Diet, Exercise Are Key Weapons in Fight Against Diabetes

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • My father struggles with his weight and has had a tendency toward Type 2 diabetes. He was on medication to control diabetes in the 1970s, but managed to lose weight and get control of his health. Yet during the past few years the number on the blood glucose test inched higher (as well as the numbers on the scale) to the point where Dad was considered pre-diabetic. In the past year, Dad’s started watching his food choices and has trimmed his weight by 20 pounds.

    It turns out that, unfortunately, Dad isn’t alone in battling diabetes. Approximately 80 million Americans either have diabetes or are in the process of developing the disease. Because of its prevalence, $174 billion is spent in the United States for treatment.  And it’s believed that 95 percent of diabetes cases are Type 2 diabetes, which is a result of obesity in many cases. This prevalence, especially since the disease has struck so close to home, caused me to watch me Oprah Winfrey’s show about diabetes last week.

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    Here are the key lifestyle takeaways that may be helpful for you or a loved one who is battling diabetes:
    -    Maintain the proper regimen. By monitoring blood sugar levels, making lifestyle changes, and taking any prescribed diabetes medications, you can remain healthy and live without complications.
    -    Keep a healthy weight. Keep your body mass index (the ratio of height to weight) to less than 25 percent. Also just losing a small amount of weight (approximately 10 percent) can make a difference.
    -    Regular exercise is important. Exercise helps control weight. It also helps decrease visceral fat (abdominal fat) and reduces insulin resistance. “Over the long run, physical activity improves insulin sensitivity, meaning you need less insulin to drive sugar into the body's cells, which can have the happy side effect of lowering your medication doses,” writes dietitian Susan Weiner.
    -    Control your carbohydrate intake. When a person has diabetes, the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or cells don’t respond to the insulin. Thus, eating carbs will cause an excess of glucose in the blood stream, which may eventually damage eyes, kidney, nerves, and the heart. By lowering the amount of carbs you eat and spreading these among meals and snacks during the day, you’ll be able to keep a stable blood sugar level during the day.’s diabetes website has good information on a diet to keep diabetes in check. Some recommendations from HealthCentral’s site include:
    o    Carbohydrates should provide 45-65% of total daily calories, with a focus on vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains, which are also high in fiber;
    o    Fats should provide 25-35% of the daily calories, with a focus on monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats as well as nonfat or low-fat dairy products. Limit your eating of trans fats as well as saturated fats.
    o    Protein should provide up to 20% of daily calories, with a focus on fish, soy and poultry.

  • How do you know if you have diabetes or are prediabetic? An article entitled “Diabetes: Are You at Risk?” recommends a blood glucose test every three years once you hit the age of 45. However, if you are overweight and have additional risk factors (high blood pressure, low HDL cholesterol and/or high triglycerides, polycystic ovarian syndrome, or parents or siblings with the disease), you need to talk to your doctor about being tested earlier and more frequently. Additionally, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders may be more prone to the disease.

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Published On: February 23, 2010

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