Over 100 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes. This is about 9.4 percent of the total population, but in the senior population, that percentage jumps to 25%. This means that one in four people over 65 is living with diabetes. The rate of new diagnoses is also steadily climbing, and type II diabetes, sometimes called adult-onset diabetes, accounts for most of these diagnoses.
If you have diabetes, you are at greater risk for health complications like stroke, vision loss, heart disease, and kidney failure, so it’s important to keep yourself healthy and treat the disease. Insulin and other medications can control blood sugar levels, but there are additional ways to keep yourself healthy and manage your condition if you have diabetes.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight
If you are overweight, losing weight can be the most effective therapy for type II diabetes. Even a loss of five to ten pounds can dramatically improve your glucose levels. Set realistic goals, though; a goal of losing one pound a week is reasonable. People who lose a lot of weight quickly tend to gain it back, and research suggests that swings in body weight can bring on other health hazards.
- Eat Fewer Simple Carbs
Most of the calories in the food you eat are transformed into glucose (or blood sugar). But when you have diabetes, your body has trouble metabolizing what you eat, and there is excess glucose in your blood. You should avoid foods that are high in simple carbohydrates, like sugary foods, soda, cakes, and white bread, because they raise your blood glucose levels quickly. Foods that contain complex carbohydrates like whole grain products, brown rice, and beans raise blood sugar more gradually over a long period of time, avoiding spikes in your blood sugar. Eating too many simple carbs can also lead to insulin resistance over time.
- Increase Fiber Intake
Increasing your intake of both soluble and insoluble fiber can help you manage your diabetes. Soluble fiber dissolves in water and is found in fruits, oatmeal, and dried beans and peas. It forms a gel in your intestines and slows down the absorption of glucose into the blood. Insoluble fiber – found in vegetables, whole grains, and wheat bran – retains water and helps with regular bowel movements.
- Get Enough Minerals
Research has shown that most but not all type II diabetes patients are deficient in certain minerals, specifically magnesium and chromium. Leafy green vegetables like bok choy, kale, broccoli, chard, and collard greens are great sources of magnesium. You can also talk to your doctor and find out if you are deficient in magnesium or chromium and ask about possibly adding supplements to make sure you’re getting enough of these minerals.
Regular exercise can improve your insulin resistance. Beginning an exercise routine can seem daunting, but you can start small. Even doing 20 minutes a day of a low- to medium-intensity exercise like walking can improve your health. Start with small steps – park farther away from the store when you go shopping to add a little distance, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or take the dog for a walk.
- Decrease Your Stress Levels
Long-term stress can affect your blood glucose levels if you have diabetes. When any stress occurs in your body, stress hormones (adrenalin is an example) are produced. These hormones make stored energy like glucose available to the body. In someone without diabetes, insulin lets the glucose into the cells, but the lack of insulin in someone with diabetes means that this glucose is left to accumulate in the blood. Learn to recognize the signs of stress – are you easily discouraged or frustrated? Do you cry easily? Manage stress by learning some instant relaxation techniques like progressive muscle relaxation or focused breathing.