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Diabetes Basic Facts for the Beginner Diabetic: Live Well While Managing your Health

Updated on December 14, 2017
Don Bobbitt profile image

I am a transplant recipient for 20+ years and a diabetic. I survive by managing my foods and medications and keeping up with technology.

Introduction

Your Doctor has just told you that you are Diabetic, so now what are you going to do? Read this article and understand the basics of this disease called Diabetes.

Most people do not realize that over 8%, or around 29-million Americans, of all ages, have Diabetes, either Type-1 or Type-2.

And, sad to say one in four diabetics are walking around and don’t even know that they have this disease.

Not a Diabetics Breakfast

This basic English Breakfast is a wonderful meal, but, it is not what a Diabetic should eat.
This basic English Breakfast is a wonderful meal, but, it is not what a Diabetic should eat. | Source

What is Diabetes? The Simple Explanation

Simply put, diabetes is a disease, or actually a group of diseases where certain people have high Glucose levels that are caused directly by the body’s problems producing and using Insulin.

The scary thing about having long term, untreated Diabetes is that it can lead to serious health problems and even premature death for some people.

The major causes of Diabetes in people are; being Overweight, having a Family History of Diabetes, and Gestational Diabetes (having Diabetes when pregnant, which is usually a temporary condition).

A great Cookbook for Diabetics

Diabetic Cookbook: Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Recipes for a Diabetes Diet
Diabetic Cookbook: Easy, Healthy, and Delicious Recipes for a Diabetes Diet

This book was one of my first purchases when I found out I was a Type-II Diabetic. My wife and i started using the recipes in the book daily as we learned more about the ingredients in packaged foods that were bad for a Diabetics health. It was literally a life-saver for us.

 

Are you Type-1 or Type-2

The difference between the two types of Diabetes is significant. Type-1 Diabetes is the condition when the body does not produce enough Insulin.

On the other hand, Type-2 Diabetes is the condition when the body cannot utilize Insulin properly.

Many of the people with Type-2 diabetes will eventually progress to Type-1 simply because their disease will progress regardless of what they do to control it.

The major reason for people progressing to Type-1 diabetes from Type-2 is that, even though they know that they have diabetes, the person does not take the necessary steps with their body, diet and medications to insure they have kept their Blood Sugar level under control.

Diabetes - Facts you need to know

Glucose - When people talk about blood sugar levels, they are referring to the Glucose levels in the blood. Glucose is a type of sugar in a persons blood, derived from Carbohydrates, and the level of Glucose varies throughout the day depending on factors such as what is eaten and when along with levels of exercise.

The important thing to know is that organs of your body use glucose as their fuel to function properly. Too much Glucose and the body needs to store the excess, while too little Glucose makes the body convert body fat to Glucose as needed.

The transfer and management of Glucose levels is done by the Insulin in the blood.

Insulin – While Glucose is the fuel required for your body’s organs to function properly; Insulin is the chemical that helps the organs, including the brain, absorb the available glucose in the blood.

Insulin also keeps the blood vessels themselves healthy.

The Human Brain - The brain requires over twice the level of glucose than any other body organ, in order to function properly. If the body’s blood glucose level is either too low or too high, the brain will not function properly and the person will become confused or have trouble remembering things.

Inadequate levels of Insulin in the brain can lead to the buildup of unhealthy proteins in the brain which affects its overall function, and some brain cells can even become resistant to Insulin.

The buildup of these unhealthy proteins in the brain can cause a loss of memory, or even lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

Learn about iabetes with this book, Mayo Clinic - Diabetic Essentials

Mayo Clinic The Essential Diabetes Book
Mayo Clinic The Essential Diabetes Book

When we were told I was a Diabetic, we were ignorant of what that really meant for me long term. I purchased this book and it was a great training manual for me and my wife as we changed our lifestyle to keep me healthy. The book is well written and I recommend it for new Diabetics to learn about this disease.

 

Once you are a Diabetic, you are a Diabetic for life, accept it!

Once you become a Diabetic, you are different.

Once your doctor tells you that you have diabetes, the first thing you must do is accept this new reality into your life. Pretending the existence of Diabetes is not true will not work. Ignoring your Diabetes will cause it to get progressively worse and cause your body increasing harm over time.

You, as a diabetic, must accept this new reality about your body and manage a number of things in your lifestyle that you may have been taking for granted.

The god thing is that once you understand that your Blood Sugar levels can be managed and kept within safe limits and understand that you, and only you, can manage the things that will affect your Blood Sugar level, this should give you the confidence to live a long and healthy life as a Diabetic.

So, yes, you are different, you are a diabetic and you must do some things differently that a non-diabetic. But, you can run races, climb mountains, hike the hardest trails and physically do pretty much anything that you desire, right along with the best of those you might want to compete with.

