Diabetes has long been considered a major public health problem, all over the world, due to the potential health complications it can lead to (if not managed) and the huge burden it creates on the global economy.
But, the prevalence of the disease has lately been increasing at an alarming rate, leaving healthcare experts wondering if diabetes is on its way to becoming the biggest epidemic of the 21st century.
As of 2019, there were about 463 million adults, between the ages of 20 and 79, living with diabetes and the figure is expected to rise to 700 million by 2045 – according to the International Diabetes Federation. Furthermore, there are about 1.1 million children and adolescents living with type 1 diabetes, all over the world.
What makes this rising prevalence of diabetes an even bigger health concern is the potential risk for health complications it poses. The World Health Organization recognizes diabetes as a major cause of heart attacks, stroke, kidney failure, lower limb amputation, and loss of vision. To further add to this already grave situation, the WHO and the CDC also report that the blood disorder is a leading cause of death.
All these factors make it necessary to take effective measures to increase public awareness about blood sugar management, so diabetic patients can reduce the impact of the disease on their lives through self-care (along with medication, of course).
Whether you have diabetes or have been diagnosed with borderline diabetes (pre-diabetes), here are some simple lifestyle changes that can help with blood sugar management:
1. Improve Your Diet – Eat Balanced Meals
As opposed to the common perception, diabetic patients are not required to completely remove any food group from their diet for blood sugar management. Instead, they need to make sure that their diet is healthy and balanced.
This means opting for whole natural foods and limiting foods that are high in carbohydrates and fats and/or processed (which are considered unhealthy for everyone).
2. Get Active
Exercise not only helps regulate your metabolism, but also maintain a healthy weight and improve insulin sensitivity.
For those who do not know, improved or increased insulin sensitivity means your body cells are better able to absorb glucose from the blood.
Regular physical activity also encourages your body muscles to use blood glucose as a fuel for performing their functions and for energy and thus, aids in blood sugar management.
3. Shed Some Pounds
Obesity is not only a risk factor for developing diabetes, but can also make the condition worse by causing changes in your metabolism and lowering your cells’ responsiveness to insulin i.e. reducing insulin sensitivity.
If you are overweight, shedding some pounds can help to significantly improve your blood glucose levels and keep your diabetes under control.
4. Give Up Smoking
All the potential health complications that diabetes puts you at the risk of developing become more likely if you smoke. These include heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, limb amputation, poor blood flow, and vision problems, to name a few.
This happens because nicotine increases insulin resistance in your body.
5. Watch Your Alcohol Intake
While drinking occasionally is not harmful, you need to stay away from excessive consumption of alcohol if you have diabetes.In addition to the fact that too much consumption of alcohol is bad for your health, in general, it can also cause sudden drastic changes in your blood sugar level.
Some alcoholic drinks also contain added sugar, which can also cause blood sugar spikes.Lastly, some of the symptoms that you experience when you drink are similar to the ones caused by low blood sugar. It may happen that you confuse the symptoms of too much alcohol with hypoglycemia and consume sugar, causing your blood sugar level to rise.
6. Manage Stress
Just like obesity, chronic stress increases the risk of developing diabetes as well as can interfere with the body’s ability for blood sugar management.
When your body is under stress, it releases hormones like cortisol and glucagon, which causes blood sugar spikes.
To improve your blood sugar level, find ways to relax both your mind and body. It could be anything from meditation and yoga to spending time with your pet, going for a long walk in nature, or as simple as taking a hot bath. Do anything that helps you let go of your worries and makes you feel good.
7. Get Enough and Quality Sleep
Adequate and good-quality sleep contributes to good health in a variety of ways – maintaining healthy glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity are among them.Lack of sleep, on the other hand, contributes to a wide range of health problems.
Apart from negatively affecting the process of glucose metabolism and reducing insulin sensitivity, sleep deprivation also causes an increased production of cortisol and decreased release of growth hormones. And both these factors affect blood sugar levels.
Taking at least 8 hours of sleep is not only important for blood sugar management, but also contributes to improving your physical and mental health.
In this article, we have discussed some simple, but highly effective lifestyle changes for blood sugar management. While they have been backed by research to help with diabetes management, it is recommended to consult your doctor before making any significant changes in your lifestyle to ensure its safety for yourself.
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