Take Staying Healthy with Diabetes Seriously

Our society offers many different messages about diabetes, there are a variety of reasons some people with diabetes feel their condition isn’t serious. They may believe that their diabetes is not serious because they developed it late in life or they don’t take insulin. They may also think that they only have a “touch of sugar” or “borderline” diabetes. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is always a serious disease and steps must be actively taken to stay healthy with diabetes.

History of the Casual Approach

The idea that diabetes is not a serious disease may have its roots in the 1920s. Before the discovery of insulin, diabetes was most often a fatal disease. Insulin was discovered in 1921, allowing millions of people with diabetes to survive. Insulin was such a dramatic, life saving discovery that many people came to believe that insulin was “the cure” for diabetes and that diabetes was no longer a serious threat. We know today that insulin is not a cure for diabetes, but a treatment to maintain blood glucose levels within target. There are many diabetes-related complications that people can develop over years of having elevated blood glucose levels. However, with proper treatment and good blood glucose control, complications can be delayed or prevented.

It is possible to have high blood glucose levels and feel no symptoms, diabetes is often called a silent disease. These high levels of blood glucose may be causing serious damage to the body even though the person with diabetes may not realize it until they have one of the complications.

  • Whether you take insulin or not, your diabetes puts you at risk for the following:
  • Eye disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Kidney failure
  • Heart and blood vessel disease

If you have diabetes, it is most important to know the effect that uncontrolled, elevated glucose levels over time will have on your body, and to make a strong effort to keep your blood glucose as close to normal as possible. Through healthy eating, exercise and, often, medicine, you can manage diabetes. Blood glucose control, however, requires a team effort. This means that you, your family, health care provider, diabetes educator, Costco pharmacist and dietitian must all take your diabetes seriously and work hard to improve your control.
Importance of keeping goals

People with diabetes who stick to their goals for lowering their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose, are less likely to suffer from cardiovascular problems than those with less-ambitious treatment goals. In a recent study, people with type 2 diabetes who were given ambitious treatment goals reduced their cardiovascular problems by half, indicating that this approach works well over time.

The most serious complications of type 2 diabetes—heart disease, kidney failure, nerve damage and blindness—can be reduced up to 50% by changes in lifestyle, according to Danish investigators led by Dr. Oluf Pedersen as described in the February, 2003 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine. The key was combining improved lifestyle habits and a medication regimen, versus usual care.

One hundred and sixty people with diabetes facing the highest risk of heart disease and other diabetes related complications incorporated a “heart-smart” diet, moderate exercise and the daily intake of several vitamins, aspirin, and oral diabetes medications currently used by millions to lower blood pressure and cholesterol—all strategies that have long been advocated for reducing risks of heart disease. Half the study participants followed Pedersen’s combination program, which tackles several risk factors—being overweight, having high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and smoking—for eight years.

The program includes:

  • A diet of at least six servings of vegetables and one serving of omega-3—rich fish such as herring, salmon or mackerel each day.
  • No more than 30% of total calories can come from fat, with no more than 10% from saturated fats, which can increase “bad” LDL cholesterol. With the exception of daily fish consumption, this is similar to the standard low-fat “heart-healthy” diet recommended by doctors.
  • At least 30 minutes of light to moderate exercise, three to five times a week, which is actually less than the recommendations of some experts who advocate an hour of exercise each day.
  • Quitting smoking.
  • Following a regimen of various vitamin supplements and a daily aspirin.

The second group followed the same exercise and non-smoking regimen, along with a diet calling for up to 35% of all calories from fat, three daily servings of vegetables, and fish once a week. They did not receive the oral medications.

The results of the study:

In addition to nearly half the rate of death from cardiovascular disease, kidney failure and blindness resulting from diabetes-induced blood vessel problems, 70% of combination therapy participants achieved “low-risk” cholesterol levels, 60% reached ideal triglycerides levels, and more than half achieved good control of their blood pressure. By comparison, fewer than half of those using the conventional approach met these goals.

Goals for control

What’s the “perfect” A1C and before meal blood glucose number for a person with diabetes?

There isn’t one, as everyone with diabetes will have individual goals for blood glucose and A1C. Here are the target ranges for staying healthy with diabetes that the American Diabetes Association and Joslin Diabetes Center encourage people to achieve blood Glucose Levels.

  • Take 90-130 mg/dL before meals and100-140 mg/dL at bedtime A1C
  • Take less than 7% Remember, these are only guidelines. Your health care provider may determine that different target numbers are best for you.
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Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN—an award-winning RD, certified diabetes educator, and past national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is the author of The African American Guide to Living Well With Diabetes, which received the Favorably Reviewed designation from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and Eating Soulfully and Healthfully with Diabetes.

Dr. Lori Shemek, PhD, CNC, CLC, the best-selling author of “Fire-Up Your Fat Burn! and leading health and weight loss expert, is also known as “The Inflammation Terminator.” She has made it her mission to educate the public on the toxic effects of certain foods and lifestyle choices and how they create inflammation in the body. She is a leading authority on inflammation and its role in weight loss, preventing disease and optimizing health.

Rebecca Bitzer – MS, RD/LD, CEDRD is an award-winning Registered Dietitian, writer, speaker, blogger, and REBEL Dietitian business owner. Rebecca and her team of six Registered Dietitians have counseled thousands of clients struggling with diabetes for over twenty-five years. They work closely with each other along with internists, endocrinologists, therapists, and families.

