By Lori Zanini, RD
Receiving a diabetes diagnosis can be both difficult and surprising. It's not often something people see coming. However, type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that can be partly self-managed successfully. The good news is, there are many factors in your control that you can improve upon daily in order to help lower your blood sugar and prevent further complications. With a few simple changes, you can start to see improvements in your blood sugar right away. These four easy strategies will help you take control of your diabetes.
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1. Hydrate Properly
One of the first changes to make is to look at what you are drinking throughout the day. This includes avoiding sodas and fruit juices and taking a close look at what you put in your coffee, which can all be hidden sources of sugar and extra calories. These extra calories can contribute to obesity, a major risk factor for diabetes. Try to replace your sweetened beverages with healthier options. While water is always the number-one choice, you can also switch to flavored seltzer water; unsweetened almond milk; and herbal teas.
2. Make a Move
There’s no need to run a marathon or hit the gym every day of the week. Slight improvements in your daily movement can start to improve blood sugar right away. Start with small, realistic changes, like taking 10- to 15- minute walks after one or two meals each day. Physical activity will help you actually burn the calories you are eating, reducing obesity (which is a major risk factor for diabetes).
3. Maintain a Healthy Weight
We all know that watching what you eat is an important part of long-term diabetes management. But studies show that overall weight reduction, independent of dieting, is also beneficial for those with diabetes. What this means is that you don’t need to completely retrain your palette and decide which exact diet to follow right away. As long as you just start eating a little less every day and do anything else that might also help you lose some extra weight, your diabetes will be better controlled.
4. Ask Questions
The key to making health improvements is to know where you are beginning. Ask your healthcare team questions to gain a clear understanding of your type 2 diabetes situation. Learn the answers to questions such as:
- How was I diagnosed?
- What is my goal blood sugar range?
- Why was I prescribed this medication?
- What do I need to know about how food affects my blood sugar?
Your physician, certified diabetes educator, and registered dietitian/nutritionist will be able to give you more information and context around these questions so you’ll be empowered to make the best choices on a daily basis.
Lori Zanini is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator based in Los Angeles. She owns Lori Zanini Nutrition, a consulting firm that provides nutrition communications services to individuals, brands, and media outlets. She is a national media spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, where she works with national media to convey science-backed, nutrition messages to the public. She is also the author of Eat What You Love, A Diabetes Cookbook, which will be released later this year.