Approximately 29.1 million adults in America have diabetes, with an additional estimate of 86 million adults with prediabetes. In 2015, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) issued its latest “Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes” as a guideline for healthcare providers and diabetes educators. The following information includes some highlights that are important for everyone living with diabetes. For more information on the 2015 Standards, check with your local offices of the American Diabetes Association.
Diet is very important for persons with diabetes. Proper education is paramount for comprehensive understanding of the effect food has on blood sugar levels. Medical nutrition therapy, also known as MNT, is highly recommended for all persons with diabetes. Such education should be provided by a Registered Dietitian (RD). Most insurance companies cover such education. Additional resources are also often found online on various diabetic related websites. In addition to learning about the benefits of a healthy diet, the goals of MNT education also focus on learning about how to change your diet to reduce your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood glucose levels. By doing so, the risk for diabetic complications (and other medical conditions such as a heart attack or stroke) are greatly reduced.
Additional lifestyle changes also greatly impact the health of a person with diabetes. Smoking cessation is encouraged, if applicable. Discuss options with your healthcare provider. There are many therapies available to assist you in smoking cessation. Physical activity is also important for persons with diabetes, as well as the general population. It is recommended that the general population aim for activity/exercise totals of 150 minutes per week, spread over at least three days a week ( more is better), and to not skip more than two consecutive days of exercise. As with all exercise programs, discuss your choices with your healthcare provider. Find activities that interest you, and that can incorporate fun and family time. Also, start slow and build steady increments in your activity. The goal is 150 minutes a week- it is not appropriate to aim for that goal the first weeks of any new exercise program. By going slow and steadily building up endurance, the risk of injury remain low.
Finally, blood pressure management is a strong focus in caring for a person with diabetes. The target goal for a blood pressure for a diabetic person is less than 140/90. If tolerated, lower numbers are encouraged. When monitoring blood pressure, lifestyle changes should be addressed when blood pressures begin reading over 120/80. Lifestyle changes, such as smoking cessation, moderation in alcohol consumption, increased physical activity, lowering of sodium/salt intake in one’s daily diet, and lowering of stress are all personal habits/choices that can often be addressed/modified without the use of prescription medication.
Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. Yet, it is easy to see that we, as individuals, have a significant opportunity to positively impact our lives through our own personal choices. Now is the time for each of us to review our diet and exercise choices, and see where we can improve our health. We have the opportunity to change our own health, as well as that of future generations.