These tweaks give your pancreas a helping hand.
Medication and blood glucose meters play important roles in type 2 diabetes management, but don’t turn a blind eye to your everyday habits. In fact, the right lifestyle changes could be enough to keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range, without medication. Here’s what lifestyle changes endocrinologists and other health experts recommend to manage type 2 diabetes.
Clean up your diet. Limit sugar, white flour and other refined grains, and starchy vegetables, which can spike blood glucose levels. Instead, choose non-starchy vegetables and whole grains as much as possible.
Get moving. In addition to helping manage weight, exercise improves the body’s ability to use up glucose for energy, which reduces the excess sugar in the bloodstream, according to Joan Pagano, an exercise physiologist in New York City. The official recommendation is 150 minutes of exercise a week. Learn more about exercising with diabetes here.
Lose weight. Excess weight can make diabetes symptoms worse, and losing just 5 to 7 percent of your body weight can help regulate blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance.
Make sleep a priority. “If you’re not sleeping well, during the day you feel sluggish, you’re tired, and then you get more cravings,” says Sandra Arévalo, RDN, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Diabetes Educators. Let’s be honest: Few of us opt to munch on broccoli when we’re falling asleep at their desk; we’re usually more drawn to the quick, carby foods like chips or sweets. “The more carbohydrates you eat, the higher your numbers are, so it’s a vicious cycle,” says Arévalo.
Reduce stress. Both emotional and physical stress produce hormones that can worsen insulin resistance. To control blood sugars, cut out unnecessary sources of stress in your life, prioritize what’s important to you, and build stress-relieving habits into your day. (Here are ways to reduce stress besides meditation.)
Get support. Lean on your friends and family to help you make these important lifestyle changes. You can even enlist the help of professionals, such as dietitians and diabetes educators, to guide your progress.
Dr. Chaudhry is an endocrinologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City.Paul Knoepflmacher
Dr. Knoepflmacher is a clinical instructor of medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he also maintains a private practice.Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe
Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe is an internist and health media expert in New York City.Joan Pagano
Joan Pagano is an exercise physiologist in New York City.Sandra Arevalo
Sandra Arevalo is a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and director of nutrition services and community outreach at South Bronx Health Center.
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Eating the right foods, exercising, and
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losing weight significantly improves
insulin sensitivity and diabetes control,
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and also helps to lower blood pressure and
lower cholesterol levels.
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I think the most important
lifestyle change vis-a-vis diet and
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diabetes is really focusing on sugar that
you're taking into the body, and by that,
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I mean more broadly carbohydrates.
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We look at starchy foods,
the white foods, potatoes, rice, pasta,
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People with diabetes should eat more of
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high fiber foods and should try
to adhere to a lower sodium diet.
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People with diabetes should
avoid fast foods, fried or
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fatty foods and soft drinks.
00:00:51,870 --> 00:00:53,970
When I found out I had type 2 diabetes,
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I knew I had to make
changes in my lifestyle.
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I realized I couldn't make the same
things that I did in the past.
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So I had to find substitutes, and
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the other thing I've had to do
is add some forms of exercise.
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I love to walk around my neighborhood,
nothing strenuous but still
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doing something that will be good for me.
Exercise is one of the fundamental ways
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to manage diabetes, because exercise
improves the ability of the cells to take
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up the blood sugar to fuel
the activity that you're doing.
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So that you don't have
excess sugars circulating
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in the bloodstream.
The official recommendations are 150
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minutes of weekly exercise.
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Even modest exercise is very good for
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your cardio-metabolic health.
Weight loss is crucial in diabetes
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management because excess weight is
really the thing that fuels diabetes.
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So if you lose weight, your insulin
resistance falls, your sugars fall.
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Just losing about 5 to 7% of your
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body weight and sustaining that weight
loss can help you better regular
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your blood sugar levels.
Sleeping better can help you improve
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your metabolic health.
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It can help you with weight control.
00:02:02,700 --> 00:02:05,270
It can help you with reducing
your risk of diabetes.
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If you're not sleeping well,
00:02:07,540 --> 00:02:10,610
during the day, you'll feel sluggish,
you'll feel tired,
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then you'll get more cravings and
you'll crave foods that give you energy.
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And the foods that give you energy
per choice, are carbohydrates.
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And the more carbohydrates you eat,
the higher your numbers are.
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So it's like a vicious circle.
Emotional and physical stress can
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increase hormones that promote insulin
resistance and high blood sugar.
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It's important for patients to employ
stress and anxiety reducing measures.
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And for diabetics, exercise is a great way
to treat your diabetes and relieve stress.
00:02:40,750 --> 00:02:42,510
I think support from either friends or
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family or coworkers is really important
because you're asking someone to make
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a behavioral change,
which we all know is difficult to do.
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And you're asking them to do it in
a situation where they may not be feeling
00:02:52,080 --> 00:02:54,200
sick, so it's even more of a hard sell.
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So you really have to rely and
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get other people involved
to help your patient along.
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- Lack of Sleep and Diabetes. Arlington, VA. Sleep Foundation, 2020. (Accessed on January 1, 2021 at https://www.sleepfoundation.org/physical-health/lack-of-sleep-and-diabetes)
- Standards of Medical Care in Diabetes—2021. Diabetes Care. American Diabetes Association. January 01 2021; volume 44 issue Supplement 1 (Accessed on January 1, 2021 at https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/44/Supplement_1)
Diabetes management guidelines. Lyndhurst, NJ: National Diabetes Education Initiative, 2016. (Accessed on December 13, 2017 at http://www.ndei.org/ADA-diabetes-management-guidelines-lifestyle-changes-medical-nutrition-therapy-physical-activity.aspx.html.)Grains and starchy vegetables. Arlington, VA: American Diabetes Association. (Accessed on December 13, 2017 at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/grains-and-starchy-vegetables.html.) Lifestyle changes to manage type 2 diabetes. Leawood, KS: American Academy Family Physician, 2009. (Accessed on December 13, 2017 at https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0101/p42.html.) Living healthy with diabetes. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association, 2020. (Accessed on January 1, 2021 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/Diabetes/PreventionTreatmentofDiabetes/Living-Healthy-with-Diabetes_UCM_313880_Article.jsp#.WjFj8t-nEdU.) Patient education: diabetes mellitus type 2: alcohol, exercise, and medical care (beyond the basics). Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2017. (Accessed on December 13, 2017 at https://www.uptodate.com/contents/diabetes-mellitus-type-2-alcohol-exercise-and-medical-care-beyond-the-basics.)