Diabetes: The Take 15 Challenge
Better Diabetes Control in 15 Minutes or Less
Yes, managing diabetes is a long-term commitment, but it doesn't have to control your life. "You don't have to make big changes as long as you're consistent with the small ones," said Jill Weisenberger, MS, CDE, a registered dietitian and author ofDiabetes Weight Loss Week by Week. Here are eight manageable goals that can help you lower your blood sugar, lose weight, and reduce your risk for long-term complications. The best part: You can accomplish each of them in 15 minutes or less. And with all the energy you gain by rejuvenating your health, you'll have plenty left in the tank to tackle everything else on your to-do list.
Take “Mini Walks”
Aerobic activity — like walking — is one of the most effective ways to lower blood sugar, and research shows you don't have to carve out a big block of time for exercise to reap the benefits. Taking three 15-minute walks after meals is just as effective for improving glucose control over a 24-hour period as going on a longer, 45-minute morning trek, according to a 2013 study published inDiabetes Care. That's a relief for busy people who find it easier to squeeze in quick bouts of activity throughout the day than set aside an uninterrupted hour. "Take your walks whenever you have the time," said Weisenberger. "It all adds up." If you can, time your activity for shortly after meals, when blood sugar is on its way up. Take the dog for a short walk after breakfast, incorporate a quick power walk into your lunch break, and go for an evening stroll after dinner.
Serve Up a Salad at Dinner
Starting your evening meal with a simple salad serves up two great health perks: For starters, the low-cal, high-volume veggies can help fill you up during the appetizer stage, which curbs your calorie intake during the main entrée and might help you lose extra weight, according to a 2004 study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association. And if you top the greens with a generous splash of vinegar, your blood sugar may benefit, too, says Erin Palinski, MS, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. A 2004 study in Diabetes Caresuggests that the acid in vinegar interferes with the body's absorption of carbohydrates, which in turn helps to blunt post-meal blood sugar spikes. Try dressing a few handfuls of a bagged lettuce mix with about a tablespoon of vinegar (the amount needed to have an effect) and a few dashes of heart-healthy olive oil.
Keep a Food Journal
Losing even 10 pounds can improve blood sugar control, and research shows that keeping a daily food diary can help you get the weight off more easily. In a 2012 study of 123 overweight women ages 50 to 75, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, those who consistently logged their food intake in a journal while dieting lost 6 pounds more in a year than those who didn't. Tracking your food "keeps you accountable to yourself because you see in black and white how you're really doing," says Weisenberger. Some people do best physically writing down their meals with pen and paper, while others prefer the convenience of one of the many free calorie-tracking smartphone apps. Either way, it only takes a minute or two after each meal to record what you ate. The trick is to stick with it — don't stop tracking just because you have a few "off" days.
Pack Your Lunch
While it may seem easier to grab a quick bite at a fast food restaurant or local deli, those meals typically far exceed recommendations for calories, fat, and sodium, and they're often loaded with sugar-spiking refined carbohydrates. By toting your own well-balanced brown bag lunch to work, you can choose low-cal, nutrient-rich ingredients like fresh produce and whole grains — items that are hard to come by at burger and pizza joints. And the truth is, you can pull together a healthy meal in minutes. Palinski recommends making a little extra at dinner and packing the leftovers for lunch the next day. Or store the ingredients you need to make a multiple days’ worth of meals right in the workplace fridge or freezer, like a package of whole-grain wraps, some sliced turkey, and bagged lettuce to make wraps, for example.
Work in a Few Weekly Strength-Training Routines
Doing regular aerobic exercise, like walking, is essential for managing your diabetes and weight, but adding a quick strength-training routine can give you even better results. People with type 2 diabetes who combined regular aerobic exercise with two weight-lifting sessions per week for nine months lowered their A1C levels by 0.3 percent compared to non-exercisers, according to a 2010 study published inJAMA. The groups doing only aerobic or strength activities didn't see the same benefits. Resistance training builds calorie-burning muscle mass and makes insulin more effective at lowering blood sugar. If you're a beginner, start simply with a few sets of sit-ups and standing wall push-ups (which won't hurt your knees), said Weisenberger. You can also meet with a certified personal trainer to devise a short routine that's appropriate for your weight and fitness level.
Give Your Feet Some TLC
Diabetes can damage your blood vessels, making it harder for your body to send blood to your feet and heal any scratches, blisters, and swelling. If open sores are left untreated, they could develop into a serious infection — one that could even lead to an amputation. People with diabetes should check their feet every day for cuts and bruises and treat infections with soap, water, and antibiotic ointment. If the trouble spots don't clear up after 48 hours, contact your primary care doctor, said Cathey Colburn, RN, MS, a certified diabetes educator at the Harold Hamm Diabetes Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And remember to check yourentirefoot: If you can't see the soles of your feet, use a mirror or ask a family member to do an inspection, she added.
Take a 10-Minute Mental Vacation
Stress and diabetes don't mix. When you're under physical, mental, or emotional strain, your body starts to pump out hormones like cortisol, which can raise your blood sugar levels. While you can't eliminate stress, you can learn to manage it more effectively. Scheduling just 10 minutes a day to clear your mind and relax your body can help you cope with the build-up of life's daily pressures. Try relaxing with breathing exercises, says Palinski. Inhale deeply so the air fills the lower part of your lungs, then exhale very slowly through pursed lips, like you're whistling. Or, close your eyes and visualize a happy, stress-free place — like a warm, sunny beach or a quiet lodge in the woods — for 5 or 10 minutes.
Stay on Top of Your Blood Sugar Testing
It's difficult to make changes to improve your blood sugar levels if you don't know what they are. If your healthcare providers have determined that you should check your numbers, ask them for personalized recommendations on when and how often to test. Colburn says that people with type 2 diabetes should check their blood sugar a minimum of once a day — first thing in the morning or when they wake up. Speak to your diabetes care team about whether you should also test before and after meals or right before bed, or alternate between these time periods from one day to the next. Today's blood glucose meters can take a reading in seconds and automatically store your blood sugar numbers so you don't have to write them down. That means you only need two or three minutes a day to keep tabs on your blood sugar.
Video: Better diabetes control in 15 minutes or Less
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