Diabetics can manage the disease through their lifestyles

“Take two aspirin and call your doctor in the morning.”

We rely on medications to treat many of our diseases and illnesses, and most prove effective — even life -saving. But for those suffering from diabetes, a life defined by changing medications and uncertainty makes normal living difficult.

What are the most effective methods to manage the symptoms of type 2 diabetes? As researchers press forward in search for a cure for diabetes, many patients are finding success in managing their symptoms through small lifestyle changes. And the two most effective strategies are exercise and diet.

When diabetes has become a part of your life, what you eat and how much you exercise can affect the level of sugar in your bloodstream either positively or negatively.

Experts at Abbott, a healthcare research and manufacturing company, understand that with the more weight you carry, the more insulin you may need. Doctors agree that regular exercise is a proven way to manage diabetes. According to American Diabetes Association, “When you are active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin so it can work more efficiently. Your cells also remove glucose from the blood using a mechanism totally separate from insulin during exercise.” They add that exercising consistently can lower blood glucose and improve your A1C.

Abbott listed some of the benefits that exercise offers those managing diabetes:

  • Toning muscles to improve insulin sensitivity.
  • Lowering blood sugar levels.
  • Controlling weight.
  • Increasing lung capacity, thus improving the amount of oxygen in the bloodstream.
  • Relieving stress.

The American Diabetes Association recommends engaging in at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, at a level of moderate to vigorous intensity, five days a week. Be sure to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.


You are what you eat


To better appreciate the positive impact of diet, understand what is happening in your body and how those occurrences affect a diabetic. When you eat food high in carbs or sugar, those sugars enter the bloodstream. The pancreas is alerted to the higher levels and secretes the hormone insulin to carry glucose into the blood cells so they can either convert sugars into energy or store it as fat.

This process happens every time the blood sugar levels rise. In the body of a diabetic, blood cells don’t respond when insulin wants to come in, so it has no choice but to remain in the bloodstream. Don’t look now, but insulin just got snubbed by insulin-resistant cells.

“The more insulin you secrete or inject, the more insulin-resistant you become. Nevertheless, a common treatment for type 2 diabetes is to inject more insulin or to prescribe increasing amounts of medication,” said Dr. Candice Hall of Next Integrative Health. “But doctors are now discovering that type 2 diabetes isn’t a condition that requires more medication. Instead, it needs a change in nutrition.”

For decades, diabetics have grasped a standardized treatment plan that included diet, exercise and medications–lots of medications. Sadly, many diabetics have yet to see real improvement in their health. But the term that causes the most concern for doctors like Hall and JoQueta Handy is “standardized.”

“Not every patient responds to the same treatment with the same results,” said Hall.

Handy shares similar experiences when treating young people suffering from health problems and learning disabilities.

“Food is our best medicine, and increasing cognition education should start with nutrition,” she said.

Handy is the founder and president of Children’s Opportunity for Brilliance International. She uses her holistic education discipline as a platform to inform fellow educators about her new findings on the front of teaching special-needs children and recognizes the need for differing learning styles with children. A commitment to nutrition is a base for her individualized learning platform. In her wellness practice, Handy witnesses the positive and lasting impact nutrition has on treating disease and disorders. 

When people are first diagnosed with diabetes, they often feel like their days of feeling normal are over. But Rachel Johnson, a research scientist with Abbott who specializes in diabetes nutrition and disease management, says diabetes can be managed.

“People with diabetes can live normal, active lives,” she said. “In addition to glucose monitoring and taking medication as needed, people can manage their diabetes through exercise and diet changes. And small changes can have big payoffs.”


Amy Osmond Cook, who wrote this article, is executive director of the Association of Skilled Nursing Providers.