To Control Your Diabetes: Keep Moving and Keep the Calories DownLast updated: Sep 05, 2016
Goodbye, couch potato; hello, gym rat. For any adult, especially those with diabetes, the secret to healthy blood sugar levels can be summed up in four words: eat less; move more.
When Robert Hood of Sanwood, a retired paramedic with Type 2 diabetes, decided to save his quality of life, he hit the gym.
Once a couch potato, Mr. Hood, age 72, now works out three times a week at his local YMCA, walking on a treadmill and doing resistance training. In the course of three years, his weight slowly dropped from 240 to 198.
Crucial Lifestyle Changes
“I keep moving and I keep my calories down,” he says. “And even with multiple health problems, including a heart condition, I don’t feel sorry for myself.”
Mr. Hood is particularly aware the sugar content of foods and chooses those with a low glycemic index. He also eats turkey, fish and chicken instead of red meat and he measures his blood sugar four times a day to stay on track.
“Controlling weight is key to controlling diabetes,” says Dr. Jeffrey Bauman, an endocrinologist at Summit Medical Group. “And exercise is a key to controlling weight. For people with diabetes, positive lifestyle changes can mean the difference between a great outcome and a less good one.”
Mr. Hood learned that he had diabetes when he had emergency intestinal surgery in 2008. The surgery proved lifesaving twice over. He had a blockage removed and doctors discovered a second medical issue running routine tests before surgery: diabetes.
“I never knew I had diabetes,” says Mr. Hood. “It was a total surprise.”
Getting Back in Shape
Because he was retired, he had the time to get into shape. This started with diet and exercise. Dr. Bauman encouraged him to work closely with the nutritionists in his office. With their help, he made some crucial dietary changes including:
- Switching from white bread and pasta to whole-grain foods
- Reducing daily calories
- Bulking up fiber intake with fresh fruits and vegetables.
“I’m Italian, so for me to go from regular to whole wheat pasta was a huge change,” Mr. Hood says. “At first it tasted like cardboard to me, but now I like it.”
Working with Dr. Bauman and his staff, he lowered his blood sugar levels significantly.
He sees a direct link between his exercise and his blood sugar levels.
“I recently pushed up the speed on the treadmill, and I saw a drop not only in glucose levels but in the level of protein in my urine, which was so low it wasn’t measurable during my last visit to Dr. Bauman,” Mr. Hood said.
Recommendations for Exercise
On its website, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) gives the following recommendations about exercise:
- Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise at least five days a week.
- Spread out your activity so you are not going more than two days in a row without exercising.
- Make sure to do some strength training. This makes body more sensitive to insulin and can lower blood glucose.
- Remember that the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn, even when your body is at rest. (1)
Mr. Hood uses an app on his smartphone to help keep track of the number of steps he takes each day. His goal is a minimum of 6,000 each day. He also enters his blood sugar levels into an app and downloads the results into his computer each week. He prints these out and takes them on his visits to Dr. Bauman.
“I have a medical background, and Dr. Bauman speaks to me on my level,” Mr. Hood says. “I feel very comfortable with him and he has a good understanding of me. He will spend a half hour with me just talking.”
Summit Medical Group’s Diabetes Live Well program provides medical and nutritional information for people with diabetes. Visit us online to learn more.
1. American, Diabetes Association. "What We Recommend." American Diabetes Association. American Diabetes Association, 10 July. 2016. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.
2. Interview with Jeffrey Bauman, MD, endocrinologist (July 19, 2016)