5 Essential Skills for Managing Diabetes

Written by Team Optimity

3 minute read

November 14th is World Diabetes Day, making this the ideal time to talk about a disease that affects about 11 million Canadians. Being diagnosed with diabetes means you will probably have to make some lifestyle changes, and that can be scary. But rest assured, with the right diet, activity plan and health care team in place, you can enjoy a long and healthy life. 

Diabetes is an umbrella term for several diseases: type 1 diabetes, in which the body cannot produce insulin (a hormone that controls the amount of glucose in the blood); type 2 diabetes, where the body does not make enough insulin or cannot properly use the insulin it does produce; and gestational diabetes, a temporary condition that may occur during pregnancy. 

Diabetes leads to high blood sugar levels, which can damage organs, blood vessels and nerves. Managing blood sugar is vital to prevent long-term complications. Diabetes management takes some planning, but the effort is well worth it. With a healthy lifestyle, you can live a full and active life. These five strategies will help:

1. Be in the know. You play the lead role on your health care team. Be proactive about attending diabetes education classes, speaking with health care professionals and staying educated about your condition. And be sure to stick with reputable, evidence-based sources (like hospitals, universities and journal studies), rather than fad diet or celebrity health advice. 

2. Eat well. A dietitian can help you plan a healthy diet to manage your blood sugar levels. There’s no one right diet for every person with diabetes, so it’s important to customize a plan that works for you. Diabetes Canada recommends several eating plans that may work, including the Mediterranean, vegetarian, low-carb, low fat and DASH Diets. See – there’s not one right fit for everyone! Work with your dietitian to see which suits you best, based on your food preferences, medical history and lifestyle. Remember: the best diet is one you can stick to in the long term. 

3. Stay active: Walk, climb, run, dive, jump or ski – just stay active.  Regular physical activity helps lower blood sugar levels and is effective for improving glycemic control. Bonus – being active also helps you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress and enhance overall wellness. Aerobic exercise (walking, biking) and resistance exercise (lifting weights, push-ups) are both beneficial. Aim for 150 minutes of aerobic exercise and at least two sessions of resistance exercise each week.

4. Follow through with your plans: Whether it’s routine blood pressure or blood glucose check-ins, eating every 5-6 hours, weekly exercise, or taking prescribed medications, keep your health top of mind. Make sure to stick with your plans to get the best results. And if you feel a plan isn’t working optimally, talk to your health care team to tweak it. 

5. Equip yourself for success: Sometimes a little motivation can help a whole lot. Partner with a friend of family member to exercise together. Swap healthy recipes with like-minded colleagues. Use apps or fitness trackers to keep track of daily steps and to benefit from ongoing education about healthy eating. Set goals with your nurse, doctor, or dietitian to stay accountable. Teamwork can be very beneficial! 

Join the conversation: What’s your favourite way to stay active? Do you bike, walk, swim, dance or do something else?

Read more: Learn the basics about managing diabetes from Diabetes Canada

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