By Joyce Kaska-Laird, MA, RD, LD, CHES, CDE
Diabetes Program Manager
Methodist Charlton Medical Center
As someone who works with diabetes patients every day, I often find myself in the role of a myth buster. Patients who have been newly diagnosed with diabetes and those who have been dealing with the disease for some time often have to be reminded about the realities of living with their chronic condition. In a word, I reinforce moderation with my patients.
While each patient requires individualized instruction and a care plan specifically tailored to meet his or her needs, commonly held myths still exist. Here are just a couple:
- Potatoes, bananas, grapes, and other foods are strictly off limits. False. The reality is that patients with diabetes can eat these foods, but they must be vigilant about portion size and balancing food groups to maintain their blood sugar level within desired limits.
- Sweets are a definite no-no. False. Again, moderation and portion size are the keys to satisfying a sweet tooth. An acceptable portion is a 2-inch square piece of cake or one-half cup of ice cream. Because sweets have carbohydrates, patients must integrate sweets into that particular day’s nutrition plan. For instance, if they ingest carbs with a serving of sweets, they need to reduce carbs elsewhere in their food intake that day. That’s where the balancing act becomes important.
The facts are patients come to us exhibiting the same risk factors that are growing among the population as a whole — obesity, lack of exercise, increased levels of stress, poor eating habits, and a predominantly sedentary lifestyle. Most troubling is the rapidly increasing incidence of diabetes appearing in teens and young adults, which translates to increasing health care costs.
The good news is we’ve come a long way in helping patients manage their diabetes. New pharmaceutical advances offer patients improved quality of life. For example, some medications increase the amount of insulin made by the pancreas after a meal and help control the amount of sugar made by the liver. New injectable medications help patients’ bodies make more insulin after they eat and act to suppress appetite.
Thanks to technological advances with blood sugar meters, tracking information is easier. Older adults can use meters with larger displays and numbers. Meters no longer require coding. New meters can display reading trends over an extended period of time. And we can now monitor patients remotely while giving real-time information to members of their care team. This enables quicker modification of medications, diet, exercise, and other aspects of patients’ lives.
Here are the four most important things that patients can do to either prevent the onset of diabetes or keep their diabetes under control:
- Lose weight and maintain an ideal body weight. By reducing weight by 10 to 20 percent, patients can improve their blood sugar levels. Maintaining an ideal body weight is as easy as limiting fast-food intake, eating a balanced diet, limiting fat intake, and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Maintain balance throughout the day. Watch carbohydrate intake. Don’t skip meals. Instead, eat balanced meals throughout the day.
- Be active. Try to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. Walking, cycling, and running are good examples.
- Control stress. If stress is an issue, consider joining a support group. Look for activities you enjoy doing. And remember, exercise reduces stress.
At Methodist Charlton Medical Center, we help patients get involved in their care so they can better manage their diabetes for a better quality of life. If you’re ready for a better quality of life, maybe it’s time to make a change in your career and choose Methodist Health System. Learn more by visiting Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.
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