Diabetes is a serious condition that, if not controlled, can cause health problems such as heart disease, nerve damage, eye problems, kidney damage, and teeth and gum damage. Controlling diabetes is a lot of work – you have to work to maintain your weight, increase physical activity, make healthy food choices, and take your medicines even when you feel good. While diabetes cannot be cured, it can be controlled so the complications of diabetes can be delayed or prevented. It is not easy, but definitely worth it!
Blood sugar monitoring is the only way to know how well your diabetes is under control. Your doctor will develop an individual goal for you, but the American Diabetes Association suggests keeping your levels consistently between 80-130 mg/dl before meals. Your blood sugar levels accumulate in your blood stream as you consume carbohydrates at meals and snacks. When blood sugar levels approach the upper range, the role of insulin is to take those sugar molecules to the cells of the body to be used for energy or storage. However, those with diabetes either do not have enough insulin or the body is less sensitive to the insulin produced and therefore leads to an accumulation of blood sugar in the blood stream. When the body no longer works to control the levels in the blood stream, you must take action to control those blood sugar levels through choosing the right foods and increasing physical activity. Blood sugar monitoring at home gives you immediate feedback about your current blood sugar levels so you can make educated choices about the foods to consume for that next meal. Additionally, there is bloodwork called A1C that your doctor will order to measure your average blood sugar level over the past three months. This is generally ordered twice a year with a goal to stay under 7.
While good nutrition matters, eating well does not have to be overwhelming. Eating the same about of food at the same time of the day is important. This helps to avoid huge swells or big drops in your blood sugar levels from meal to meal. Consistency is key! A general goal is to consume 45-60 grams of carbohydrates at each of your meals and to evenly space your meals out throughout the day. Your doctor or a registered dietitian can give you an individualized plan. All your food and beverage choices matter. Simple shifts in your eating can make big differences in achieving your carbohydrate intake goals and controlling your blood sugar levels. For example, make half your plate fruits and vegetables, with a focus on whole foods. Make half of your grains whole grains to increase vitamins and fiber. Drink and eat foods with less sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars to maintain your weight and prevent heart disease associated with diabetes.
Physical activity also makes a big impact on controlling your diabetes. The Institute of Medicine recommends 30 minutes of movement most days of the week. You should try to exercise around the same time each day to help make your blood sugar levels more predictable. In addition to cardio-respiratory activities, you should incorporate muscle-strengthening activities twice a week. Flexibility and Balance activities are also important. The main goal is to do more of something you enjoy doing.
We know the healthy choice is not always the easiest choice, but small changes can make a big difference. Chautauqua County Office for Aging Dietitians, Cheryl Wahlstrom RDN and Carey Skelton RDN are available for nutrition counseling and SNAP-ed programs. The SNAP-ed program is FREE for those who receive or qualify for SNAP benefits. We want to help you save time, save money, and eat healthy! Chautauqua County Office for Aging Senior Nutrition Program also provides nutritious meals through Home Delivered Meals, Congregate Dining In Sites, as well as a Restaurant Dining Out Program throughout the county. We also sponsor several exercise programs. Please remember to contribute toward your OFA nutrition services if you can. These programs are not sustainable without the support of participant and community contributions. Be aware that SNAP benefits can be used toward your contribution. Call NY Connects at 716-453-4582 for more details and information.