It's not that bad, just accept your Diabetic limitations

Believe me, being a Diabetic is not that bad, if you care enough to manage certain things in your life.

As a Diabetic, you can lead a normal life and do pretty much anything you desire, if you just learn to make certain minor changes to your lifestyle.

The major things that a Diabetic needs to manage are their Diet and their Exercise regimen.

Carbohydrates and Calories, COUNTING

Carbs & Cals: Count Your Carbs & Calories with Over 1,700 Food & Drink Photos!
Carbs & Cals: Count Your Carbs & Calories with Over 1,700 Food & Drink Photos!

As I learned more about my Diabetes, my wife and I tried to control the calories I ate daily. But there was no real progress in my weight loss or my blood sugar. So, we bought this book that explained the way the body handles not only Calories but also Carbohydrates. I keep it on my bookshelf at home and go back to it regularly.

 

Diabetes and Exercise

Not only can you do pretty much anything you might want, Walking is an exercise option that Doctors recommend for all Diabetics, from the youngest to the oldest.

A simple regimen of walking several times a week is excellent for a persons heart and blood circulation. Everyone should take the time to walk a reasonable distance every day.

For a Diabetic, it even more important to exercise regularly. A walk of a half an hour or even an hour or more, three or more times a week, even at a slow pace will burn some of those extra calories generated by the Sugars and Carbohydrates in your foods.

And, regular exercise gets your heart pumping a little harder and makes it stronger and healthier.

Also, for those of you that want to run marathons and hike mountain trails or any other type of strenuous exercise there are simple things that the diabetic athlete can do to manage their blood sugar and still enjoy their favorite sports.

You don’t normally see much about it, but even for the disabled diabetic, there are exercises and even specialized exercise machines that they use to increase their heart rate to some extent and improve their overall health.

Diabetes and your Diet

The obvious statement here is that everyone should watch their diet, eat the proper foods and eat them in the proper portion size.

In reality, the sad thing is that there would be a lot less people with diabetes if more of them had followed a healthy eating regimen in their life.

Probably the most insidious thing about being a diabetic is the fact that, say you do eat a piece of cake. Your blood sugar will go up until your body had gotten rid of the excess levels of sugar, but you don’t just keel over and pass out, at least not from one bite or slice of cake.

So, the average diabetic can fall into the trap of thinking that eating "just one slice of" cake is OK, for them at least.

But, the cold hard truth is that even though the occasional "sugar excess" might be OK, constantly eating foods with higher levels of sugars will damage your body in the long run.

Eating Time for Diabetics

The American Diabetic Association (ADA) recommends that a Diabetic eat three meals of 45-60 grams of Carbs each along with two small snacks in between, every day.

The fact is that after eating a meal a persons blood sugar level will climb and it will typically take the body about two hours to digest the meal and for the persons blood sugar level to drop back to normal.

By eating a small snack in between the meals, the blood sugar level will climb again, and not drop as far over the next two hours, at which time you would eat your next meal.

By eating the two snacks in between the meals, the average diabetic can maintain a more balanced blood sugar level throughout the day.

Sugar, Fructose, Sucrose, Carbohydrates? What are these things?

Some Food Facts for the Diabetic

The seriously concerned diabetic will become a label reader.

You really do need to know just how much sugar is in everything you eat. All packaged foods, sold commercially, will have the level of sugar “per serving” on its package.

But, the diabetic needs to understand that there are other ingredients in many packaged foods that they must check for and manage also, and not just the simple food called sugar.

Fructose, Sucrose, etc.

These are other names used for certain sugars that are added in some foods during the cooking or packaging process. And these chemicals are typically not included in the total sugar level on the Nutritional Information label of the package.

Fructose (ie. High Fructose Corn Syrup), a Carbohydrate, is the name often used for the Fruit Sugar in a plant. It will not take you long to find that there are far too many prepared or canned foods with Fructose added to them, so be sure you read those labels closely.

Sucrose, also a Carbohydrate, on the other hand, is just another name for table sugar.

Carbohydrates

So many people don’t understand what Carbohydrates are, or especially, how to manage them in their diet. Carbs come from foods labeled as Sugars and Starches.

Carbs are important for energy transportation in living organisms. They are involved in the body’s immune systems function as well as blood development and clotting, and even in disease development.

For the diabetic, counting their Carbohydrate intake is very important. Your body converts Carbs to Glucose so the serious diabetic should try to maintain a certain level of carb intake per meal. Typically, for an adult, this would be from forty-five to sixty grams per meal.

Remember, the diabetic who knows how many Carbs they are consuming in a meal also knows which way their Blood Sugar level will be heading after the meal. So ideally, it is a good idea to try to eat close to the same number of Carbs for each meal daily.

