Diabetes – Control Your Blood Sugar

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Diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which the body does not properly process sugar. While diabetes often runs in families, its onset and course cannot be predicted or prevented. But, with medication, proper nutrition and exercise, diabetics live healthy lives.

Uncontrolled, however, it can cause heart and blood vessel disorders that may lead to blindness, gangrene, kidney disease, and even death.

There are two basic types of diabetes.

  • Type I, the more severe, is caused by a deficiency of the hormone insulin.
  • With Type II, or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, there may be enough insulin, but the body’s cells have trouble using it.

In either form, excess sugar builds up in the blood because insulin is unable to regulate it. The sugar then “spills” into the urine, where it is excreted from the body. Frequent urination or excessive thirst often signals high blood sugar levels.

Having diabetes means you need to eat foods from each food group. Include breads and cereals, milk products, vegetables, fruits, meat and fish, nuts and legumes, and fats and oils.

Minimize sugars and fats while maximizing starches and proteins. The old standard of avoiding carbohydrates no longer applies. In fact, a diet in which 50 to 60% of total calories is obtained through complex carbohydrates is recommended. Keep fat to 30% of calories.

Control your caloric intake; being overweight makes diabetes worse. Weight management, especially in Type II diabetes, is crucial. Losing even a small amount of weight can improve or even normalize blood sugar levels in older diabetics.

Type I diabetics must eat meals on a regular schedule in order to balance their injections of insulin. All diabetics need to space their meals throughout the day so as to minimize extreme highs and lows of blood sugar levels.

If you haven’t been physically active, start slowly and build the intensity. Consult your doctor before starting your exercise program. Be aware that strenuous exercise can throw you out of balance by lowering blood glucose too much; this could lead to hypoglycemia.

Moderate exercise helps lower blood sugar by “burning” it off, making tissues more responsive to insulin and reducing weight. It also reduces fat and cholesterol in the bloodstream and lowers blood pressure. This is important because diabetics are at high risk for heart and vascular diseases.

Babies born to diabetics have a greater risk of birth defects than others. To minimize the risk:

  • Get your body in the best possible condition three to six months before you conceive. If you must lose weight, do it under supervision of your doctor.
  • Choose a doctor trained to care for diabetic mothers and their babies.
  • Closely monitor your blood glucose before and during your pregnancy.
  • Breastfeeding is good for both you and the baby, but it will set up new conditions for controlling blood sugar.