You need a complete life plan and not new year’s resolutions to keep your blood sugar under control, writes Dr. Varsha Khatry
It is that time of the year when we are all fired up to make new year’s resolutions. We take on new health challenges, but for many of us, the resolve fizzles out right after a few months into the new year. Research shows that only 50 percent of people consider their new year’s resolutions successful at the end of the year(i)(ii). This is because most new years resolutions are made in the heat of the moment without a proper plan. If you are a person with diabetes, you cannot afford to set such sporadic health-related goals because diabetes is what is known as a ‘lifestyle disorder’. Your every action, be it the food you eat, your physical activity, your sleep, and stress levels, affect your blood sugar level. You need a complete life plan and not new year’s resolutions to keep your blood sugar under control.
Here is a simple formula that will help you B.E.G.I.N that life plan.
B: Be on a ‘sugar’ watch
The goal of diabetes management is to keep your blood sugar within the permissible range. It is impractical to decide whether your blood sugar is under control or not based on a single test because it fluctuates owing to multiple factors such as diet, physical activity, sleep, stress, medications, or insulin dose. To get a good understanding of what among these is affecting the glucose fluctuations you need to check and note the blood sugar every day at the same time to get an accurate picture. This should be done every morning immediately after you wake up and 2 hours after lunch.
To know the exact monitoring frequency specifically for you, you must consult with your doctor, before or after exercise. You can easily record blood sugar at home with the help of a glucometer connected to a mobile app. Mobile apps that connect to the glucometer can easily analyze the data and throw up trends. These trends help your doctor know if the given medication and its dose, your diet, and your physical activity are working for you or if they need to be modified to bring the sugar within range.
E: Eliminate stress
Stress releases certain chemicals in the body called stress hormones which can raise the blood sugar level(iii). If the stress is short-lived, this effect can be temporary. But if you are under continuous stress, it can interfere with your blood sugar control. If you find yourself stressed frequently, consult your doctor to understand the steps to cope with the stress.
G: Grab those healthy meals
Being a person with diabetes does not mean that you cannot enjoy food. The trick is to get only the required number of calories from foods that contain ‘good calories’ and limit the intake of ‘bad calories.’ Proteins, complex carbs, and healthy fats are considered good calories while simple carbs and unhealthy fats are considered bad calories. You need to know the number of calories provided by different foods so that you can balance them at every meal. Regular monitoring and your nutritionist can help you identify what causes spikes in your blood sugar levels.
I: Initiate an exercise routine
Research shows that 150 minutes of exercise every week improves blood sugar control. Exercise also is important to manage co-morbid conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol(iv). You should consult your doctor before you create an exercise plan. You can choose from a variety of activities such as walking, running, swimming, dancing, or any other activity which you enjoy. The exercise plan should not feel burdensome but should be simple, fun, and easy to follow.
N: Never skip doctor appointments
The diabetologist is the biggest ally in your journey to keep your blood sugar within range. Don’t miss your appointments and always bring them up to date with your health status. If you use a connected glucose meter you can easily share your blood glucose history with your doctor to make these discussions more fruitful. Your doctor can use the data from your monitoring to tell you if you are on the right track, and recommend changes in the medication, diet, or physical activity if you are not. They will also refer you to other specialists such as an eye doctor or a kidney specialist from time to time to check for complications if required.
We all know that a task ‘Well begun is half done!’ So, B.E.G.I.N. your diabetes management journey early and make it a part of your lifestyle.
(Dr. Varsha Khatry, Head of Medical & Scientific Affairs, Roche Diabetes Care India)