Welcome to Diabetes Prevention Thursdays! Today, let’s talk about how heart health can help you manage your diabetes. The number of people diagnosed with diabetes continues to grow, and as each new person is diagnosed with the disease, they must learn how to manage it. Successfully managing your diabetes can thwart long term complications as well as help you live a healthy, fulfilling life.
One way to get great results is to focus on heart health. By taking the necessary steps to keep your heart healthy, you can also keep your diabetes under control.
Heart Healthy Lifestyle
It’s a simple concept of following a heart healthy lifestyle. By taking steps to ensure that you’re living in a way that protects your heart, you’ll also be doing what’s best for your diabetes management routine.
Those steps can be added to your life easily and you can do it one change at a time. By seamlessly adding these steps to your life, you’ll be able to see your glucose levels come down.
You’ll also discover that your body can process glucose better, that you have more energy and you may even reach the point where you can take less of your medication – if any is needed at all.
If you’re not already physically active, that’s your first step. You’ll need to make it a point of being physical as much as possible. Heart healthy exercises can include regimens based on aerobic exercises.
You can run, jog, or bike. But you can also participate in swimming or water aerobics. Working out at the gym using elliptical machines can also be good, heart healthy exercises.
You want to aim for at least 30 minutes of activity a day, and if you can’t get it all in at once, break it up into 10 or 15 minute segments.
Another part of a heart healthy lifestyle that can help you manage your diabetes is to focus on what you’re eating.
Don’t think of your meal plan as a diabetic diet because the word diet can cause a negative connotation in your mind. Instead, think of it as a lifestyle of winning choices – because when you eat healthy, both your heart and diabetes benefits.
If you’re overweight, take the necessary steps to shed those pounds. Being overweight raises your risks of heart related conditions or events. Diabetes is already linked to heart disease, so your risk is even higher.
But by following a heart healthy eating plan, you can protect your heart and control your diabetes at the same time. Cut out any habits that are bad for your heart. This would be things like not managing stress, smoking, not getting the right amount of sleep, drinking too much alcohol and eating too much salt.
Improving those areas also helps manage your diabetes. Regardless of how long you’ve had diabetes, keep in mind that it’s never too late to make changes to take care of your health.
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I wanted to talk about this topic because it is absolutely possible to prevent and even reverse Type 2 Diabetes (but you cannot reverse Type 1). Yes, it’s possible! and emerging studies looking at lifestyle medicine and prevention support this! But I always tell my patients that you must be dedicated and diligent in adopting a healthy lifestyle to get the best results. You can create certain behaviors and practices that will not only enrich your life, but that you can pass on to your family, friends, and community, to help break the cycle of this chronic disease so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.
I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve your blood sugar levels, maybe reverse type 2 diabetes. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.
Tools For Diabetes Prevention and Monitoring
Blood Sugar Monitoring
As you know, I always stress the importance of taking control of your health. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is one of the best ways to do this. To do this, a single drop of blood is collected with disposable lancets and placed on a disposable test strip, which you insert into a home blood-sugar monitoring device, called a glucometer.
The common times for checking your blood sugar are when you first wake up (fasting), before a meal, 2 hours after a meal, and at bedtime; however, you should check your blood sugar as many times a day as your health care team suggests.
Monitoring your blood sugar level provides you and your doctors with important knowledge about how food, activity, medication, stress, and other elements might affect your blood sugar levels. This data will assist you and your doctor in developing a therapy plan that is suited to your demands.
Since weight management is very important in combatting chronic diseases such as diabetes, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor (*this scale cannot be used with a pacemaker or other implanted devices).
Physical activity (or exercise) can improve your health and reduce the risk of developing several chronic diseases like high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and cancer, just to name a few. Physical activity actually improves insulin sensitivity. Physical activity can improve your mood, boost your immune system, and even help you maintain a healthy weight.
I often recommend yoga and resistance training for physical activity, but as you are aware, there are plenty of forms of “movement” that you can do! But for the basics, especially if you’re just getting started, yoga and resistance training are where I would start.
Yoga can be a great way to improve your strength and flexibility, manage your stress, improve your heart health, and lose weight! I recommend using a grounded yoga mat to connect yourself with the earth and reduce inflammation.
Resistance training is the mainstay for overall health. It not only has beneficial effects on reducing body fat, it also increases muscle size and strength. Here are some basic dumbbells/free weights that I recommend to everyone.
Remember, living a healthy lifestyle including eating a whole foods plant-based diet and regular physical activity are the best ways to prevent diabetes. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use. Let me know what you think in the comment section below.
PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.
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