When it comes to diabetes, an ounce of prevention truly is a pound of cure. Prevention begins with simple changes including leading an active lifestyle, adjusting your diet, and shedding a few pounds. It is never too late to start making these changes—even if you already have diabetes since it can prevent further damage to your body.
What is diabetes?
Your body is made of cells that normally run on sugar. A hormone called insulin helps drive this sugar into cells. Diabetes occurs when the body stops responding to insulin or does not make insulin. As a consequence, blood sugar levels will rise.
Before diabetes, your blood sugar levels remained in a steady range no matter what you ate or how active you were. With diabetes, maintaining blood sugar levels necessitates mindful eating and behavior.
How do you know if you have diabetes?
The challenge with diabetes is that it may not cause any symptoms. If any do occur, they include needing to urinate often, blurry vision, or an intense thirst.
Diabetes is diagnosed using a blood test that measures the amount of sugar in your blood. It can also be diagnosed by measuring the HbA1c in your blood. HbA1c measures your average blood sugar level over the past two or three months.
HbA1c is the measure that is used by doctors, dieticians, and nurses to monitor your diabetes. The goal is to lower HbA1c to less than 7.0%.
Why should you care?
Simply put, diabetes is a silent disease. Even though you may feel healthy, it causes problems over time. Diabetes damages your blood vessels which course to major organs throughout your body. This puts you at greater risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, vision problems, and loss of feeling in the hands and feet.
Now that you are here, the most important thing you can do is take control. Controlling your blood sugar ranges and your HbA1c prevents damage to vital organs. Type II diabetes can absolutely be prevented and its detrimental effects can be reduced.
Controlling your weight will improve your blood sugar control and overall health. Being active, eating right, and not smoking will optimize your health.
What makes blood sugar rise?
- Consuming too much food that has more carbohydrates than usual. People should consume carbohydrate foods that are rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. An adequate amount of fiber should be consumed as well.
- Not being active. When you are active, your body becomes more sensitive to insulin (the hormone that helps drive sugar into cells). This allows for blood sugar levels to fall.
- Stress and illness cause hormones that increase blood sugar levels. Although this is a normal response, those with diabetes are more vulnerable to these increased blood sugar levels.
- Dehydration may cause increased blood sugar levels.
- Side effects of medications. Medications such as steroids and anti-psychotic agents, among others, can cause a rise in blood sugar levels.
As you can see, there are many factors that can cause your blood sugar to rise. With diabetes, it is important to carefully adjust your lifestyle as your actions are intimately linked to blood sugar.
Another hurdle with diabetes is that not everyone reacts to certain foods or behaviors the same way. What affects one person may not significantly impact others. This is why doctors are unable to make universal recommendations about lifestyle or specific diets for their patients. It is down to you to figure out which factors make your blood sugar rise. The only way to do this is to track your blood sugar.
Tracking your progress:
Let’s say you embark on your journey. You are making the recommended dietary changes and putting more effort into staying active. How do you know that you are on the right track? The answer is regular blood sugar measurements.
Your blood sugar levels fluctuate on a moment to moment basis depending on how hydrated you are, what stress your body is under, what you’ve eaten, and how active you’ve been. When you track your blood sugar consistently over the span of days to weeks, you will have obtained crucial information that can guide your future decisions.
Taking blood sugar measurements used to be a cumbersome process. It required inconvenient finger sticks that are simply not feasible on-the-go. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices have been designed to fit your lifestyle.
With the Freestyle Libre CGM system, a small sensor is placed on the back of the upper arm that automatically monitors your glucose day and night. When you want to check your blood sugar level, you simply swipe the reader over the sensor. It only takes one second and can be done on-the-go.
With this system, you can look at blood sugar trends over the span of a day. These daily patterns are crucial for finding out which lifestyle changes fit you. Most importantly, knowing these trends will keep you motivated to continue these changes.
The monitor also displays the time in which you remained within your target glucose range as well as any time periods in which your blood sugar levels were too low (less than 70mg/dL).
How effective is the Freestyle Libre 14-day system?
After using the Freestyle Libre CGM system for fourteen days, users experienced a decrease in HbA1c by 0.56%. Glucose levels were in the target range for more than 44% of time.
Users checked their glucose levels on average 12 times per day using the Freestyle Libre system, which is greater than the American Diabetes Association recommendation of 6-10 times per day for patients on multiple-dose insulin therapy or insulin pump therapy.
Most importantly, these results are sustainable. Implementing lifestyle changes is challenging because there is no direct feedback from your body. Visualizing daily patterns in glucose levels and seeing your blood glucose in target ranges positively reinforces the changes you implement.
While diabetes is silent, its effects are deleterious. Managing diabetes demands restraint, motivation, and self-advocacy. Taking control of diabetes gives you control of your future.