Showing posts with label lifestyle changes to reduce risk of diabetes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lifestyle changes to reduce risk of diabetes. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Food as Medicine - Help Heal Yourself

When my husband was diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease ten years ago, we were alarmed to discover that the only way he could slow down the progression of the disease would be for him to carefully follow a restrictive diet. Eventually we realized this is true for many people with a wide variety of medical conditions. We have friends who have been diagnosed with heart disease, diabetes (or pre-diabetes), cancer or various intestinal disorders such as C. Difida, and in many cases they have also been told the best way to improve these conditions is to follow the appropriate diet.

While there are similarities among the different healthy diets, each one has specific foods which tend to be emphasized in order to provide the patient with the best results.  Because of this, whenever you or a loved one has been diagnosed with any serious disease, it is important to learn about the specific diet which will best control that condition and either help you heal your body or, at the very least, slow down the progression of your disease.

Learn How Food Can Help You Heal

You may want to start your treatment program by discussing dietary changes with your doctor.  However, most physicians did not study nutrition in medical school.  As a result, they may not have any more information than a brochure to get you started down the right path.

Most insurance companies, including Medicare, will cover the cost of a visit to a nutritionist who can talk to you about your current diet and explain how you can make appropriate changes in order to support your specific healthcare regimen.  In many cases, a good nutritionist may also be able to include some healthier versions of your favorite foods so you do not need to give up everything you love to eat.  They understand that you will not stick to a diet if the food does not taste good to you.

In addition, you may want to pick up a book to use whenever your diet confuses you and you are not sure what to eat.  A good choice is "Eat to Beat Disease: The New Science of How the Body Can Heal Itself."   

Dr. William Li, a heart expert and the author of the above book, has pulled together years of research to come up with specific doses of the best foods to help treat a variety of diseases. Regardless of your medical condition, it is worth reading.

Special Diets Can Benefit You

What are some of the special diets you can try following in order to help heal or slow down your disease progression?

If you have been diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease, you may want to read  the book "Stopping Kidney Disease."

If you are concerned about memory loss, the MIND Diet has been proven to be helpful.  The Mediterranean Diet has been shown to improve heart health.  There are also special diets to help people who have been diagnosed with cancer and diabetes.  Reading about the correct medical-based diet for your condition can make it easier to find satisfying foods to eat.

When I took the Brain Health Class with instructors from the MIND program at the University of California, they emphasized that there were no drugs which have been discovered which will either postpone or treat most cases of dementia, but they have observed that eating a diet rich in plants, in addition to getting regular exercise, did seem to make a difference for many people.

By following the right diet and making appropriate lifestyle changes, your medications will work better and you will help your doctors perform their job, rather than hinder them.

Does Diet Really Make Much of a Difference?

Despite all the research, many people remain skeptical that following the right diet can really make that much of a difference in treating their disease.  It is important that people understand that for some diseases, such as chronic kidney disease, the right diet is the ONLY thing which can slow down the disease and help you postpone dialysis.

Diet is also extremely important in dealing with diabetes, whether or not you are taking a medication.  In 2002, researchers compared the effectiveness of diet compared to taking the medication Metformin in preventing Type 2 diabetes in people who were considered at high risk. One group of people were assigned a diet which was low in sugar, salt and saturated fat. They were also told to eat lean protein, as well as to add more fresh fruits and vegetables to their meals.  The other group was told NOT to change their diets.  Instead, they were prescribed Metformin.  Those taking Metformin lowered their risk of of later developing diabetes by 31%.  The group who changed their diets and exercised regularly lowered their risk of diabetes by 58%.  The dietary and lifestyle changes were nearly twice as effective as taking the medication alone.*

In studies performed by heart expert Dr. Dean Ornish, it was discovered that people who followed his heart-healthy program were sometimes able to reverse their heart blockages and reduce their episodes of angina.

Eating the right diet for your disease is an effective way to deal with a serious illness.  When diet, lifestyle changes, medication and other treatments are combined, it can make a significance difference in the lives of most people.

Other Lifestyle Choices Can Help Fight Disease

Of course, food is not the only lifestyle change which might help your body fight off a dangerous disease.  It is also important to follow your doctor's orders regarding exercise, alcohol or sugar consumption, lowering your stress, and ending your addiction to cigarettes or other tobacco products.  No matter what disease you have, it is important to take a holistic or whole-body approach to the healing process.

