Stay on top of your diabetes with a few lifestyle changes

Get 2½ hours of moderate intensity exercise every week & eat a balance diet within the specified daily calorific intake


Bangalore: Diabetes is a metabolic disorder wherein your blood sugar levels are increased beyond the normal range, over a prolonged period. It usually causes symptoms like increased frequency of urination (polyuria), increased thirst (polydipsia) and increased hunger (polyphagia).


Uncomplicated diabetes can remain undiagnosed for a considerable period of time and a majority of such cases are diagnosed accidentally. However, let this not make you complacent – diabetes is a “killer disease” that can affect almost all internal organs and systems, leading to serious complications and prognosis.


Diabetes at a Glance

Diabetes is caused because the beta cells of the Islets of Langerhans (the insulin secreting cells) of the pancreas is either not producing enough insulin or the cells of the body are not responding properly to the insulin produced by the pancreas.


The primary principle of diabetes management is to maintain the blood sugar at normal level at all times by changes in lifestyle and by taking proper medication, if required, as per the advice of a doctor. Exercise, eat right, loose weight & stay fit, take medicines regularly and check your blood sugar periodically.


World Diabetes Day

Around 382 million people have Diabetes globally, of which Type 2 Diabetes accounts for almost 90%. Keeping in view the enormity of the health hazard on account of this condition, World Diabetes Day is celebrated on November 14 every year and the campaign is led by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) along with its member associations.


The purpose is to engage people all over the world in Diabetes advocacy & awareness. For this, World Diabetes Day features a new theme each year, chosen by the International Diabetes Federation to address the relevant issues facing world diabetes community.


The World Diabetes Day 2014 marks the first of a three-year focus on healthy living and diabetes. The idea is to address the issue of healthy eating and its importance in preventing Type 2 diabetes as well as effective management of the disease to avoid implications.


Lifestyle Changes

So what kind of lifestyle change is required – both for people at high risk for Diabetes and those who’ve been diagnosed with Diabetes – to manage the condition? Here’s what is recommended:


  • Increase physical activity: Ensure you get at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity physical activity every week or one-and a half hour of high-intensity exercise every week. Moderate-intensity physical activity can include brisk walking, cycling on a flat terrain, water aerobics, etc. Vigorous physical activity can include jogging, swimming, cycling over a steep terrain, skipping, aerobics, playing football, tennis, squash, badminton etc.


  • Shed those extra pounds: If you are overweight, aim to lose weight gradually until a healthy BMI is achieved. A healthy BMI range is 18.5 and 24.9 – but for South Asians it is 18.5-22.9. The best way to lose weight is through increased physical activity and diet control. Avoid crash dieting or new diet fads. Resist the temptation of junk food and carbonated soda drinks as much as possible because they only add calories without much nutrition.


  • Eat a healthy diet: Add whole grains and legumes to your diet. Eat fresh food instead of processed food. Have more vegetables (especially dark green leafy vegetables) – beginning a meal with salad without heavy dressing is a good idea. Try fresh fruit instead of canned fruit juice and toned milk instead of full-cream milk. Drink lots of water.


  • Reduce saturated fat: Avoid cooking in excess oil, ghee or butter in your food. So next time, instead of deep-frying something, try grilling or roasting it. But above all, remember, its not so much about what you eat but how much you eat. Opt for small portions to ensure that your daily calorific intake remains within the specified limit.


  • Daily Calorific Intake: How many calories should one consume per day depends on a variety of factors like your height, weight, level of physical activity, etc. But the thumb rule is 1,400-1,500 calories per day for women and 1,800-1,900 calories for men. And these calories must be consumed in the form of a balanced diet as specified by your nutritionist. Typically, 40-45% of the daily calories consumed should be carbohydrates, 25-30% protein, 10-15% fat, etc.


Common Myths


#1: Diabetics cannot have any sugar at all.

Not true. The important thing is to stick to your daily calorific intake. This means you can eat a chocolate brownie & consume 450-475 calories in one go or you can spread it across a healthy & balanced meal.


#2: Diabetics should not have any carbohydrates. 

Again, not true. Eat in small portions, within the total carbohydrate intake allowed per meal in the form of a balanced diet.


#3: Consume sugar-free food and beverage.

Beware, most sugar-free and “diabetes food” is actually not low-calorie food. Read the nutrition labels carefully before splurging on such food items.


#4: If I am on medication, diet control is not necessary.

If you want to stay on top of diabetes, you have to take charge of your diet and your physical activity. So far as medication is concerned, follow your doctor’s prescription.


#5: My blood glucose is now normal, so I don’t have to take the medicine anymore.

It’s imperative that you consult a Diabetologist before making any change to your medication routine. Stopping your medication without consulting the doctor advice can have dangerous complications.


- Dr. S. P. Datta, General Physician


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