Health Hero™ Tips for Diabetes


Diabetes is so debilitating because it can affect multiple body parts, including the heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes.


Diabetes is among the biggest health issues facing Americans. In the U.S. 21 million people have been diagnosed with diabetes, and an additional 9 million cases go undiagnosed. In fact, it is the seventh leading cause of death in America. You might know that diabetes affects metabolism, causes high blood sugar, and results in other devastating health problems. But did you know that you can prevent diabetes, or even reverse your risk? I will discuss the science behind the disease and what you can do to be your very own health hero.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a complex disease that affects your body’s ability to produce and use insulin, an important hormone that enables your body to efficiently use and store glucose (a simple sugar). The less insulin you make (or the more resistant your cells are to insulin), the more unused glucose is floating around in your blood. Muscle and fat need insulin for glucose to enter your cells. Glucose gives these cells the energy they need to function. Without insulin, your muscles become weak and fat cells break down, releasing dangerous lipids and other hormones into your blood. And while the cells in your body still crave glucose, your liver is signaled to start producing even more! Excess glucose, loose lipids, and other harmful substances can build up in your bloodstream, damaging blood vessels and nearby nerves. Diabetes is so debilitating because it can affect multiple body parts, including the heart, kidneys, nerves and eyes.

Type 1 Diabetes, Type 2 Diabetes, and Pre-Diabetes

There are two types of diabetes: Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 diabetics are born without the capacity to make insulin, while Type 2 diabetics are born making their own insulin, but develop a resistance to it. Cells that make insulin are found only in the pancreas (beta cells); in Type 2 diabetes, these cells become overtaxed and ultimately stop working. This is a result of eating too many sugary and carb-heavy foods. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 can be prevented!

You may have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes or told you are at risk for it. While there is no coming back from broken beta cells, you may be able reverse your overall condition and return to normal glucose levels. This is exciting news – but what do you do now? Even if your diabetes is serious, you can be your own health hero by taking control and adopting healthy habits. To begin, carefully monitor your glucose and insulin levels both before and after you eat. Talk to your doctor about what changes you can make to your lifestyle, specifically how to manage your diet and incorporate exercise.

Diabetes & Diet

Diabetes is strongly connected to obesity and physical inactivity. An unbalanced lifestyle in which your caloric intake is greater than your physical activity puts you at risk. In fact, those fat cells I mentioned earlier – the ones that break down to release harmful lipids and hormones under insulin resistance – develop from poor diet and are responsible for “belly fat.” To minimize your risk of diabetes, or to manage your health if you are living with it, you can make different nutritional choices.

Monitor the quality, size, and frequency of your meals. Maintain a balanced diet, including lean proteins or protein substitutes, veggies and fruits, whole wheat starches, grains such as rice and quinoa, beans and lentils, and vegetable fats such as avocado and olive oil. In fact, a plant-based diet might be a great start! Diabetics should learn to space out meals and snacks evenly throughout the day to maintain blood sugar levels. A great resource for managing your diet is the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website.

Diabetes & Exercise

Consider how much energy our muscles use when we are active. Both hormones and exercise affect the way your muscle cells convert energy. In normal metabolism, transport channels for glucose (aided by insulin) are enhanced by muscle contractions, which means glucose can be efficiently used even when insulin levels are low. This is why exercise is such an important part of managing diabetes. Your doctor can also help you determine how soon you should exercise after eating and where your blood sugar levels should be before your workout. As a diabetic, you should also make sure your shoes fit well and your socks are clean and dry before exercising. The more you exercise, the better your body can utilize extra glucose. Talk to your doctor about what level of exercise is healthy for you.
U.S. National Library of Medicine,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
Copstead, L. E., & Banasik, J. L. (2010). Pathophysiology: Biological and behavioral perspectives (4th ed.). Philadelphia: Saunders.


About the Author: Partha Nandi MD, FACP is the creator and host of the internationally syndicated medical lifestyle television show, “Ask Dr. Nandi.” Dr. Nandi is the Chief Health Editor at WXYZ ABC Detroit, a practicing physician, and a renowned international speaker. He has partnered with the Ministry of Health in multiple countries, including Jamaica and India, and collaborated with the World Health Organization in multiple arenas throughout the globe. He also completed his Internal Medicine training at Wayne State University and his Gastroenterology fellowship at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


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