By: Leif Gregersen
If you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, you have to start looking seriously at how you live your life. Talk to any persons who are insulin-dependent and they will tell you how much they wish they could be in your situation: a point where you can make changes to avoid getting to their stage of the illness.
One of the first and best things you can do is to contact your local hospital to book yourself into the class for people who are newly diagnosed with diabetes. (Most hospitals offer such courses.) Go to class, make friends there, and pay attention to what is being put across-your life may depend on it one day.
Diabetes has not been cured by insulin. It is just managed, arrested temporarily. Some of the things the disease can lead to include blindness, loss of limbs, kidney failure, and cardiovascular problems. If you have pre-diabetes and take action now, you have a good chance of never having to face these outcomes.
Part 1: Food and Blood Sugar Control
The first thing you have to learn is to control your blood sugar level. If you were to go out and get a candy bar or two, and wolf them down, your blood sugar level on a chart would go up in what is called a “spike” and then drop down quickly, putting a lot of stress on your pancreas. Those who are diagnosed with pre-diabetes have to learn to be good to their pancreas. Trust me, you can’t live without one. It is what makes the natural insulin that your body uses, and the more you take care of it, the longer it will take care of you.
There are other foods, some that may surprise you, that can make your blood sugar level spike. While doing your own research and taking a diabetes class will teach you about these, I’ll cover some of them here.
Two foods that seem harmless, but actually can be either harmful or harmless, are apples and oranges. For example, take two forms of an apple: apple juice, and the apple itself. You may enjoy a glass of apple juice in the morning, but the fact is it has little fiber and a lot of sugar, even though it is natural sugar. Without the fiber, apple juice is quickly metabolized and here comes that spike, just as with the candy bars.
If you can, go for the natural form of foods. Apples have lots of fiber, and though they may have the same amount of sugar as a half a glass of apple juice, they are metabolized much more slowly and evenly, causing much less strain on your pancreas. Orange juice can be slightly better, especially if it has a lot of pulp in it, but I would still lean towards the orange itself over its juice.
Other foods, such as white dinner rolls, sugar in any forms, including brown sugar and natural sugar, should be avoided. Many people love their coffee but don’t like what they hear about the danger of artificial sugar substitutes. A great substitute is to use pure, unpasteurized or even organic honey. Though it contains calories that seem to put it alongside sugar, honey is much safer than the white stuff.
There are too many variations of food and drinks for me to cover here. I suggest you do some digging for facts on all of your favorite foods, a task that is much easier now thanks to search engines and the Internet. Eliminate the ones that are obviously risky for pre-diabetics. Next, take a list of the foods you think you can’t do without to a nutritionist or your family doctor.
Part 2: Exercise
The second part of managing pre-diabetes is exercise. What you want to do is 30 minutes to an hour of cardio-vascular exercise at least three times a week. This may seem impossible to those who are more sedentary, but it doesn’t have to be a hard pounding at the gym intended to “buff you up.” It can be as simple as taking a walk in the park for an hour three times a week.
Weight-lifting or high-impact sports such as racquetball can be great, too, but you don’t have to start out any higher than in your own comfort zone. The important thing is to make a start, stick with it, and work your way up. Before you know it, you will look and feel noticeably better.
Myself, I put down a cigarette habit nine years ago and started swimming. At first I had to use the easiest strokes I knew, using a side crawl on one lap and then taking the next on my back. Before long I could swim the length of a 50-meter pool on my front. I learned from a fellow patron of the pool that once you push yourself to go and work out for three months, statistics show that you are likely to continue your program for the rest of your life.
No one likes to think about the burdens of diabetes, including having to constantly test your blood or stick yourself with an insulin injection. It takes discipline to eat right and get out and walk, or swim, or ride your bike four times a week. But the simple fact is that as medical science stands now, doing these things are your best shot at getting to know your grandchildren.
The time to start doing them is now. Take a good, hard look at how you feel each day. Do you wake up only to drag yourself to the kitchen and get a bowl of sugar cereal and a coffee with cream and sugar in the hopes of getting through another day without collapsing? Or do you feel refreshed and happy when you get up for a warm bowl of healthy oatmeal and a green tea with honey, looking forward to diving into the pool and making the most out of what comes your way?
I would choose the second any time. No amount of money, no accumulation of possessions can take the place of your health and well being. So get down to it and start making changes today. Even something small, like a fruit plate for lunch instead of a hamburger and milkshake, is a step. Enough such steps will make a huge difference in your life.