Lifestyle changes are very important for individuals to prevent Diabetes who are at risk with obesity, hereditary factors and blood glucose levels suggestive of Pre-Diabetes.

Lifestyle changes are also important along with the medications, insulin, etc. in individuals with Diabetes to lower and maintain normal blood glucose levels.

Diet

  • Blood sugar levels are primarily controlled by the amount of food and calorie intake. Hence, maintaining a dairy of food intake along with portion sizes is important.
  • Dietary habits changed to a healthier form by eating a well-balanced meal of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, fruits and vegetables is a good idea.
  • Shifting to whole grains from refined carbohydrates, avoiding intake of saturated fats, choosing more lean meat, including more fiber and protein rich foods and skimmed dairy products are a few healthy diet habits.
  • Keeping the time at which meals, medications, insulin are taken constant is important to avoid low and fluctuations in blood sugar levels. This is because a small portioned meal after a dose of insulin may cause dangerously low blood glucose levels and a large meal may raise the levels.
  • Avoiding drastic changes in the quantity of meals is advised. Cutting down the portion to sizes to small and more frequent meals and maintaining well balanced and same amount of food in every meal helps in preventing fluctuations in blood glucose levels.
  • Avoiding sugar sweetened beverages prevents sudden peak of blood glucose levels.
  • However, incase of low sugar levels values (Hypoglycemia) which are noticed by symptoms such as tiredness, dizziness, sweating, confusion, etc. the sugar sweetened beverages, glucose tablets, candies, juices help in giving immediate relief.

Exercises

  • Exercises help in lowering blood glucose levels to normal as the muscles use glucose for energy and also helps in a more efficient use of insulin by the body.
  • Moderate physical activity and exercises for at least 30 minutes every day most of the days in a week totaling the duration to about 2.5 hours a week or intense physical activity for at least 1.5 hours a week usually contributes to a very healthy lifestyle.
  • Moderate exercises include Brisk walking, Cycling on a flat terrain, Hiking, etc.
  • Intense exercises include Jogging, Swimming, Cycling on a steep platform, Playing football, Gymnastics, Skipping, etc.
  • Starting exercises simple and gradually increasing the severity and duration help in maintaining a healthy activity on a long term basis and for a more controlled blood sugar levels.
  • However, it is important to keep a track of the time at which exercises are done in relation to medications, insulin. Doing exercises after a dose may cause hypoglycemia and hence, taking a dose after a while of doing exercises may be a good idea. Discussing the same and also the ideal blood glucose levels, that are to be maintained with the treating doctor may be best.
  • Keeping self-hydrated and a snack/a back-up ready for hypoglycemia is important during exercises.

Weight loss

  • Normal body mass index (BMI) is between 18.5 and 23, that is to be maintained for a healthy lifestyle, to maintain normal blood glucose levels, to prevent heart disease, stroke, etc.
  • Individuals who are overweight with BMI between 23 and 27.5 and obesity with BMI more than 27.5 have to work aiming at least 5-10% of weight loss over a period of 1 year to reach the normal BMI.

Stress

  • Stress can play an important role in raising the blood glucose levels above normal, thereby increasing the risk of Diabetes and transition from pre-Diabetes to Diabetes.
  • The body responses to stress in a way to keep the system ready for ‘flight and fight’ by release of stress hormones, that increase blood glucose levels and slow down processes such as digestion, body growth and repair, etc. to store energy for the ‘flight and fight’ response.
  • The blood glucose levels may also fluctuate during stress as one may not be able to cope up with the regular intake of medications, healthy diet, exercises, etc.
  • Keeping a track of blood glucose levels when one is stressed helps in making a note of the pattern. Trying relaxation techniques such as deep breaths, yoga, meditation, spending more time with loved ones, friends and family, going out for walks in a park, playing with pets, practicing hobbies, listening music, going for trips, etc. may help with stress relief.
  • If nothing helps, taking a help by consulting a psychologist may be a good idea, wherein medications may be prescribed, counselling sessions may be advised, if needed.

Smoking & Alcohol consumption

  • Smoking may increase the risk of complications of Diabetes with conditions such as heart and kidney disease, stroke, eye problems, foot ulcers, nerve damage, etc. Hence, avoiding smoking may help in preventing the risk.
  • Alcohol consumption may raise blood glucose levels. Cutting down the frequency and amount of alcohol intake may be a good idea in Diabetic individuals, as a few beverages such as beer, wine may contain sugar content. Avoiding alcohol intake on empty stomach, avoiding dehydration, eating snacks along with alcohol may help in avoiding fluctuations in glucose levels in blood.

Regular health checkups

  • Diabetes increases the risk of heart disease usually. Hence, getting HbA1c (average blood sugar in last 3 months), cholesterol levels, blood pressure, ECG, etc. regularly may help in early diagnosis and prevention of complications.
  • Keeping a track of blood glucose levels by checking regularly may help in noting a pattern in relation to meals, exercises, medications, etc. and the habits, duration and time of exercise, time and portion size of meals, etc. can be modified accordingly for a healthier lifestyle and normal blood glucose levels.

References:

https://www.diabetes.co.uk/lifestyle-changes-for-type2-diabetes.html

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/diabetes-lifestyle-tips

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/in-depth/diabetes-management/art-20047963

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/13340-diabetes-lifestyle-changes–prevention

https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0101/p42.html

http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/

-Dr. Divya Teja Pasupuleti

 

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