November is American Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness about diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 34 million Americans have diabetes, and an estimated 88 million have prediabetes. As a physical therapist, I understand the importance of managing diabetes through a combination of diet and exercise. In this blog post, I will discuss how diet and exercise play a crucial role in managing diabetes, and provide some tips on how to get started. A PT plays a vital role in the exercise prescription and monitoring of diabetes care and are pivotal in a person’s success!

Common symptoms of diabetes:

  • Urinating often
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Feeling very hungry—even though you are eating
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Blurry vision
  • Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
  • Weight loss—even though you are eating more (type 1)
  • Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2)

The Importance of Diet in Managing Diabetes

A healthy diet is a cornerstone of diabetes management. A balanced meal plan that includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats can help keep blood sugar levels stable and reduce the risk of complications associated with diabetes. It is also essential to limit the intake of processed foods, refined sugar, saturated and trans fats, and sodium. A registered dietitian can help people with diabetes develop a personalized meal plan that fits their unique needs and goals.

Superfoods for Diabetes:

    • Dark Leafy Green Vegetables such as spinach and kale
    • Beans such as kidney, navy, pinto and black beans
    • Citrus Fruits such as grapefruit, lemons, and oranges
    • Berries such as strawberries and blueberries
  • Tomatoes
    • Fish High in Omega-3 Fatty Acids such as Salmon, Herring, and Albacore Tuna
    • Nuts such as walnuts and almonds
    • Whole Grains such as oats and quinoa
  • Milk and Yogurt

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The Benefits of Exercise in Managing Diabetes

Exercise is another critical component of diabetes management. Regular physical activity can help lower blood sugar levels, improve insulin sensitivity, enhance cardiovascular health, maintain a healthy weight, and reduce stress levels. However, it is essential to start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of exercise to avoid any complications. It is also recommended to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any exercise program, especially for people with a history of heart disease, neuropathy, or foot ulcers.

A great exercise to get started with that is low impact is WALKING! Read more about the surprising benefits of walking.

Tips for Incorporating Diet and Exercise into Diabetes Management

Incorporating diet and exercise into diabetes management can be challenging, but it is essential for maintaining good health. Here are some tips to get started:

  • Create a realistic schedule and set achievable goals.
  • Find an activity that you enjoy and can do regularly.
  • Make small dietary changes, such as reducing portion sizes, replacing sugary drinks with water or unsweetened tea, or adding more vegetables to your plate.
  • Monitor blood sugar levels before and after exercise and adjust food intake and medication as needed.
  • Stay hydrated during and after exercise.
  • Work with a physical therapist to develop an individualized exercise program that is safe and effective for you
  • Consult your Primary Care Provider and/or Dietician for appropriate dietary changes and recommendations for you specifically.

Lifestyle Changes for Long-Term Diabetes Management

Managing diabetes requires lifestyle changes that extend beyond diet and exercise. Some additional strategies that can help include:

  • Quitting smoking reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Managing stress through relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing and meditation.
  • Getting enough quality sleep to prevent fatigue and mood swings.
  • Regularly monitoring blood pressure, cholesterol, and kidney function to detect any problems early on.
  • Working with a healthcare team that includes a doctor, nurse, registered dietitian, and physical therapist to develop and follow a comprehensive diabetes management plan.

American Diabetes Month serves as a reminder of the importance of managing diabetes through a holistic approach that includes diet and exercise. Small changes in lifestyle habits can make a significant impact on overall health and quality of life. As a physical therapist, I appreciate the importance of regular physical activity and a healthy diet in managing diabetes and preventing further complications. A PT is a movement specialist who can work directly with you to address the right activity prescription for your needs and goals. By taking a proactive approach to diabetes management and incorporating lifestyle changes, people with diabetes can lead healthy and fulfilling lives. 

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By |2023-11-07T22:52:23+00:00November 7th, 2023|Healthy Living, Helpful Tips|Comments Off on November is American Diabetes Month | The Role of Diet & Exercise in Managing Diabetes

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About the Author:

Mary Smith, PT is currently practicing as a Physical Therapist in our Baldwinsville Location.
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