Tips to Lower Blood Sugar
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Stick to a Healthful Meal Plan
Following a healthful meal plan is one of the most important measures you can take to keep your blood glucose under control. In years past, people with diabetes were expected to follow a strict diet that had little regard for individual likes or dislikes. Today, diabetes experts realize that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn't work and isn't necessary.
Work with your dietitian to design a meal plan that reflects your own needs and preferences. Your plan should:
- Be nutritionally balanced to include carbohydrates, protein, and fat, as well as vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
- Include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Reduce the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol you eat.
- Minimize the amount of salt and sodium you eat.
- Help you maintain or achieve an ideal weight.
- Include foods that you enjoy.
Don't Skip Meals
Breakfast is especially important if you need to control your weight. It helps to jump-start your metabolism and makes you less likely to overeat later.
If you do skip a meal, eat a nutrition bar or other healthful snack to replace the missing carbohydrates. Adjust your medication as advised by your health-care provider.
Don't Delay Meals
Everyone needs to eat about every four to six hours during the day to keep energy levels up. People with diabetes usually have better blood glucose control if their meals and carbohydrates are spaced evenly throughout the day. Too many carbohydrates at any one time can raise your blood glucose too high even if you take diabetes medicine.
If you do postpone a meal, snack on a food that contains carbohydrates or delay taking your medication as suggested by your health-care provider.
"The purpose of carb counting is to more consistently control the amount of glucose going into the bloodstream to stabilize blood sugar levels," says Michelle Bravo, R.D, LDN, CDE, a dietitian at the Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center in Baltimore.
Carb counting teaches you how the foods you eat affect your blood glucose. It helps to minimize your risks of complications, the scariest part of diabetes.
Pick Foods High in Fiber
Foods that contain soluble fiber, such as oats and barley, may help lower your blood cholesterol level and smooth out your blood glucose level so it doesn't rise too fast or too high after you eat. Other food sources of soluble fiber include beans, whole wheat and bran cereals, and many fruits and vegetables. If the fruit or vegetable peel is edible, leave it on for even more fiber.
Watch What You Drink
Drinks can contain a lot of extra calories and carbohydrates. Carry your own sugar-free drinks if you think low-carb choices will not be available when you're away from home. Good choices are bottled water, tonic water with lemon or lime slices, sugar-free soft drinks, and tea that's unsweetened or sweetened with artificial sweetener.
Eat Healthful Portions
Overeating can raise glucose. Learn to estimate portions by using common household objects or your own hand.
- A deck of cards is about the size of a 3-4 ounce portion of meat, fish, or poultry, or 1/2 cup of starch such as rice or cut-up fruit.
- A baseball or tennis ball is the size of a piece of fruit.
- The palm of an average woman's hand equals about 4 ounces or 1/2 cup.
- A fist equals about 1 cup.
- A thumb is about 1 tablespoon.
- The tip of the thumb to the first knuckle is about 1 teaspoon.
Pick Foods Low in Fat
High-fat meals can keep blood glucose high because fat causes it to rise more slowly and stay high longer, says Dianne Davis, R.D., CDE. Sticking with a low-fat diet helps keep blood glucose manageable and calories under control.
Choose Nonstarchy Veggies
"If you want to fill up without raising your blood glucose or your weight, nonstarchy vegetables are heaven-sent," says Lara Rondinelli, R.D., LDN, CDE, coordinator of the Diabetes Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
Nonstarchy vegetables contain few calories and grams of carbohydrates per serving, an average of 25 calories and 5 grams of carbohydrates. They include greens, peppers, broccoli, and green beans.
Follow Your Medication Plan
It's well known that people who have type 1 diabetes need insulin to survive, but most people who have type 2 diabetes need a progression of blood-glucose-lowering medications over the years to keep blood glucose levels in the target range.
If your doctor has prescribed a medication, it's important to take that medication according to your doctor's directions. Do not stop taking any medication without first consulting your doctor.
Make sure you:
- Know the best time to take your pills and try to take them as directed.
- Know what side effects you might experience, how to deal with them, and when to alert your health-care provider about problems.
- Realize that your doctor prescribes medications based on your health history, so don't try to copy another patient's plan or stop or start taking drugs on your own.
- Test your blood glucose as directed and note how prescribed medication changes may affect it.
Know Your Medication
It's important to understand how each medication works and to follow instructions for taking it.
- Stay informed and query your health-care providers or pharmacist when you don't understand something.
- Ask how long it will be before a new medication lowers your blood glucose.
- Ask how much you can expect a new medication to lower your blood glucose when it's maximally effective.
- Know the best time to take your pills and try to take them as directed.
When you have diabetes, the effects of stress can be a significant health risk. Stress can cause glucose levels to rise, as well as blood pressure and heart rate, which can result in real health problems. But by managing your stress in healthful ways, you can prevent some diabetes complications and improve your mental and emotional well-being.
Simple stress busters include:
- Take five slow, deep breaths.
- Do a few simple stretches or try a few yoga poses.
- Get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
- Cuddle with your spouse, child, or pet.
- Take time to do something you really enjoy.
- Talk it out with a friend, counselor, or diabetes educator.
The American Diabetes Association recommends accumulating 30 minutes of aerobic activity on most days and doing resistance activities (pushing, pulling, lifting) three times a week.
- Lowers blood glucose levels.
- Helps your body use insulin better.
- Decreases total cholesterol and triglycerides (blood fats) and increases HDL (good) cholesterol.
- Decreases blood pressure.
- Fosters weight loss and maintenance.
- Increases strength, endurance, and flexibility.
- Increases energy and feelings of well-being.
Check Your Blood Glucose Levels in a Variety of Situations
Ideas for when to check your glucose:
- At different times on different days, rather than the same time every day. One day, check before and after breakfast; another day, check before and after dinner. Over the course of a week, you'll get a good look at your level of control.
- One to two hours after a meal.
- When you try something new, whether it be food, exercise, medication, or dosage. Use your blood glucose meter as a barometer of change.
Track Your Blood Glucose Levels
It's easier to notice a pattern if you record all of your readings. If you're experiencing lows or highs, call your health-care provider and have accurate information handy to discuss adjustments in your routine.
With regular monitoring, you can compare your day-to-day results with your A1C. You can also quickly learn how certain foods, meals, stress, illness, or activities can affect your blood glucose.