November marks the start of National Diabetes Awareness Month. We want to help spread awareness about managing diabetes with the ABCs of diabetes and tips on eating with diabetes.
So What is Diabetes?
When you have diabetes, you either make no insulin or not enough, which makes it difficult or impossible for your body to utilize carbohydrates.
After you eat carbohydrate-containing foods (starchy vegetables, grains and baked items, fruit, and dairy foods), your body breaks the carbohydrates down into a sugar called glucose. Once the carbohydrates are broken down, the glucose produced gets absorbed into the blood. Glucose is used as fuel for your cells. In order for your cells to use the glucose, it needs to move from the blood into the cells. This is where insulin plays a role. Insulin is a hormone that acts like a key that unlocks the cell and allows glucose to enter.
There are Two Types of Diabetes:
Type 1 diabetes: The body does not make insulin in this form of diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day. Type 1 is an autoimmune condition that typically appears earlier in life.
Type 2 diabetes: The body does not make insulin or use insulin well. People with type 2 diabetes may need to take pills or insulin. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes.
ABCs of Diabetes
The American Diabetes Association and the American College of Cardiology have teamed up to raise public awareness of the “ABCs of diabetes”. Managing your ABCs will help lower your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, or other diabetic complications.
A is for the A1c test: This test shows your average blood glucose levels over the last 3 months. The A1c goal for most people is below 7%.
B is for blood pressure: The blood pressure goal for most people is 120/80. A goal of 140/80 is appropriate for most people with diabetes. High blood pressure can put too much stress on your organs. It can cause heart attack, stroke, or kidney disease.
C is for cholesterol: Cholesterol measures the amount of fat in your blood. The goal for most people is a value below 200 mg/dL for total cholesterol, less than 100 mg/dL for low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL), and above 40 mg/dL (men) and 50 mg/dL (women) for high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol. LDL cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels. HDL cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from your blood vessels. Higher total cholesterol values put you at risk for a heart attack or a stroke.
D is for daily exercise: Stay physically active every day. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity per day or 150 minutes per week. Exercise can also help keep your blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure in check.
E is for eating well: Control your portion sizes, and stay on a regular meal schedule. Aim for the appropriate amount of carbohydrate calculated by your doctor or registered dietitian at each meal.
F is for foot care: Check your feet for sores, blisters, or injuries every day. Diabetes can make you more prone to infections. Always wear well-padded shoes and try not to walk around barefoot.
Eating with Diabetes
Good diabetes self-care means following your meal plan and keeping track of what you eat and drink. Eat a variety of foods in the right amounts, check labels for calories, total carbohydrate, total fat, and sodium amounts, and eat regularly. Avoid foods that are too high in calories, cholesterol, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Eating regularly throughout the day (every 3-4 hours), can also help to regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day.
MyPlate is a great way to balance out your meals and control your carbohydrate intake. MyPlate focuses on filling half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, ¼ of your plate with a carbohydrate source or starchy vegetable, and ¼ of your plate with a lean protein.
Healthy Food Choices Include:
Tips for Dining Out:
At the end of the day, living an active life with a balanced diet can help manage your diabetes. Always make sure you check with your doctor or registered dietitian for methods to manage your condition.
American Diabetes Association: www.diabetes.org
Joslin Diabetes Center: www.joslin.org
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: www.eatright.org
Written By: Katie Gallagher, MA, RDN, LD
Let's Move! STL Dietitians