In 2016, the Philippines was labeled a diabetes hotspot due to the rising number of people diagnosed with the disease in the country. Since then, the figures have been steadily rising, with latest statistics from the International Diabetes Foundation revealing that the total cases of diabetes in adults are nearly four million.
These figures are alarming, especially considering the pandemic we’re facing, as people with diabetes are more likely to develop serious symptoms and complications of COVID-19 when they get infected. Inflammation or internal swelling are among the common concerns, according to the American Diabetes Association.
As we observe Diabetes Awareness Week, we highlight the importance of prevention over cure yet again. To reduce your risk of the disease, our doctors and health specialists enumerated preventive measures below, including what food to avoid with diabetes— to how to maintain an active lifestyle.
What is diabetes?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition wherein the body does not produce insulin (hormone that controls blood sugar)—or, in some cases, does not use insulin as well as it should.M/
This poses a threat to the body because when there’s too much glucose in your bloodstream, it can trigger serious health conditions such as heart disease, kidney failure, and vision loss, among others.M/
There are three main types of diabetes:
- Type I diabetes. Previously called insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes, it is a condition wherein the body stops producing insulin and is believed to be caused by an autoimmune reaction. There are no known ways yet how to prevent this type of diabetes.
- Type II diabetes. The more common type of diabetes, this medical condition occurs when the body doesn’t use insulin well, resulting in abnormal levels of blood sugar in the body. Although prevalent among adults, it can also occur among children. Through proactive, healthy lifestyle choices, this type of diabetes can be prevented.
- Gestational diabetes. This is a diabetic condition that develops during pregnancy. Although it disappears after childbirth, it makes women more vulnerable to type II diabetes. The child may also develop the same type of condition. Your OB-GYN will closely monitor your health given the pregnancy risks that come with this type of disease.
If you’re predisposed to the disease, it’s a must to keep up with regular health check-ups. For convenience and your safety during this time, try booking online doctor’s consultations to better monitor your health.
How do you prevent diabetes?
As mentioned, it’s possible to reduce your risk of developing type II diabetes and gestational diabetes. If you’re susceptible to these diseases, here are some lifestyle routines you can adopt:
1. Reduce sugar intake.
Sugar is at the top of the list of what food to avoid with diabetes, for obvious reasons. Less sugar intake is no easy feat since a lot of the food (and drinks) in the market are loaded with sugar, including candies, chocolates, milk teas, and fruit juices, to name a few.
What’s even more challenging is that some of the food we think are healthy are also sugary, namely sports drinks, low-fat yogurt, granola bars, and salad dressings, among others.
The best way to approach this is to read product labels before buying them. Be familiar with the different names for sugar. Below are some of them:
- Brown sugar
- Cane sugar
- Coconut sugar
- Corn syrup
- Ingredients that end with -ose such as Sucrose, Lactose, and Fructose
Photo courtesy of Laura James via Pexels
If you’re pregnant, take note that you’re at risk for gestational diabetes if you have developed gestational diabetes in a previous pregnancy or have an immediate family member who has diabetes.
High concentrations of blood sugar early in the pregnancy can cause birth defects. Thus, it’s important to reduce sugar intake when you’re pregnant and predisposed to diabetes.
2. Practice portion control.
Eating too much can make you more vulnerable to diabetes. According to recent diabetes research, overeating overburdens the membranous network inside cells called the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). When there are too many nutrients to process, the ER sends an alarm signal to the cell, weakening the insulin receptors on the cell surface. As a result, the body experiences high concentrations of sugar in the blood.
Be better at practicing portion control by following these simple strategies:
- Use smaller plates. Large plates can make your food look smaller. Your tendency is to fill it up with more food, which can lead to subconscious overeating. Instead, replace large plates with smaller ones.
- Fill half the plate with veggies. This allows you to not just eat healthily, but also satisfy your hunger fast. Then there would be no need to reach for an extra cup of rice because you’re already full.
- Don’t eat straight from the box or bag. Most people aren’t unconscious of how much they’re eating when they consume snacks straight from the container. Again, this could result in overeating. It also applies to serving family meals straight from the stove. Avoid this by portioning snacks and meals into bowls or plates.
If you’re pregnant, you would have increased nutritional needs because of your growing baby, but this doesn’t mean overeating is warranted. The last thing you need during this time is to spike your blood sugar.
The tips mentioned above will apply to your situation. If you’re tempted to eat more, the best approach is to eat smaller meals and have snacks in between to keep your blood sugar stable.
3. Swap unhealthy for healthy food.
While you’re cutting out sugar and limiting portion sizes, fill up your diet with healthier food choices. Promote good nutrition by creating your meals around these:
- Healthy carbohydrates. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and low-fat dairy products such as milk and cheese are good choices.
- Fiber-rich food. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes are also rich in fiber, aiding digestion while helping control blood sugar levels.
- High-protein food. Meat and fish are rich sources of protein. This essential nutrient does not increase blood sugar levels but instead helps you feel fuller for longer. Eating more protein will help crave less sugar.
- Good fats. Monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats found in omega-3, nuts, and seeds, canola, and olive oil, help control blood sugar.
Photo courtesy of Yoav Aziz via Unsplash
If you’re pregnant, swap sugary drinks for more water especially when you’re experiencing symptoms of diabetes insipidus, a condition characterized by extreme thirst and excessive amounts of urine.
4. Keep an active lifestyle.
As much as you’re watching what and how you eat, it’s also important to exercise regularly and avoid a sedentary lifestyle. Below are some workout routines you can try to reduce your risk for type II diabetes:
- Aerobic exercises help lower insulin resistance. Some options you can try include walking, swimming, and stationary cycling.
- Resistance exercises enhance muscle mass and strength. Muscles use the most glucose; so when you build muscle mass, you’ll help your body control blood sugar. Some options you can try include weight training and resistance bands.
- Flexibility exercises also improve muscle strength. Some options you can try include yoga and pilates.
If you’re pregnant, ask your OB-GYN what types of exercises will fit your needs. In general, however, the exercises above should be fine for pregnant women.
5. Stop smoking.
Smoking can cause blood sugar levels to rise. The nicotine material alters cells that they’re unable to respond to insulin. Moreover, smoking triggers inflammation in the body, which further contributes to insulin resistance. Simply put, smoking puts you at a higher risk of developing diabetes. Quit the habit by following these recommendations:
- Avoid triggers. This varies from person to person. Some are triggered by stress, others by parties and bars. Learn yours so you can intentionally stay away from them.
- Form a new habit. For some, smoking has been a part of their daily routine, doing it before breakfast or after a long day at work. To break the habit, find a better, healthier activity. For example, run around your neighborhood before eating breakfast or meditating after a stressful workday.
- Join people who want to quit. You’re less likely to smoke when you’re committed to a group of people who have the same goal as you. Knowing you’re accountable to someone can help you resist the urge.
Photo courtesy of Irina Iriser via Unsplash
If you’re pregnant, quitting the habit is not only beneficial in the prevention of gestational diabetes. Remember, smoking can result in serious pregnancy complications which can hurt your baby.
Although prevalent, diabetes is a preventable disease. The key is to adopt a healthier, more active lifestyle. Make the decision today to take charge of your well-being. Set up an appointment with us to know more about our diabetes management plan.