As we enter the new year, diabetes remains a persistent concern for the healthcare community. Coming into 2023, 13% of the population of North America has some impaired glucose tolerance, whether that be pre-diabetes or Type 1 or 2 diabetes. The rate of diabetes diagnosis is growing due to several factors —namely poor nutrition and lifestyle.
Some steps can be taken to both stave off the onset of Type 2 diabetes and manage the possible adverse effects once a diagnosis is given. With education about the different types of diabetes, direction on better nutrition, and information on advancements in health research and technology, the idea of conquering diabetes can come closer to reality.
Doctors that specialize in diabetes are hopeful that the tides may be changing for those affected by the disease. “It’s our job as doctors to get you under control as soon as possible,” says Dr. Ahmet Ergin of SugarMDs. “Whether you want to call that a cure or remission, we can help. That way, perhaps you don’t have to worry about diabetes affecting your entire life.”
Here are some solutions to the growing problem of diabetes diagnoses that we can turn to in the new year:
Improve your nutrition
Beating back the onset of Type 2 diabetes can all begin with nutrition. A healthy diet should include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and minimal processed foods and foods high in carbohydrates. A diet rife with foods high on the glycemic index, such as soda and white bread, can increase one’s chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.
It’s also important to limit fast food. A 15-year study of 3,000 people found that those who ate fast food twice a week developed insulin resistance — a diabetes risk factor — at twice the rate of those who did not swing by the drive-thru as often.
“Your habits can be difficult to change, but if you do, it can help make it far easier to manage your diabetes,” Dr. Ergin says. “This doesn’t mean you have to go all out and stop eating everything. Just start with some simple changes.”
Although there is no cure or way of preventing Type 1 diabetes, management of the condition can still be made easier through better nutrition.
Even if you’re not exercising to build muscle or lose weight, it can still help you control diabetes or avoid it altogether. Regular weight-lifting or even vigorous walking can keep blood sugar steady and improve overall health, guarding against an eventual diabetes diagnosis.
Dr. Ergin advises those starting an exercise regimen to stick with it, even if they do not see the wellness benefits immediately. “It’s not going to happen overnight. If your fitness level and muscle mass are good, sometimes the blood sugars can go down right away,” Dr. Ergin says. “But if you are on the other side of the coin and your muscle mass is not good, you may need to do more exercise before you start seeing results.”
Manage your stress level
It may seem like one’s stress level and diabetes have no connection, but stress can make blood sugar levels difficult, if not impossible, to control. People who focus on getting a good amount of sleep, as well as those who practice relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga, can enjoy better control of their blood sugar levels and a decreased chance of insulin resistance.
There are various ways of improving your sleep and managing stress. Powering down before bedtime, limiting smartphone and computer use, and learning deep breathing techniques are all ways that people can get a handle on their stress levels and improve their chances of avoiding diabetes now and in the future.
Herbal supplements for healthy blood glucose support
Naturopathy is undoubtedly seeing a comeback in recent years. It taps into the body’s natural ability to heal and what nature has to offer to support healing and good health.
There is a bevy of herbal supplements that support healthy blood glucose levels for people with diabetes or those in danger of developing diabetes. “Gymnema sylvestre, bitter melon, fenugreek, and turmeric have been used for centuries to support healthy blood sugar, and studies have shown their potential benefits for diabetics,” explains Dr. Ergin.
While not a replacement for conventional diabetes treatments, herbal supplements can be added to a treatment regimen as a complementary approach to managing the condition.
Turn to tech
Significant advancements have been made in the area of diabetes technology in the last 10 to 20 years. Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs), which provide updated blood glucose readings every 5 minutes or when scanned by a smartphone, have been game-changers for many people with diabetes. The up-to-the-minute information they provide has allowed Type 1 and Type 2 diabetics to manage their blood sugar better and make better choices concerning food or insulin dosage. Insulin pumps have also improved, with updated pumps working in tandem with CGMs to provide comprehensive diabetic monitoring and care intuitively.
The reality of diabetes is that there is no cure — yet. While Type 2 diabetics can sometimes count on lifestyle changes to send their diagnosis into remission, making those changes before a diagnosis is the better approach. With a better focus on diet, exercise, and stress management, people can stave off Type 2 diabetes or better manage their Type 1 diabetes. As we search for a cure, the spirit behind conquering this incurable disease is all about better management and a stronger focus on wellness overall.