New year’s resolutions to get healthier abound, including for people with Type 2 diabetes. But without knowing and understanding how to really put that health goal into practice, it’s harder to achieve.
One thing you can do is to focus on the best diet possible to keep your diabetes in check. Choosing the right foods to eat is just as important as knowing what portion sizes are best for you.
Becky Goldsmith is an outpatient diabetes program manager at Ascension Seton Diabetes Education Center, part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system. Goldsmith said an individualized meal plan can help you get the nutrition you need with the goal of having slow and steady weight loss.
“We never say you can’t have your favorite foods, but it is all about portion control,” Goldsmith said. “This approach makes the diet more doable. Teach people how to have a small portion of the things they love, but in moderation and in conjunction with heart-healthy foods.”
Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition in which your blood sugar level is higher than normal, is the most common form of diabetes. It affects about 29.1 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In Texas, an estimated 11 percent of Texas adults are affected by the disease.
A comprehensive approach
Beyond having the right diet plan, make sure your medications are doing their best for you. On Jan. 2, the American College of Physicians (ACP) released or Type 2 diabetes treatments. The guidelines recommend metformin for patients needing medication, and, if a second line of treatment is needed, sulfonylurea, thiazolidinedione, a SGLT-2 inhibitor, or a DPP-4 inhibitor.
ACP updated its guidelines from 2012 because of several new studies evaluating medications for Type 2 diabetes, as well as recent FDA approvals of several new treatments.
For most patients, Metformin tends to be the best choice because it does not have as many adverse effects and is cheaper than most other oral medication, says the ACP. It also helps with weight loss. So it’s important to check in with your doctor about the possible benefits and negative effects of the medications you’re taking.
A tailored approach to diabetes treatment
Because every person’s body is unique, there isn’t a “one size fits all” approach when it comes to managing blood sugar, said Kimberly Morris, certified diabetes educator at Ascension Seton Diabetes Education Center.
“There are many factors to consider when developing a plan to promote healthy blood sugar levels,” Morris said. “A certified diabetes educator can assess the whole person, taking their work, home and social situations into consideration as well as their current level of blood sugar control, medications, dietary factors and physical activity level and barriers.”
If you’re searching for a Type 2 diabetes strategy that works for you, working with a certified diabetes educator could helpful to finding answers that are specifically targeted for your personal success.
Type 2 diabetes – top five checklist
As you’re heading into the new year, take time to review this checklist of the top five things you can do to keep your diabetes in check.
- Increase your physical activity: Before you jump into a rigorous exercise routine, talk to your doctor about what physical activities are most beneficial for your body. Start slow and exercise with precaution to avoid injury. Things like walking, swimming and dancing could help keep your blood sugar from spiking. Goldsmith recommends 30 minutes of exercise five days per week.
- Choose foods wisely: Carbohydrates like breads, grains, starches, milk and fruits have the biggest effect on blood sugars. Focus heavily on controlling portion sizes of those foods and balance them with foods like vegetables, lean proteins and heart healthy fats. A registered dietician should help you determine portion sizes and a meal plan.
- Check blood sugar regularly: Keep an eye on what you eat and how it affects you by testing your blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association’s guidelines say generally between 80-130 mg/dl before you eat and under 180 mg/dl about two hours after you eat is ideal. But everyone is different, so talk to your doctor about what range is best for you.
- Get in the know: Talk to a certified diabetes educator to learn how to self-manage Type 2 diabetes, including ongoing treatment. Diabetes educators provide information about how exercise and food choices affect blood sugar and preventing things like eye or kidney damage. The more you know, the easier it is to make healthy choices.
- Check in with your doctor regularly: Treatment needs change depending on your blood sugar levels. Make appointments for regular checkups with your doctor to ensure you’re up-to-date on your regimen.
Ascension Seton Diabetes Education Center can create a customized meal plan for you to make sure your diet and exercise routine is tailored to your body’s needs. Our certified diabetes educators have taught classes for many employers throughout Austin, including the city of Austin and The University of Texas at Austin. If you’re interested in having a class taught at your workplace, contact Becky Goldsmith at 512-324-3321.