabetes should aim to do 150 minutes of aerobic exercise a week, such as walking, swimming, biking or dancing. Start slowly, exercising even for five to10 minutes at first, and gradually build up to your goal. If and when you are able, try adding resistance training three times a week to help maintain muscle mass and strength. Before you start any activity more vigorous than a brisk walk, remember to check with a medical professional, especially if you have other health concerns.
Healthy eating habits should be built around a healthy lifestyle. What you eat, when you eat and how much you eat will all affect your blood glucose levels. In general, people with diabetes should follow a healthy diet that is recommended for the general population. This would include a variety of foods, with an emphasis on foods high in fiber.
Fiber is your friend. It keeps you full longer, lessens the rise of your blood glucose after meals and helps lower cholesterol. High fiber foods include oat products, beans and whole grains. Eating three meals a day at regular times is helpful. You should also watch the amount of sugars and sweets that you consume; although you don’t have to eliminate sweets completely, you should eat them in moderation.
You can take charge
The goal of diabetes self-management is to stay healthy. Type 2 diabetes is a progressive, lifelong disease. It may become increasingly difficult to keep your blood glucose within your target ranges. High blood glucose levels can cause complications such as vision loss, poor wound healing, nerve damage causing lack of sensation, or heart attacks and strokes.
But these unpleasant complications do not always develop. This is why it is important to use the resources around you to help you stay as healthy as possible. If you or someone you know has diabetes, learn more about it.
Only 25 per cent of all people with diabetes receive formal diabetes education. All people with diabetes need to be informed. Knowledge is power and puts you in control. For more information visit the Canadian Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.ca or ask your family doctor for a referral to a diabetes education centre near you.
Aimee Bowcott is a clinical dietitian/diabetes educator at Victoria General Hospital. To support patient care at the Vic, please contact Victoria General Hospital at 204-477-3513 or online at www.thevicfoundation.ca.