Person riding a bike

Living life...with diabetes

Diabetes

It’s estimated more than 30 million Americans have diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is often hereditary, and characterized by insulin dependence. More Americans than ever before have type 2 diabetes, sometimes stemming from poor diet and obesity. People with type 2 diabetes often need medication to keep their blood sugar under control. While type 2 diabetes can’t be cured or reversed, it can be well controlled.

Those in control of their diabetes live a normal life, many times medicine-free. “There are many lifestyle changes we suggest for patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes,” said Chitra Choudhary, MD, with Bayhealth Endocrinology. “We don’t expect our patients to change their lifestyle overnight, but there are easy small changes all patients can make. We encourage our patients to start slow and gradually build up physical activity while adopting healthy dietary practices. This is the best recipe for success.”

Tackle Your Diet

Dr. Choudhary suggests starting with a healthy diet. The Mediterranean diet is a good guide for most patients. The Mediterranean diet focuses on more protein, fruits, vegetables, and nuts. Food items on the Mediterranean diet have low glycemic index, so they don’t spike sugar levels. “I generally tell patients to increase the portions of protein and vegetables and avoid carbohydrates and sugars. It can be challenging, but it will have a very good impact on blood sugar numbers,” said Dr. Choudhary.

Go for vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lean meat, eggs

Avoid fruit juices, starch, white rice, white bread, fatty meats 

Ease into Exercise

Next, Dr. Choudhary encourages patients to exercise. “Ideally everyone should be physically active for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. I advise patients to incorporate exercise slowly. Start with walking. Maybe add a little more distance every day,” she said. “You don’t need a fancy gym membership. Something as simple as a walk can have a big impact. Don’t underestimate a ten-minute walk, especially after meals.” It’s important for people to pick activities they will enjoy doing, so they continue doing them.

Measuring blood sugarDiet and exercise are crucial for those dealing with type 2 diabetes because both help control the disease. “Diabetes can affect any organ of the body,” said Dr. Choudhary. “Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney failure, neuropathy, increased risk of infection, increased risk of heart attack and stroke, and even gut problems. The complications may be slow to be seen, but many are irreversible. That’s why getting diabetes under control is so important.”

Go for a brisk walk after dinner, a beginner-level workout

Avoid strenuous exercise too soon — start slow and build endurance

Consider Surgery as an Option

For certain people, weight loss surgery may be recommended. “We don’t recommend surgery for every patient,” said Dr. Choudhary. “For patients with high body mass indexes (BMIs) who suffer from other issues such as high blood pressure or arthritis, weight loss surgery may be a good option.”

Patients with type 2 diabetes are encouraged to talk to their endocrinologist if they are considering weight loss surgery.

Look into resources — if you’re interested in weight loss surgery, you can learn more by visiting Bayhealth's Weightloss page.

Surround Yourself with Support

Connecting with other people who are going through similar challenges can be especially helpful for patients. “I always tell patients to find a support group. Working with peers can really help facilitate diet and exercise changes by watching how others are doing it and succeeding,” said Dr. Choudhary. “The Bayhealth Diabetes Wellness Center is also a great resource. Patients get a personalized approach and so much education and support. It’s a great system for patients.”

For more resources and information about the Diabetes Wellness Center, visit the Diabetes Management section.

Look for Common Warning Signs

Type 2 diabetes is becoming more prevalent in the community. It’s important to know what to look for. Dr. Choudhary says excessive thirst, excessive urination, blurry vision, and unexplained weight loss are all common warning signs. Family history is also crucial. “It’s important for patients to know their family history. Those with a strong family history should be proactive about getting checked,” said Dr. Choudhary. “Being diagnosed with diabetes can be scary. I want patients to know there are resources available to help control diabetes. I want to help my patients however I can. Together we can make changes that will truly benefit the patient for the rest of their life.”