By: Emelin Martinez, FNP-BC, Family Nurse Practitioner/Valley Wide Chief Medical Officer
November is Diabetes Awareness Month, so we’ve asked our providers to contribute to this quick article to give you the information you need about diabetes. This is an all too common diagnosis made and managed in our clinics. Knowledge is power, and we want you to be empowered to prevent diabetes, or live a happy, healthy life if you’ve already been diagnosed!
In part 1 of this series, we talked about what diabetes is, what causes this condition, and how it can be tested for and monitored. Today, we’re going to discuss lifestyle changes that can help reduce your risk of developing diabetes, or help you live well if you’ve already been diagnosed.
A key part of managing type 2 diabetes is maintaining a healthy diet. You need to create a sustainable, healthy nutrition plan that helps improve your health and still makes you feel happy and fed. Remember, making lifestyle changes is a process – you don’t have to (and probably won’t) get it 100% right the first try. The important thing is to keep trying.
If you’re confused about what to eat, a great place to start is the Mediterranean Diet, which has been shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. You might also make an appointment with a dietitian or nutritionist who specializes in helping people with diabetes. There are also many books that cover healthy diets for patients with diabetes – your provider might even be able to recommend one they think is really great. Regardless of what cuisine you prefer, here’s what all healthy eating plans have in common – they include:
- plenty of fruits and vegetables
- lean meats and plant-based proteins
- reducing added sugar
- fewer processed foods
Fitness is another key to managing type 2 diabetes, and the good news is, all you have to do is get moving! The key to creating a fitness lifestyle is to find activities you love and do them as often as you can. Light walking for 30 minutes each day is a great place to start – and a great habit to incorporate into your life. Make sure you check with your provider before taking on more strenuous exercise routines to make sure you’re healthy enough, especially if you want to take up something like running or a rough sport.
Counseling and Support
Tracking your blood sugar levels, dosing insulin, planning your meals, staying active – it’s a lot to think about. Sometimes it can leave you feeling run down, emotionally drained and completely overwhelmed. You’re not alone in feeling this way, in fact, there’s a name for it! It’s called diabetes burnout. It’s important to stay in touch with your emotions as you manage your diabetes. A behavioral health provider* can help you talk honestly and openly about how you feel.
You may also want to find a support group where you can discuss your feelings with other people who have diabetes, share lifestyle tips and tricks, and make friends who understand your life. With diabetes, feeling physically good is half the battle; the other half is feeling mentally good too!
*Valley-Wide Health Systems has behavioral health providers who you can talk to. Visit our providers page and search for “behavioral health” in the dropdown menu.