Diabetes can be overwhelming and difficult deal with when you are first diagnosed. It may seem unfair, it may seem like too much, and it can all just seem very confusing. The best thing you can do is take a deep breath, understand what youre dealing with, and then take the first steps towards addressing the condition.
Technically speaking, diabetes is a medical issue in which your blood sugar levels are too high due to a lack of insulin, or your body can’t use insulin as it should. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body use the glucose in your blood, and distributes the molecules to cells that use it for energy.
Without insulin, the sugar in your blood won’t be properly used, and can lead to some severe complications if it’s not properly managed. In the case of the less common type 1 diabetes, typically discovered at a young age, your body’s immune system fails to recognize the parts of your pancreas that produce insulin as a part of you, and attacks it.
This renders your body unable to produce insulin from that point forward, and this damage is permanent. Type 2 diabetes is a bit different. Type 2 diabetics can produce insulin just fine, but their bodies just don’t use it as they should, rendering their existing insulin less effective.
This form of diabetes usually develops much later in life than type 1, and is also far more common. This can cause damage to your body in a variety of ways. The excess sugar in your blood can damage the walls of blood vessels as it flows through your body, leading to nerve damage, loss of eyesight, and even increased risk of infections.
Typically, you’ll end up having to administer insulin to yourself, while also keeping track of your glucose levels and meals. This sounds like an ordeal, and it first, it may feel that way.
However, there are many diabetics and doctors out there who have designed meal plans and provided people with means of easily keeping track of their blood sugar levels.
The best way to respond to a diabetes diagnosis is to get in the right mindset about it. It may be permanent, and it may be a huge hassle in terms of learning how to handle it, but there’s nothing you can do about that. What you can do instead is mitigate the effects of diabetes and make sure you live a longer, happier life by keeping the disease in check.
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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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