Wednesday, 30 March 2011

5 Ways to Live With Diabetes

5 Ways to Live With Diabetes

Chances are, if you're African American, you know someone with diabetes. We, as a culture, are disproportionately affected by this very serious disease. In fact, 14.7 percent of African Americans over 20 years old have diabetes. This isn't just a miniscule problem in our community; it's an epidemic.

The good news is, diabetes is not a death sentence. There are things we can do to keep diabetes under control, and even prevent the onset. We spoke to Constance Brown-Riggs, author of Living Well With Diabetes, to get a better idea of the disease and what we can do to keep ourselves healthy. While not a sufferer herself, Brown-Riggs got into studying diabetes because, like most of us, a lot of her family members have been stricken.

Here are a few tips and tricks Constance shared with us to keep us on track for a healthy life.

1. Accept the diagnosis!
According to Brown-Riggs, a lot of people struggling with diabetes are also fighting what she calls "deny-abetes." This is the tendency for adults to ignore their diagnosis and continue to live life as they did before this disease.

Instead of pretending it does not exist, "watching blood sugars, frequent exercise, watching carbohydrate intake and getting off any dangerous medications" will help put diabetes under control. These methods (under the advice of your physician, of course) are all very simple and effective ways to regulate your condition and prolong your life.

2. "Diabetes doesn't have to take the sweetness out of life."
Constance shared with us a bit of information that is sure to bring relief to diabetics around the world: "It is a myth that people living with diabetes cannot have any sugar at all," she states. There are a number of diabetes-friendly diets that include options such as ice cream.

The problem is not in the sugar intake; it is the fact that people are not monitoring the amounts of certain foods they are having. Paying attention to how much of each food you are eating will make a huge difference.

3. "Don't major in minors."
Lots of people diagnosed with diabetes spend so much time trying to nitpick every single thing they eat, which can often lead to frustration. Frustration, in turn, can very easily lead to completely giving up. Brown-Riggs explained a simple way to make sure you aren't taking in too much in the way of carbohydrates and sugars while still enjoying the foods you love without feeling restricted: the plate method.

This means a quarter of your plate is protein, a quarter of your plate is starch and the remaining half is vegetables. This is a great way to have meals without feeling the stresses of overeating and micromanaging.

4. It's okay to snack.
No one expects diabetics to completely give up on snacking. In fat, Constance suggests eating six smalls meals a day (snacks included) to stay healthy and maintain a well-balanced diet. A few diabetic-friendly snack ideas she gave us include whole grain crackers and peanut butter, fruit with yogurt, low fat cheese and trail mix.

While salad is always a healthy snack option, be careful with the dressing. "Keep salad dressing on the side and stick with ones that are clear," says Brown-Riggs. "The creamier dressings tend to be more unhealthy and the fat-free dressings have more sugar than the regular ones."

5. Monitor. Monitor. Monitor.
Just because it is okay to stick with eating food favorites like macaroni and cheese doesn't mean we should go overboard. Brown-Riggs advises to "look at the amount of carbohydrates in the food and measure your blood sugar after you eat it. This will show you how your body reacts to certain foods, making it even easier to keep the disease in control."

This is in an integral step in keeping such a serious disease under control. By knowing how everything you eat will affect your body, it is much easier to learn how to keep your sugar at a safe level.

Diabetes does not have to be a death sentence. If we exercise, watch what we eat and pay close attention to the amount of sugar and carbs we consume on a daily basis, we have a chance to combat this disease. If we continue down the road that we are on, the future of our children does not look bright. What choice will you make?

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