Learning to control your diabetes
Maria Verso, MD, is an endocrinologist with the Page Hospital Visiting Specialist Program.
Question: Are there things I can do to control my diabetes?
Answer: Type II diabetes happens when the body becomes unable to manage blood sugar. One reason this happens is the body stops making enough insulin to keep blood sugar normal. Another reason is insulin resistance, which means the body’s cells are not working with the insulin the body does make so that more insulin is needed to keep blood sugar normal.
When a person with diabetes is overweight, insulin resistance increases, making it harder for the body’s cells to use the insulin it is able to make. That is why weight management is so important in the treatment of diabetes.
Losing weight helps to improve, or decrease, insulin resistance. However, getting down to normal weight may not make insulin resistance totally go away. Physical activity, or exercise, is the next step in overcoming insulin resistance.
Physical activity is a great way to manage diabetes because it helps lower blood sugar. Muscles that are active can use blood sugar without insulin being present. Inactive muscle must have insulin to use blood sugar. Exercise also helps with weight loss and can relieves stress; strengthen your heart, muscles and bones; improve your blood circulation; and keep your joints flexible.
The best approach is to start at your own pace, be realistic, and choose exercises that will not worsen any medical condition. Ideally, you should build up to 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity most days of a week. Your activity should include exercises that build strength and increase flexibility, such as gentle stretching, as well as aerobic exercise, which increases your heart rate and breathing.
If you are inactive, start by taking a brisk walk for five to 10 minutes a day. You can also try to be a little more active in the things you do every day. For instance, park your car farther away from stores or your office, do some sit-ups or march in place while watching TV, walk during a lunch break, deliver a message to a co-worker or person instead of by email., take the stairs, etc.. Get your friends and family involved. Set a standing walking date. Or do something that everyone enjoys—shoot hoops, take a bike ride, or line dance.
Reviewed November 2010