If you are interested in learning more about common medical issues as you age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire, travel and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Prediabetes and Diabetes Prevention

According to the American Diabetes Association, approximately 30.3 million Americans have diabetes and 84.1 million Americans have prediabetes.  For Baby Boomers, the statistics are even worse.  Roughly one in four adults over the age of 65 have diabetes, and significantly more have prediabetes.  A large percentage of people with these conditions are NOT aware of it.  However, this is not a disease which you want to ignore.  Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S.  As a result, it is important we understand how to avoid it and how to minimize the damage it can cause.

Monitor your A1C Blood Sugar Levels

A1C measures how much sugar has become attached to your red blood cells over the previous 90 days.  Because of this, it is not a test you can "cheat" by being good for a day or two before having your blood tested.  Here is how it is scored:

Normal A1C:  4.8 - 5.6
Prediabetes A1C:  5.7 - 6.4
Diabetes A1C:  6.5 or more

If your A1C is high, your doctor may order more diagnostic tests including a Fasting Blood Sugar Test (FBS), a Random Blood Sugar Test (RBS) or a 2-hour glucose tolerance test.

How Dangerous is High Blood Sugar?

If you become diabetic, it can contribute to heart disease, strokes, kidney disease or cause blindness.  Sometimes your circulation becomes so poor that you need to have a portion of your legs amputated.  As mentioned above, diabetes often leads to death.

Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Diabetes and Prediabetes

If your A1C levels are at the high end of the normal range or in the prediabetes range, it is not too late to avoid developing diabetes.  There are lifestyle changes you can make which may lower your blood sugar numbers before they reach dangerous levels and begin to damage the organs in your body.  Below are a list of changes which are recommended by AARP, the American Diabetes Association, and my healthcare provider, Kaiser Permanente.  The good news is that the tips below are the basis of a healthy lifestyle, whether you are in danger of developing diabetes or not.

For additional help, you may want to order a book from Amazon such as: "The Type 2 Diabetes Cookbook and Action Plan."

1.  Lose Weight - If you are overweight, losing 5 to 10 percent of your current body weight can reduce your risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.

2.  Exercise - At least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity, 5 days a week, can also reduce your risk.  Include a mixture of aerobic exercises such as brisk walking or swimming, along with strength training to increase muscle strength, and stretching exercises to increase flexibility.  Try not to spend too much of your day sitting.  The longer you spend in a chair each day without getting up and moving around, the greater your risk.

3.  Eat a healthy diet with plenty of colorful vegetables - For a healthy dinner, half your plate should be filled with vegetables such as dark green leafy veggies, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots and similar foods.  One-fourth of your plate can be a protein such as red meat, chicken, turkey, fish, soy or beans. Your serving of protein should be about the size of a deck of card. One-fourth of your plate should be carbohydrates including potatoes, corn, peas or whole grains.  Avoid refined breads and try to get between 25 and 30 grams of fiber a day.

4.  Limit fruit - While fruit can be part of a healthy diet, limit yourself to three small servings a day and avoid juices completely.  It is much healthier to eat whole fruit rather than drink juices.  Even "healthy" vegetable juices often include fruit juice as their base.  These juices can cause a sudden spike in blood sugar levels.

5.  Avoid sweetened beverages - Minimize your consumption of sodas, energy drinks, sweetened coffee drinks, sweet tea, mixed drinks and other high calorie, sweet beverages.

6. Limit unhealthy foods - Cut back on sweets, sugar, honey, desserts, chips, fast food and other high calorie snacks.

7.  Eat three meals spaced out during the day - Space out your meals so you do not go longer than 4 to 5 hours during the day without eating.  This will help you avoid eating too much during one meal, causing your blood sugar levels to spike.

8.  Practice relaxation - Whether you take up meditation, yoga or other spiritual programs, learning to relax has been shown to be an effective way to reduce your risk of diabetes.

What If You Cannot Reduce Your Blood Sugar Levels?

If you try the above suggestions for a few months and find you are unable to lose weight or lower your blood sugar levels on your own, consult your healthcare provider.  They may recommend that you attend classes, try a more intense weight loss program, take medications or even consider weight loss surgery.

Whatever you decide to do, your goal is to prevent your prediabetes from turning into diabetes and, if you already have diabetes, minimize the damage.  This is not a health problem you want to ignore.

For more information, check out the website of the American Diabetes Association.

If you are interested in learning more about common health problems in senior citizens, retirement planning, Social Security, Medicare, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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