Diabetes & Endocrinology

Healthy Living Tips

Managing a chronic illness can be a full-time job. But who wants to add another responsibility to their already hectic lives? Many people feel like there aren't enough minutes in the day to get everything done and spend quality time with the family. However, when it comes to chronic diseases, like diabetes, prevention should be taken as seriously as a full-time job, so there is more time to do the things in life you enjoy the most.

Right now, diabetes affects over 20 million people in the U.S. Chances are you probably know someone impacted by the disease. Do yourself a favor and don't become part of the statistics. There's good news-diabetes is preventable.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. It affects both men and women similarly. Symptoms include frequent urination, unusual thirst, blurred vision, wounds that are hard to heal, numbness in the hands or feet, and more.

Diabetes often goes undiagnosed because many of these symptoms seem harmless. Sometimes people don't even experience symptoms until blood glucose levels have been high for quite some time. Part of being proactive when it comes to your health includes getting an annual physical to check blood glucose levels or visiting your doctor as soon as you feel something may be different health-wise.

There are both controllable and uncontrollable risk factors when it comes to type 2 diabetes. Uncontrollable risk factors include having a parent or sibling with diabetes, being age 45 or older, ethnicity, or a history of gestational diabetes, which develops during pregnancy. Controllable risk factors include being overweight, not being active, and having high blood pressure.

The two main things you can do to take control of your health are to exercise and maintain a healthy weight.

'Women should be exercising at least 150 minutes per week,' Kate Jones, a Carilion Clinic registered dietitian, said. 'That breaks down to between 20 and 30 minutes each day. Try to incorporate fitness into your everyday life-take the stairs instead of the escalator at the mall, walk to the local farmer's market instead of driving, or join your kids on a bike ride after school.

Following a healthy diet can also help you maintain a healthy lifestyle. 'A diet for someone with diabetes is not really different from someone without the disease,' Jones said. 'Just remember size really does matter when it comes to portion control. Don't over do it.'

Also, remember to eat on a regular basis. For someone with diabetes, skipping meals can lead to significant fluctuations in blood glucose. 'Skipping meals also actually slows the metabolism,' Jones said. 'And missed meals can lead to overeating later in the day. Both can result in weight gain.'

Think about adding more fiber to your diet. Fiber from whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts can be beneficial. Aim for 20 to 35 grams per day. 'Fiber helps keeps us fuller longer, so it helps with weight management,' Jones said. 'And it can help moderate blood glucose because of its effect on digestion.'

It's important to know diabetes can lead to other serious illnesses. Women with diabetes are more likely to have a heart attack, and at a younger age, than women without diabetes. Nerve, kidney, eye, and dental disease are also very common in people with diabetes.

Taking steps now to prevent a chronic disease, like diabetes, can be very worthwhile and rewarding when it comes to living healthier and spending more quality time with your family and friends.

Laura Markowski is a writer for Carilion Clinic's marketing communications department.