Living with diabetes while enjoying sweets
Diabetes management is not a one-day affair, it is a life-long process of adapting to a healthy lifestyle. With the help of your doctor, you can create a customized self-care plan to manage your diabetes.
Sweet rules for diabetics
- Have the cake and eat it too. Be conscious
Indeed. If you are maintaining a healthy weight, going for your daily walk or exercising regularly, balanced sugar level and are aware of carbohydrate and calorie content of the sweet that you want to eat, then occasionally indulging in your sweet cravings will not pose a threat to your blood sugar levels.
- How much sweet can I eat?
It is best to make your favourite sweet dish as only a small part of your meal. Since sweets are counted as carbohydrates, replacing a high-carbohydrate food from your meal with lower carbohydrate amount and a small yet enjoyable portion of a sweet can do the trick.
- Learning to read the food label can be very helpful
Information about the amount of carbohydrate per serving in the food label can give a breakup of the amount of starch, sugar, sweeteners and so on used in the making of the sweet. Also, some food products refrain from using the word sugar in their ingredients list, instead show up as honey, dextrose, glucose, glucose or maize syrup and so on, all of which are free sugars and not good for your diabetes.
Tracking the ABCs of diabetes
Who says you cannot enjoy sweets if you are suffering from diabetes? The truth is that too much sweet is bad for everyone, not only in diabetes. However, those with diabetes are a higher risk of complications if their blood sugar shoots up suddenly. They need to keep a regular check on their health periodically from time to time to keep complications at bay.
“A” stands for A1C test- The glycosylated hemoglobin test or A1C test your sugar control over the past 2-3 months. It is a very good indicator of how well you are managing your blood sugar level. Usually, the goal for most patients is to have Hb1Ac value below 7 but it depends on other factors which can be discussed with your doctor.
“B” stands for Blood pressure- To prevent the damage to the organs, people with diabetes should try to maintain their blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg.
“C” stands for Cholesterol- Your blood cholesterol level directly affects your heart health. If your “bad” cholesterol level is high, it can lead to stroke or heart attack. You should discuss with your doctor about your cholesterol levels and take measures to lower it.
“S” stands for Stop smoking- Diabetes is a known risk factor for heart diseases and smoking adds on to that risk significantly. Quitting smoking not only helps us to cut down on that risk but also prevents major lung issues like lung cancer.
Not smoking and keeping a check on your HbA1c, blood pressure and cholesterol levels can save you from long term complications of diabetes like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision problems and nerve damage.
The art of balancing Blood Sugar Level
Along with the above measures, you also need to keep a check on your blood sugar level. Since blood sugar level depends on many factors, it is a challenging task for many to keep it under the recommended range. Dr Basavaraj Kuntoji suggests the following measures:
Stick to your diabetes meal plan: Talk to your doctor and a nutritionist to design a customized meal plan according to your food choices, level of physical activity and blood sugar level. Following a meal plan strictly and occasionally indulging in a small portion of sweet dish is a great way to manage diabetes.
Exercise daily: Choose any physical activity like walking, jogging, yoga or cycling and aim to do it at least 30min on most days of the week. It is also important to include some weight training exercises to maintain the ideal muscle mass in diabetes. Working out a little bit longer if you have deviated from the meal plan is another great way to burn the extra calories.
Never skip your medicines: Medicines and insulin play an important role in maintaining your blood sugar level. Always take the correct dose as suggested by the doctor. Do not make any changes without consulting the doctor even if your blood sugar level is normal.
Monitor your blood sugar level: Check and record your blood sugar level as suggested by your doctor. Most people with diabetes have to check their blood sugar level every day. This helps in managing their food, medicines and physical activity.
(The author is a Consultant of Internal Medicine at Manipal Hospitals in Bengaluru)