Maureen Sullivan – RN, CDE has worked for many years as a Registered Nurse, most of them in emergency and trauma services. She is a Certified Emergency Nurse, Certified Diabetes Educator, and the former manager of a hospital stroke program. Maureen’s wealth of knowledge, passion for nursing and education, and ability to engage people makes her an excellent teacher and a captivating lecturer. Recently, Maureen has been concentrating on writing, speaking and teaching, as well as working on her award-winning weekly podcast, “The Health and Humor Show.”

Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN is a nutrition communications specialist, registered dietitian in private practice, social media consultant, speaker, spokesperson and corporate consultant. She is currently the owner of Nutrition Starring YOU, LLC and www.NutritionStarringYOU.com. Lauren strongly believes that we should “Think Healthy, not Skinny”, and “EveryBODY is unique, your diet should be too”. Lauren was co-host of the Family Food Experts Kitchen radio show, available for listening on iHeart Radio and iTunes. Also known as one of the “NutritionBabes”, Lauren co-founded NutritionBabes.com, a popular Health and Wellness website in 2009. NutritionBabes.com was voted one of Healthline’s Top 100 Health Blogs in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE is a clinical health psychologist and the director of the Center for Diabetes and Mental Health (CDMH). In addition to treating patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes, Dr. Heyman provides training for health care providers on how to identify and address the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes in their patients. He also works with pharmaceutical and medical device companies to help them understand these issues and incorporate this information into their sales, marketing, and patient education materials. He is particularly interested in empirically supported behavioral interventions that promote behavior change and improve physical and mental health in people with diabetes.

Katie Ferraro, MPH, RD, CDE is a nationally-recognized registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator and author with an expertise in nutrition communications and curriculum development. She is the co-author of “Diet Therapy in Advanced Practice Nursing” (McGraw Hill, 2014) and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Nutrition at the University of California San Francisco and University of San Diego’s graduate schools of nursing.

Dr. Beverly S. Adler, PhD, CDE (aka “Dr. Bev”) is a clinical psychologist and certified diabetes educator, author and speaker. She specializes treating the emotional issues of people with diabetes. In her private practice, she provides individual, family and/or group therapy utilizing a cognitive behavior therapy orientation, combined with a spiritual approach. Her goal is to empower her patients to manage their diabetes.

Dr. Bev is the author of two self-help diabetes books. She has written numerous articles which are published in print and online – always focused on diabetes from the emotional perspective. She also speaks to audiences of people living with diabetes, as well as, to audiences of healthcare professionals and diabetes educators. Dr. Bev, herself, has been living successfully with type 1 diabetes for 40+ years.

In August 2016, Dr. Bev was honored to receive the “CDE Entrepreneur of the Year” Award from her Metropolitan NY Association of Diabetes Educators.

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RDN, CDE, FAND is an internationally recognized nutrition and diabetes expert with more than two decades experience. Through writing, speaking and one-on-one coaching, Jill empowers people to grab control of their health. She has worked as both a nutrition counselor and a diabetes educator in the hospital and research settings, and now in private practice in Newport News, VA. Jill is known for her practical approach and caring attitude. Her no-nonsense strategies to eating well include foods that both taste good and are good for you.

Marlene Koch (pronounced ‘cook’) is a nationally recognized nutritionist, popular TV personality and New York Times bestselling author. She graduated Magna Cum Laude from UCLA with a Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Science. She is a registered dietitian and one of a select group of dietitians to hold an advanced certificate in Child and Adolescent Weight Management from the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics.

Marlene has taught professional chefs from the American Culinary Federation the principles of healthy cooking and eating. She has been adjunct Nutrition professor and cooking instructor for Columbus State College and the Columbus State Culinary Academy, and she is a nationally recognized expert in weight loss, diabetes, child and adolescent nutrition, and sugar substitutes.

Marlene has sold over one million cookbooks, and is a regular guest on QVC.

Barbara Ruhs – MS, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and owner of Neighborhood Nutrition LLC, a consulting firm focused on providing solutions to help food companies and supermarkets improve consumer health & wellness. She’s a former supermarket dietitian and has run a successful business for 17 years. A leader in the field of nutrition, her mission is to help people by impacting the way food is produced, marketed and sold. She’s a strong advocate for supermarket dietitians and believes the retail food industry has the greatest potential to impact public health.

Cheryl Orlansky has over 25 years of experience in health promotion and chronic disease prevention and management. Her first career as a registered dental hygienist led her towards a path of wellness and nutrition! Her expertise is in diabetes, weight management and cardiovascular disease for individuals and groups. She works in a large private practice including endocrinology, internal medicine, rheumatology, neurology and sleep medicine. She is an award winning dietitian with current leadership positions in state and local dietetics organizations.

She has been interviewed and quoted in media outlets for WebMD, Atlanta Sports and Fitness, Georgia Public Broadcasting, and the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. She has partnered with V-103 Radio to lead supermarket tours as part of a community outreach during National Nutrition Month.

Cheryl helps her clients reach balance through lifestyle choices: cooking and eating, activity and purpose in life.

Jackie Newgent, RDN, CDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist and classically-trained chef. With a passion for helping people (including her father) with diabetes, she’s author of The With or Without Meat Cookbook: The Flexible Approach to Flavorful Diabetes Cooking and the award-winning The All‐Natural Diabetes Cookbook, both published by the American Diabetes Association. Jackie is also author of 1,000 Low-Calorie Recipes and Big Green Cookbook. Her next book, The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook—2nd Edition, was published in 2015.

Nutritionist Rania Batayneh, MPH is the author of the best-selling book, The One One One Diet. She holds a master’s degree in public health nutrition from the University of Michigan School of Public Health and is also a Wellcoaches Certified Health and Wellness Coach endorsed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM).

OmnichannelHealth Media, publisher of DiabetesDigest.com, does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. See additional information.