Managing Diabetes with Lifestyle Changes

diabetes prick

Diet and exercise are key to diabetes management

Article courtesy of Abbott

Diabetes statistics are staggering. According to the National Diabetes Institute (NADI), as of July 2018, as many as 2.5 million adults in Malaysia suffer from diabetes1. Since 2006, the prevalence of diabetes among adults aged 18-30 years old has increased from 2.4% to a whopping 17.5% in 2015. In adults over 30 years old, a similar trend is seen with prevalence increasing from 14.9% to 22.5%2.

With those statistics, diabetes is a serious public health issue. But one that can be managed and in some cases, prevented. Most people who develop diabetes are overweight or obese. With changes in lifestyle and nutrition, people with diabetes can live well and decrease serious risks of the condition.

Manage Diabetes with Small Changes

When people are first diagnosed with diabetes, they can often feel like their days of eating normally are over. But Rachel Johnson, RD, a research scientist with Abbot says diabetes can be managed. “People with diabetes can live normal, active lives,” she says.

In addition to glucose monitoring and taking medication as needed, people can manage their diabetes through exercise and diet changes. And small changes can have big payoffs. For instance, weight loss can have a huge impact. For someone living with diabetes, losing five percent or more of his or her body weight can lead to:

  • Improved blood sugar
  • Improved use of insulin
  • Reduced need for diabetes medications
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduced risk factors for heart disease

To manage diabetes and lose weight, strive for healthy food choices, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, non-fat dairy, beans and lean meats.

Be Choosy About Carbs

In addition to monitoring the amount of carbohydrates you eat, Johnson says people should focus on eating and drinking the right types of carbohydrates—foods and drinks that minimize blood sugar response, while providing a good source of fiber.

Timing of meals is also important, Johnson says. “Skipping meals can make it more difficult to manage blood sugar,” she says. “Regular meals eaten close to the same time every day can help manage blood sugar levels and prevent overeating.”

This timing should include both meals and snacks. Healthy snacks can actually help keep you from overeating at mealtime. Overeating can lead to sharp spikes and drops in blood sugar.

Finally, to lose weight while managing diabetes, consider these three tips:

  1. Set realistic goals

Gradual change is more likely to lead to permanent change. Break larger weight loss and fitness goals into smaller ones. Also, think beyond the number on a scale when trying to lose weight. Instead, rely on a measuring tape to track changes in waist, hips, thigh and upper arm sizes.

  1. Keep a food journal

Plan out your meals ahead of time and stick to the plan. Be sure to measure all your food and drinks for at least two weeks. This will help you learn true portion sizes. In addition, write down how you feel before and after eating. Doing so can help you determine triggers that might cause you to eat, such as stress, boredom and anger.

  1. Exercise regularly

According to the American Diabetes Association, exercising consistently can lower blood glucose and improve A1C levels. The Ministry of Health Malaysia recommends 30 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise at least five days a week, or a total of 150 minutes per week3. Talk to your doctor before starting an exercise routine.

Make small changes every day and you can better manage your diabetes.

 Malaysian Endocrine & Metabolic Society. Clinical Practice Guidelines, Management of Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, 5th Edition, 2016.