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Be proactive, thrive with diabetes

PaulaBy Paula Bowers-Sanchez

 April is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that occurs when a person’s metabolic processes do not function as they should.

The body metabolizes food by breaking it down into its simpler components which are proteins, carbohydrates (or sugars) and fats.

But in a person diagnosed with diabetes, his/her body is either unable to produce insulin to convert glucose, or blood sugar, into energy (Type 1) or unable to use insulin to convert the blood sugar into energy (Type 2).

The latter is the most prevalent form of diabetes, and serious complications will occur if a diabetic ignores their eating and exercise requirements. Some of the complications can be irreversible.

When diabetes is uncontrolled, it results in either too high or too low blood sugar in the body. Blood sugar that is too high or too low can produce serious, life-threatening consequences, such as blindness, heart failure, kidney failure, limb amputation and even death.

People who control their diabetes can live a normal life, but if ignored, it can be more like a curse, with devastating effects on your body.

Type 1 diabetes is incurable, while Type 2 is preventable, treatable and can be controlled by regular exercise and sensible eating. Diabetics should follow a special diet and can’t eat whatever they want, whenever they want; they should not overeat.

Diabetics should also check blood sugar levels on a regular basis. Normal blood sugar level tested on an empty stomach, in the morning, should be between 80 and 120. Two hours after a meal, it should be 120-160. Finally, when tested at bedtime, blood sugar levels should fall between 100 and 140.

To control blood sugar levels, a diabetic should make certain lifestyle changes (i.e. stop drinking alcohol, quit smoking), get regular exercise, eat foods that help stabilize blood glucose and follow medication regimens.

Exercise should be part of a daily routine, just like brushing one’s teeth.

Research has shown that getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise daily is beneficial and will help manage diabetes. They key is to get active and stay active, doing things you enjoy.

I recommend a diet low in carbs because low-carb diets help control blood glucose levels and a diet low in fats and rich in vegetables, fruits and grains. The bottom line is this: Learn to eat well-balanced meals in the correct amounts, stay fit and take your prescribed medications, and you can thrive with diabetes.

I have direct experience with diabetes. My mother lived with the disease for years before succumbing to it in 2010. I witnessed firsthand the health issues that can and will arise from neglecting or ignoring doctors’ orders.

Together, we can combat this disease by taking a proactive approach so we are not a society of diabetics.

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, follow your doctor’s orders, maintain the suggested eating regimens and get moving.