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A diabetes diagnosis can be surprising at best—and a "life-is-over" moment at worst. "A lot of people have a misconception that the moment they get diabetes, they will be put on insulin and that's the end of their life," says Victoria Ryvkin, MD, a board-certified endocrinologist with NCH Medical Group. The truth is, sticking with a few simple steps early in your diagnosis can stop diabetes in its tracks.
It's important to kick denial to the curb and prioritize diabetes management early. "Patients on the younger side—and I include patients in their 50s and 60s in this group—can still reverse diabetes. The key to that is often a significant amount of weight loss," Dr. Ryvkin says, adding that 7 to 10 percent weight loss is a good target. Here are her top tips for diabetes patients:
Eliminate "drinkable" calories. With anywhere from 25 to 40 grams of carbohydrates, an average 8-ounce serving of juice or soda is a real carbohydrate load. Cutting drinkable calories and carbs leaves room for controlled portions of breads, pastas and cereals. "Eliminate juices, sodas, coffee drinks, … anything that's going to pack a big carb punch," Dr. Ryvkin says. "For some patients, that's the difference between controlled and uncontrolled diabetes."
Move "on purpose" every single day. "Do something physical that makes you sweat and gets your heart rate up," Dr. Ryvkin says. While weight loss may be a wonderful byproduct, she offers a different motive for movement. "Your pancreas works better when you move. It's about improving insulin sensitivity. Your blood sugar gets better when you are physically active even if your weight doesn't budge."
Take your medicine. You can't see insulin resistance or declining pancreas function. That's why, if your doctor has prescribed medicine to help you manage diabetes, it's important to take it as directed. "I don't think people realize that right now diabetes management has a tremendous amount of non-insulin medication," Dr. Ryvkin says. "But taking them 'as needed' doesn't work. Most diabetes medications work best when you take them every day."