7 Lifestyle changes you can make to control diabetes

Being diagnosed as a prediabetic is not a punishment; rather, it’s an opportunity to take charge of your health and turn things around

7 Lifestyle changes you can make to control diabetes

Lifestyle diseases are a major healthcare concern for Indians. There are over 40 million people today who have been diagnosed as diabetic, and another whopping 80 million who show signs of IGT (impaired glucose tolerance) and are considered prediabetic. 

India thus has the highest susceptible population in the world. This could have enormous long-term implications on the Indian healthcare system.

What causes diabetes?

Diabetes mellitus is a metabolic disease characterised by high blood sugar levels. The insulin produced in the beta cells of the pancreas regulates blood sugar; the absence or insufficient production of insulin is what causes diabetes.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 or juvenile-onset diabetes usually affects those under the age of 20. The disease can be passed on genetically or due to an impaired immune system. Type 2 diabetes is a silent killer that is primarily caused due to poor eating habits, sedentary lifestyle, hypertension, low levels of good cholesterol (HDL), or high levels of triglycerides in the blood.

Related: 3 Features of new-age health insurance plans in India: innovation and ease 

Reading the signs of diabetes 

In the case of prediabetes, the symptoms may take a while to surface. They may not show up at all until you take a blood test. If you do not take care of your health and lifestyle, prediabetes could become Type 2 diabetes within a few years.

If you are excessively thirsty, feel like urinating frequently, get fatigued quickly, have skin problems, heal slowly when injured, feel tingling or numbness in the hands and/or feet, or have blurry vision, these could be diabetes symptoms and should not be ignored.

Additionally, diabetes symptoms in women include vaginal itching or discharge, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) or urinary tract infections (UTIs) caused due to excessive sugar in the urine that becomes a breeding ground for bacterial growth.

If you have been showing any of the following symptoms for some time, it is advisable to take a blood test as soon as possible. Check if the results indicate the following:

◾ Haemoglobin A1C reading between 5.7% and 6.4%

◾ Fasting blood sugar level of 100-125 mg/dl

◾ Blood sugar of 140-199 mg/dl two hours after eating 

In these circumstances you could be diagnosed as prediabetic, which over time could lead to further complications such as cardiovascular diseases, organ damage, etc.

Related: Unique features offered by different health insurers 

Taking charge of your health

Being diagnosed as prediabetic is not a punishment, but rather an opportunity to take charge of your health and turn things around. You can absolutely reverse the condition and live a longer and healthier life. Here are seven lifestyle changes you should consider:

1. Manage your carb intake

Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, but the right choices can ensure you don’t have to give up on good food. A diabetic diet should limit carbohydrate intake but with a focus on complex carbs such as whole wheat products, barley, legumes, and non-starchy vegetables. These are a great source of fibre, which helps regulate blood sugar.

2. Cut down on sugar

Sugary items, and simple and refined carbohydrates such as white bread, sweets, cakes, juices, and aerated drinks are to be avoided. If you have a sweet tooth, opt for whole fruits that are low-carb, have a low glycemic index (GI), and rank high on antioxidants. Fruits suitable for diabetics include berries, apples, pears, oranges, peaches, cantaloupe, etc.

3. Consume the right proteins

Opt for low-fat lean protein that is high in potassium, such as turkey and chicken or seafood options like salmon, mackerel, and tilapia. Food for diabetics should use minimal oil; that too healthy vegetable oils.

4. Lose weight

If your BMI is greater than 25, you should reduce your weight. This helps to reduce inflammation, which can be a symptom of insulin resistance. Start with a target of losing 5-7% of your current body weight by setting small manageable goals.

5. Become more active

An active lifestyle is crucial for reversing prediabetes. Walk wherever you can, take the stairs, take a five-minute break every hour to stretch, engage in a sport or dance. By being active, your muscles consume excess blood sugar, help you lose weight, and allow your body to regulate insulin better.

6. Add a weight training program

A strength training program can help improve metabolism and bone strength, and delay the onset of age-related diseases. According to the study, simple body-weight exercises and resistance training even twice a week normalised blood sugar levels in 34% of the participants in just three months.

7. Eat dinner early

An early dinner allows your body to process food effectively and creates a window of 12+ hours for intermittent fasting until breakfast. Intermittent fasting can help improve insulin sensitivity and beta-cell function and keep your blood pressure under control.

Changing your mindset

Habits are powerful. Try to make small changes and focus on the process. Don’t get overwhelmed by numbers and a whole set of do’s and don’ts. Enjoy the journey and build healthy habits that can help you get your health back on track. Take a look at why securing health insurance is a smart decision, irrespective of whether you are at risk for diabetes or not.

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