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Healthy Lifestyle Tips | 3 Lifestyle Changes to Fight Diabetes
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Learn how diet and lifestyle modifications can help you control and prevent type-2 diabetes at a free talk April 19 at Bastyr Center.

3 Lifestyle Changes to Fight Diabetes

A diagnosis of diabetes or pre-diabetes usually comes with a prescription for diet and lifestyle changes. But just telling patients they need to make those changes isn’t always enough, according to Brendan Smith, ND.

“The broad changes patients are expected to make to their daily lives can be really intimidating,” says Dr. Smith, who supervises students in Diabetes and Cardiovascular Wellness Care at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.

“We really focus on helping each patient learn how to implement healthier eating and exercise habits into their lifestyle, and we take the time to educate them about how these changes affect their health.”

Advanced students in naturopathic medicine and nutrition work with Dr. Smith to explain how food and exercise affect diabetes and form a plan for each patient that is realistic and that works.

“Once my patients learn how different foods affect their blood glucose level and how specific exercise regimens can help them control their blood sugar, I see quite a bit of change,” Dr. Smith says.

Significant research shows that diet and lifestyle changes are more effective in the prevention of type-2 diabetes than early pharmaceutical care. The earlier you start making those changes the better, Dr. Smith says.

“The best time to start treatment is when you have pre-diabetes because you get the best long-term results,” he says. “There’s no easy fix. But at Bastyr Center, we have an approach that’s very patient-centered, passionate and pragmatic.”

Dr. Smith recommends the following three lifestyle changes to fight diabetes:

1. Diet

One of the most effective ways to change your diet is also one of the hardest for many patients: reducing your intake of sugar and simple carbohydrates such as pasta and potatoes.

“In most people’s cases, they’re looking at things like potatoes as a vegetable,” Dr. Smith says. “But potatoes actually are high in carbohydrates and can cause blood sugar to spike.”

He recommends that patients avoid pre-packaged and other processed foods, which can contain hidden carbohydrates such as sugars, and to instead add fruits, vegetables and whole grains to their diet.

“It's best to eat a whole-foods diet,” Dr. Smith says, adding that choosing organic foods can help limit your exposure to toxins that might contribute to the development of diabetes.

2. Exercise

Adding exercise to your daily regimen can sound like a daunting task for patients who have led a sedentary lifestyle, which is one of the major risk factors for developing diabetes and pre-diabetes.

But adding exercise doesn’t necessarily mean you have to join a gym or start attending group exercise classes. It’s more about just getting moving, which can help with blood sugar levels and weight management, Dr. Smith says.

Even a short 15-minute walk after meals can help improve your blood glucose, and as exercise becomes a more regular part of your routine, you can gradually add more rigorous activities.

3. Stress Management

In addition to physical problems such as vision, kidney and nerve damage, the side effects of diabetes also include an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, autoimmune diseases and depression.

“What’s really scary is that for a lot of people, the disease is silent,” Dr. Smith says. “Your body is succumbing to these damaging side effects, but you don’t feel them until you’re at the more advanced stages.”

That emphasizes the need for patients to not only monitor their blood glucose levels regularly, but also to keep tabs on their stress level and mental health.

“Ideally you should try to engage in a meaningful, stress-reducing activity every day,” Dr. Smith says, adding that breathing exercises and meditation are among the easiest to implement into your life.

Although clinicians at the Diabetes and Cardiovascular Wellness Clinic can address these needs, you also you can see a counseling team at Bastyr Center for $20 to learn ways to better manage your stress.

Learn more about diabetes at the free talk “Tips to Prevent and Treat Diabetes Naturally” with Brendan Smith, ND, from 10:30 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 19, 2014, at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.

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