27 September 2010

Lifestyle changes can keep blood sugar low, writes SUSHMA VEERA

CONTROLLING blood glucose levels means controlling your own life. And this not only important for diabetics, it is vital for non-diabetics as well. When you have diabetes, it is important to maintain normal levels of blood sugar in your body. Blood sugar levels must neither be too low nor too high. It does not hurt to make lifestyle changes and reduce the risk of diabetes.

1 – Get some exercise 

Exercise can reduce the risk of diabetes. It does not need to be a gruelling workout. Thirty minutes of exercise a day, even walking, will help to lower blood sugar levels. Make sure you discuss with your doctor before starting any exercise programme. If you like to dance, join a class a few times a week and do aerobic exercise on other days. Try to fit as many activities as you can during the work week, and then on weekends you should do longer workouts that work up a sweat. Keeping to a strict exercise regimen is important to help maintain proper blood sugar levels.

2 – Stop smoking 

The combination of smoking and diabetes is damaging. Together with genetics and obesity, smoking is one of the risk factors for insulin resistance, which often leads to diabetes. In diabetics, it increases the risk of complications, which include heart disease, stroke and circulation problems.

3 – Breathe deep, relax 

Stressful situations can release hormones that will raise blood sugar. If you are feeling anxious, have a cup of chamomile tea, take a slow, relaxing walk and breathe deeply. Try to eliminate the cause of your stress if possible.Take up a hobby, play an instrument or listen to music, learn to release those bottled up emotions, take up yoga or meditation.

4 – Lose some weight 

Excess fat decreases the number of insulin receptors present in the body, aggravating diabetes. When you are overweight, your body needs more insulin. Avoid overeating and emphasise healthy whole foods.

5 – Sleep well 

Fluffy pillows, a cosy down comforter and warm blankets sound like the perfect way to relax at the end of your day, right? Not only does sleep rest your body and refresh your mind, but a solid night’s sleep is crucial to good diabetes health. Often, lack of sleep and diabetes go hand in hand. According to a study abroad, the body’s reaction to sleep loss can resemble insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. Insulin’s job is to help the body use glucose for energy. When there is insulin resistance, cells fail to use hormones efficiently, resulting in high blood sugar.

6 – Cut down on refined carbohydrates 

What you eat has one of the biggest impacts on blood sugar levels. Foods that contain carbohydrates, whether as starches or sugars, will raise your blood sugar. When eating a high refined carbohydrate diet, this increases insulin resistance and can lead to obesity. A good diet that cuts back on the refined carbohydrates will reduce the risk of being diagnosed with diabetes significantly. Refined carbohydrates are usually found in pastries, biscuits and cakes. For example, eat brown rice instead of white, or rye bread instead of white bread. Green leafy vegetables are a good choice because they are low in starchy carbohydrates and full of fibre, minerals and vitamins.

7 – Eating out 

If you’re choosing where to eat, think about the places that offer you the most options — even fast-food outlets have healthy choices on their menus. When at a restaurant, read the descriptions on the menu carefully and learn to read between the lines to help you make healthy choices. Once you have mastered the menus, it would be easier for you next time. Inform your diabetic friends about these diabetic-friendly outlets.

8 – Drink sufficient water 

Drinking enough water is vital for maintaining your health. The key to adequate hydration is to drink pure water. Coffee, tea or soda dehydrates us even further, and fruit juice is no substitute for pure water. Drinking plenty of water will keep your blood flowing and your stomach clear. You will feel active and energetic. So drinking lots of water can bring a serious change in patients of diabetes trying to control their sugar level. Water is a good answer to treating diabetes naturally.

9 – Monitor blood sugar level 

Blood testing is the main tool to check diabetes. Keeping a log of your test results is vital. When you bring this record to your doctor’s office, you have a good picture of your body’s response to your diabetes care plan. Keeping blood glucose levels near the normal range can help prevent or delay the start of diabetic side effects such as as nerve, eye, kidney and blood vessel damage.

10 – Alcohol 

Alcohol is processed in the body similar to the way fat is processed. Alcohol has almost as many calories. Diabetics who drink can cause blood sugar levels to rise. If you are following a calorie-controlled meal plan, one drink of alcohol should be counted as two fat exchanges. While moderate amounts of alcohol can cause blood sugar to rise, an excess can decrease blood sugar level, sometimes causing it to drop to dangerous levels. Furthermore, beer and sweet wine contain carbohydrates and may raise blood sugar.

11 – Diabetic foot care 

Diabetics should take good care of their feet and check them every day. High quality foot wear should be used. They should also look out for sores, cuts or breaks in the skin, corns, calluses, blisters, red areas, swelling, in-grown toenails and toenail infections. Untreated injuries may lead to amputation.

It is important to seek early treatment if you have diabetic foot complications. Early recognition and treatment can change the quality of life.

This article was published in www.nst.com.my on 23 August 2010.