Basis of Diabetes Treatment? Diet and Exercise

I once had a physician mentor who taught me in medical school the top three treatments for diabetes were: 1) diet and exercise, 2) diet and exercise and 3) diet and exercise.

Despite the advances in medical therapies and an explosion of oral and injectable medications for diabetes, the basis of all treatment should still be diet and exercise. If you are not eating a healthy and well-balanced diet, you can still have high blood sugar despite taking your medications as prescribed.

Your first line of defense as a diabetic, or against the development of diabetes if you are “at risk,” is education. Start keeping a log of when, what and how much you are eating. Once you understand your diet, you can improve it.

While counting calories is the easiest way to track your diet, pay attention to the calories you are choosing. To make healthier choices, go with calories that are low in sugar and carbohydrates. It’s common knowledge that diabetics should stay away from sugar and sweets, but many people don’t realize that carbs and starches like breads, pastas, noodles and potatoes can be just as problematic.

You also can adjust your diet by focusing on portion control. Drink a glass of water before your meal. Try using smaller plates so it looks like you have more food. Make sure the protein or meat you are eating is no larger than the size of your palm.

While a healthier diet can help a diabetic, it can also help pre-diabetics or patients with a strong family history of diabetes prevent the onset of diabetes.

When it comes to adding in exercise to your daily routine, don’t make it complicated! Take small steps. It only takes 150 minutes a week to make a big difference. Studies show that exercise can still be impactful even if it is broken up throughout the day, so try finding 15 minutes in the morning and in the evening.

The first step of any exercise program is the hardest. I encourage my patients to just stand up and get started. Try marching in place in front of your favorite television show, or start slowly by walking in place during the commercials.

Exercising 150 minutes a week can delay the onset of diabetes by up to seven years, so it’s incredibly important to make exercise a part of your fight against the development of diabetes.

There are many psychological benefits of exercising too. As I tell my patients, exercise gets rid of the physical, and emotional, junk of the day. Before starting any exercise regimen, it is always best to consult with your physician to ensure that your heart is healthy enough for the exercise.

The basis of diabetic treatment, and health and wellness in general, is diet and exercise. Diet and exercise can have a profound effect on your health, even when you lose just 10 percent of your current body weight, which is the first goal I set for my patients. If you are a diabetic, weight loss and subsequent improved blood sugar control, can help prevent diabetic complications.

Sometimes, though, it’s not about how much weight you actually lose, but what path you take to lose the weight. Achieving a healthier lifestyle and weight loss is about making small steps and setting short-term goals that you can reach. The way to win is not with a fad diet or the newest exercise, but by making lifestyle changes that you sustain for months and years. Making these small lifestyle changes over long periods of time will help you lose weight, keep the weight off and make you proud of the improvement in your overall health.

Dr. David Hess is an internal medicine/pediatrics physician and the president and CEO of WVU Medicine Reynolds Memorial Hospital located in Glen Dale.