I have Type 2 Diabetes, and according to a report from the CDC in 2018, 34.2 million people in the United States were diagnosed as diabetic. As if that number wasn’t shocking enough, the CDC estimated that another 88 million adults in the US had prediabetes.
Prediabetes is a serious health condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as type 2 diabetes. A person with prediabetes is at high risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.
In the last 20 years, the number of adults diagnosed with diabetes has more than doubled as the US population has aged and became overweight.
The good news (and there is good news!) is that people who are prediabetic can make small lifestyle changes to avoid type 2 diabetes.
We often tell ourselves stories about our health, and usually, it’s because we don’t want to confront facts that may scare us or make us uncomfortable.
It’s the perfect time to bust some diabetes myths!
DIABETES MYTH BUSTER #1: I’m overweight, so I’ll get diabetes for sure!
Not necessarily. Excess weight is a major risk factor, but so is your family history, ethnicity, age, and activity level. Many people with diabetes are not overweight.
DIABETES MYTH BUSTER #2: Diabetes isn’t a dangerous disease.
Diabetes is dangerous indeed and causes more deaths than breast cancer and AIDS combined. It also increases the chances for heart attack, and other serious complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, and amputation of a toe, foot, or leg.
DIABETES MYTH BUSTER #3: I can’t eat bread, potatoes, or pasta!
These foods can be part of a healthy diet when they’re portion-controlled. Potatoes (white and sweet potatoes) are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Whole grains and sprouted grain breads (Like Ezekiel Bread) have healthy fiber needed to keep the digestive system moving and plant-based pasta can be found in many grocery stores.
DIABETES MYTH BUSTER #4: I can never eat sugar again!
It’s true, diabetics need to strictly limit their refined sugars (simple carbohydrates like processed foods, cakes, candy, cookies, sugar-sweetened soda, etc.), because they are digested faster than complex carbs, and cause blood sugar levels to spike and then drop, kind of like riding a roller coaster.
The best thing you can do to satisfy your sweet tooth is to eat fresh, whole fruit. Berries are especially good because they’re sweet, plus you get the bonus of vitamins and fiber.
I know that there are times when fresh fruit won’t totally satisfy that sweet tooth, but you can make room in your food plan for what I like to call “Planned Indulgences.” For example, if you’re attending a celebration and you know there will be sweet treats served, save some of your daily carbs for a small portion of a sugary treat. Adjust your carbs in the meals you eat prior to the celebration. So, if your doctor or nutritionist wants you to eat 40g of carbs at each meal, figure how many carbs one portion of a special treat contains and adjust your other carb portions so that you stay within your daily carb total. Just be sure to limit the frequency of those planned indulgences.
DIABETES MYTH BUSTER #5: Do I have to eat special or expensive foods?
A healthy meal plan for diabetics is generally the same as healthy eating for anyone. It includes lots of non-starchy veggies, limited added sugars, and prioritizing whole foods over highly processed foods.
Buy fresh fruits and veggies in season. Frozen fruits and veggies are available year-round and are frozen at the peak of freshness, so add them to your meal plan.
Do be careful when buying packaged foods labeled “diabetes-friendly,” as they may be more expensive, and may still raise blood glucose levels.
DIABETES MYTH BUSTER #6: I’ve had type 2 diabetes for a while and now my doctor says I have to start using insulin. Why do I need insulin now when I didn’t before?
Using insulin to get lower blood glucose levels is a good thing because it will help keep your entire body healthy.
Type 2 diabetes is often a progressive disease. At first, you may be able to keep your blood glucose at a healthy level by combining healthy eating with physical activity and oral medications.
Diabetes changes over time and your pancreas may gradually produce less insulin, or your cells may become more resistant to the insulin that your body does produce, and oral medications may not be enough to keep your levels in a healthy range.
DIABETES MYTH BUSTER #7: I’m afraid to exercise because my blood sugar will drop too much.
If you are looking for an excuse to avoid exercise, diabetes isn’t it! Exercise is vital if you want to control diabetes. If you use insulin, a medication that increases insulin production in your body, or a medication that reduces the amount of insulin your liver produces, you have to balance exercise along with your medications and your diet.
Some exercises to consider are walking, cycling, swimming, team sports, aerobic dance, weightlifting, resistance band exercises, calisthenics, Pilates, and yoga. Choose a combination of any of them to avoid boredom. Exercise by yourself, with a friend, or in a group.
Talk with your doctor about the best exercise for your current condition. Start gradually! If you haven’t exercised in a while, take time to build up to your personal time and intensity goals. Aim for a total of 150 minutes per week.
Regular physical activity is important, for managing type 2 diabetes and promoting your overall health. The best exercise is the exercise you’ll do!
Navigating the journey to manage your diabetes can make you feel isolated from family and friends who don’t have to monitor their blood sugars, take meds, or watch what they eat. If this is you, consider working with a Health Coach who specializes in coaching type 2 diabetics.
Connect with Diane Boyko Achatz on The Wellness Universe and walk away feeling better!
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