As a society, we have this perception that diabetes is “not a big deal”, the general attitude being that it’s an easily-managed disease and therefore nothing to worry about.
But this could not be further from the truth, because diabetes, if left untreated or not properly controlled, can have severe and sometimes even fatal consequences.
Having high blood sugar can cause very serious diabetes-related health problems including chronic kidney disease, eye disease (retinopathy) that can lead to blindness, poor circulation that can result in lower limb amputation (leg, foot, toe), heart attack, risk of stroke, severe nerve damage, and erectile dysfunction.
People with diabetes are at very high risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact diabetics may develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than people who don’t have diabetes.
Health complications from uncontrolled diabetes often develop gradually, and usually happen because blood glucose (sugar) levels are consistently too high (hyper-glycemia). The longer you have diabetes, and the less controlled your blood sugars are, the higher the risk of complications.
But the good news is that people with diabetes can expect to live a long, healthy and active life by making a life-long commitment to their diabetes management their number one priority.
If you have diabetes, lifestyle changes such as a healthy diet, exercise and stress reduction, in addition to properly monitoring your blood sugar levels with your glucometer and maintaining it at target ranges through medication, can help to lower and control blood glucose levels; thereby reducing your risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
For diabetics, eating healthy is crucial to when it comes to helping manage diabetes and ensuring blood sugar levels are controlled.
You should eat three meals per day at regular times and space meals no more than six hours apart. By eating regular meals at regular times, not only does it help your body control blood glucose levels, it also helps boosts energy levels and plays a key role in helping you to maintain or lose weight.
Just as it’s important to eat regular meals, it’s equally important to limit the amount of high sugar, high fat, and nutrient low food that you eat; since not only do these types of foods have an adverse effect on your blood sugar levels, they can cause you to gain weight which can lead to increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Instead, add more high-fibre foods to your diet such as lentils, dried beans and peas, brown rice, whole grain breads and cereal, fruits and vegetables; which will help you feel full, control your appetite, and may help to lower your blood glucose and cholesterol levels.
When it comes to healthy eating the topic of birthdays often raises concern for families with a diabetic loved one. How can I make a delicious cake without adding unnecessary sugar? Below is a great diabetic friendly recipe:
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Cook time: 20-25 minutes
Frosting time: 10-15 minutes
- 6 tbsp coconut oil or butter (room temperature)
- 1/2 banana (the riper, the better)
- 1 egg (room temperature, if possible)
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup whole wheat flour
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- a pinch of baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 350 oF.
- Use an electric mixer, whisk, or stand mixer to blend the coconut oil and banana until smooth.
- Add the egg, vanilla extract, and water. Blend until smooth.
- Add the flour, slowly, while continuing to mix.
- Add the rest of the dry ingredients and combine until smooth.
- Grease your baking vessel(s) and pour in the mixture. If using small cooking containers, fill to about 1 inch from the top.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes (20 minutes for smaller containers).
- Once finished, let them cool completely (45-60 minutes).
Coconut Whipped Cream**
Yield: 3/4-1 cup
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
- 1 can full-fat coconut milk, chilled for 24 hours
- 1 vanilla bean, scraped or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (optional)
- Chill the can of coconut milk in the fridge for at least 24 hours. I like to keep a few cans in the fridge at all times so I don’t have to wait.
- About 1 hour before making the coconut whip, chill a mixing bowl in the freezer.
- After chilling the can, open the can and scoop the solid white coconut cream into the bowl. Set aside the coconut water and use for smoothies.
- Using an electric hand mixer beat the cream until fluffy and smooth. Add in sweetener to taste and vanilla.
- Return whipped cream to fridge until ready to use. It will firm when chilled and soften at room temperature. This will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for up to 1 week or you can freeze it in an airtight freezer-safe bag for up to 1 month. After chilling in the fridge, allow it to sit at room temperature until it softens slightly and then you can re-whip it as needed.
For pink or purple coloured icing: juice a small beat and added the juice to the icing. If you want pale pink, add just a few drops and mix. Add more if a darker colour is desired.
For yellow icing: Turmeric can be used. Start with a teaspoon for pale yellow, add more for a richer yellow. Note: The turmeric can change the flavour of the icing so you may need to add a few extra drops of stevia.
Disclaimer: People react differently to different foods. Before making any changes in your therapy, diet or exercise program you should consult your health care professional to discuss the impact these changes may have. Recipe adapted by a certified nutritionist. It is recommended that people with diabetes receive nutrition counselling by a registered dietitian.
*Recipe adapted from Baby Friendly Cake – Baby Led Weaning Ideas
** Recipe adapted from Oh She Glows
Because excess weight is associated with higher blood glucose levels and other health complications, it’s important for people with diabetes who are overweight to try and lose weight. Unfortunately, many people (between 80% and 90%) who are diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese.
The good news is that studies have shown that losing even a little weight—between 5% and 10% of your initial body weight—can improve diabetes control and reduce the risk of heart disease.
So if you’re thinking about losing weight, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Portion Control: Sounds simple, right? But the truth is that although many people eat healthy food, they simply eat too much of it. Meal planning and portion control are key factors to successful weight loss.
- Eat Slowly: It takes your brain about 20 minutes to realize that your stomach is full.
- Get in touch with your appetite: Before you start snacking, ask yourself if you’re really hungry. Try to avoid eating out habit, boredom or for emotional reasons.
The benefits of physical activity are well-known, including weight loss, stronger bones, improved blood pressure control, lower rates of heart disease and cancer, and increased energy levels.
But for Type 2 diabetics, regular exercise also has special advantages because it improves your body’s sensitivity to insulin and helps manage your blood glucose levels.
Try to incorporate a minimum of 2 ½ hours of aerobic exercise each week, such as walking, biking, jogging or swimming.
Before making any changes in your therapy, diet or exercise program you should consult your health care professional to discuss the impact these changes may have.
Manage Your Stress
Diabetes requires you to make many instant, health-related decisions on any given day. It’s well-known that stress can raise blood glucose levels, and with all the attention that has to be paid to nutrition, physical activity, medication management, and blood glucose levels it can sometimes take a toll on your emotional well-being.
If you start feeling anxious or overwhelmed, try using some simple and effective stress management techniques, such as taking 10 deep calming breaths, listening to your favorite music, or relaxing in a warm bath. By refocusing your mind and energies on more pleasant past-times, you can help reduce the stress that can sometimes come with managing your diabetes.
It is estimated that 3.7 million Canadians, live with diabetes, a serious condition that is too often taken lightly. Without treatment, it can lead to serious and sometimes fatal complications.
The Raise Your Hand for Diabetes initiative was established to raise awareness about this important issue in Canada. This one-of-a-kind campaign aims to foster an engaged community, to give diabetics a voice and to unite everyone who wishes to further the conversation for all Canadians affected by the illness.
If you’re diabetic, a friend or family member of a diabetic or a healthcare professional, we encourage you to visit raiseyourhandfordiabetes.ca where you will find practical information on diabetes management and available resources. Don’t forget to share your story with an image or quotation. Give diabetes a voice!