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Diabetes Control for Life

By Amy Bowen, RD, LDN and Lindsey Hurd, Dietetic Intern, MS

With sensible management through diet, exercise, and medication, individuals diagnosed with diabetes can live a long healthy life. Diabetes is a lifelong disease that cannot be cured. Luckily, risks for complications and accompanying diseases such as heart disease can be reversed or avoided by following a healthful lifestyle.

When we eat carbohydrates (starches), our body digests them to make glucose (sugar), the primary source of energy in the body. The glucose is then stored in our liver and in our muscles for use when we need energy. For people with diabetes, this process may not happen as it normally would, causing the amount of sugar in the blood to rise above a normal level.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes:

  • Extreme thirst or hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Blurred vision
  • Drowsiness or dizziness
  • Headache
  • Irritability

Diabetes is diagnosed when:

  • Fasting blood sugar rises over 126mg/dL on consecutive occasions.
  • A test called oral glucose tolerance test is given and blood sugar levels are above or equal to 200mg/dL when measured 2 hours after the test.
  • Blood sugar levels are above 200mg/dL when tested at the time hyperglycemic (high blood sugar) symptoms occur.

Four categories:  Pre-Diabetes, Type I Diabetes, Type II Diabetes, or Gestational Diabetes

Pre-diabetes is a new term used to describe the period of time when individuals have a high blood sugar, but do not meet the criteria of diabetes. Pre-diabetes is diagnosed when:

  • Fasting blood sugar levels fall between 100mg/dL and 126mg/dL
  • After an oral glucose tolerance test, blood sugar levels fall between 140mg/dL and 200mg/dL
  • In Type I Diabetes, the body no longer produces insulin, causing these individuals to require insulin injections to process the sugar from digesting foods normally.

In Type I Diabetes, the body no longer produces insulin, causing these individuals to require insulin injections to process the sugar from digesting foods normally. Type I Diabetes is often diagnosed in children.

Type II Diabetes is most often caused by lifestyle choices such as inactivity, overweight/obesity, smoking, hypertension (blood pressure of ≥ 140/90), and high cholesterol. Other factors include age greater than 45 and African American or Hispanic ethnicities.

Gestational Diabetes occurs in pregnant women, usually toward the end of pregnancy. Soon after birth, Gestational Diabetes resolves itself without further need for treatment. Women with a history of Gestational Diabetes are considered at an increased risk for Type II Diabetes later in life.

Moving Toward a Healthier Lifestyle

  1. Eat a consistent amount of carbohydrates at each meal.  Eating the same amount of carbohydrates at your meals and snack (s) each day will help keep your blood sugar from going too high or too low.
  2. Avoid cutting out all carbohydrate foods from your diet. Carbohydrates are your body’s best form of energy and your body needs some carbohydrates every day.
  3. Do not skip meals.
  4. Control Portion Sizes.  Portion control is the most important aspect of nutrition management in diabetes. Follow the link to Choose My Plate and learn more about how to fill your body with tasty nutrient dense foods that fall within a healthy diet.
  5. Move More

Lastly, to achieve or maintain a healthy weight, activity and movement is an essential component to the equation*. Work toward accomplishing 30-60 minutes of moderate intensity exercise most days of the week. *Check with your physician prior to starting any exercise program.

Achieving a healthy lifestyle takes time and effort. As you progress toward your goals, follow the 80/20 rule, 80 percent of the time, maintain a healthy active lifestyle, and follow the points above. This leaves 20 percent for enjoying foods and activities you enjoy, keeping in mind portion control is key. No food is completely off limits. Find a healthful balance that you can maintain for life and you will find success in achieving your goals.

Need Guidance?

The Outpatient Nutritional Services Department at WakeMed Cary Hospital offers nutritional counseling. A registered dietitian can talk to you about making healthier food choices and tailor a diet that’s right for you. Individual counseling is also offered for weight management, diabetes, heart health, and food allergies.

For more information, or to schedule an appointment, please call or have your physician fax a referral. Phone: (919) 350-2358; Fax (919) 350-2319. Insurance coverage and costs vary.