Counting Carbs – Counting Carbs should become a habit for the diabetic, and really, after a while you will automatically know what the Carb level is in a serving of most of your favorite foods and just make your food selection decisions without thinking.

For those foods that you have to look up, one quick trick is to assume the carb level to be 15-grams for certain groups of foods as shown below;

Dried Beans – 1-cup

Fruit – 1- cup

Grains, Cold Cereal – 1-ounce

Grains, Cooked Cereal – ½ cup

Grains, Cooked Rice – ½ cup

Low-Fat Dairy – 1 cup

Starchy Vegetables – ½ cup

Foods and Carbs, Facts and Tips

Foods and Carbs, Facts and Tips

Below are a number of facts about certain popular foods, their Carb levels and comparisons

Sugar – Sugar is a type of carbohydrate (about 4-grams of Carbs to a teaspoon of Sugar) and it contains no nutrients useful to the body.

Vegetables – All vegetables have Carbohydrates and a standard serving is ½ cup of cooked vegetables and 1-cup of uncooked vegetables.

Non-Starchy Vegetables contain around 5-grams of Carbs per serving and are foods such as; Asparagus, Summer Squash and all Leafy Greens.

Starchy Vegetables contain around 15 grams of Carbs per serving and are foods such as; Cassava, Corn, Peas, Potatoes and Yams.

Free Foods – Free Foods are those that are so low in Carb content that you can eat as much of them as you want. Some of these free foods are; Arugula, Chicory, Endive, Iceberg Lettuce, Romaine and Spinach or essentially any Salad Green.

Food Reference Books – Every diabetic should purchase a Food Reference Book. These books include thousands of foods and even prepared dishes along with their nutritional content and their Carbohydrate levels.

The newbie diabetic as well as the "old pro" will use it until they build up a personal database in their heads for their favorite foods.


Ongoing Diabetic Health and your A1C level

A1C Level - One thing that a diabetic should keep up with is their A1C level. A persons A1C level is a measurement and calculation made using blood testing techniques that gives an indication of a persons average Blood Glucose level over the past 2-3 months.

Unlike the blood sugar test that all diabetics use every day which indicates blood sugar levels in the blood at that point in time, the A1C level is a long term indicator or a persons blood sugar level. Normally, for diabetics their A1C level should be below 7%.

To prevent the onset of Type-2 Diabetes a person should do three things; lose excess weight, eat healthy foods, and exercise regularly.

To manage your Diabetes, you must; work with a health professional such as an Endocrinologist, who will monitor and manage your personal plan, and of course you also eat healthy foods and exercise regularly. I know I keep repeating this "diet and exercise" theme, over and over, but if you want to live a long life as a Diabetic, you must manage these two things. It's your Life!

Type-2 Diabetes Symptoms

Top 10 Foods that do not affect your Blood Sugar

Top 3 Foods that are BAD for a Diabetics Health

Natural Home Remedies for Diabetes

Blood Sugar and Diabetes, a control theory

© 2014 Don Bobbitt

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    • profile image

      Veronicajones2457 

      16 months ago

      Diabetes is a complex disease which results in halting the process of production of insulin in bodies. Insulin is important as it allows our bodies to consume and store the energy that our body gets from carbs present in food. It is a commonly known disease but there are facts that are unknown to many. There are few facts about diabetes which is unknown to many so here I am sharing few of the eye openers. In older days, diabetes testing was a weird job. Doctors would taste the urine to check if it was sweet. People were hired to taste urine to see if diabetes were there. Starting from eyes to toes, it can effect each and every part of your body. Our furry friends can also suffer from the same disease if they are not given proper exercise. Diabetics are most likely known to develop depression wherein they lose their confidence and endure a number of mood swings. Developing Diabetes is preventable if there is a planned diet program and 30-45 minutes of physical activity in moderation along with a healthy diet. Frequent urination is experienced along with fatigue and restlessness. It can also lead to various health complications like kidney failure, skin dryness and sensitivity, blindness and blurred vision, damage to the blood vessels that carry blood to the nerves, ulcers and in severe cases amputation. As of now, there are 3 known types of diabetes and there are so many which are not yet discovered. Diabetes cannot be cured but it can surely be prevented by good exercise and keeping the weight in control. Have organic and whole grain food and fruits as well.

    • Anita Hasch profile image

      Anita Hasch 

      22 months ago from Port Elizabeth

      Thank you for a great and informative hub.

    • greenmind profile image

      GreenMind Guides 

      23 months ago from USA

      Good advice for people newly diagnosed with this dangerous condition!

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      EB Black- Yes, Of course, I am Diabetic. I am Type-II though and not Type-I like yourself. And, I appreciate your emotional response.

      But, I also know what this insidious disease does to your emotions, and how you ride a roller-coaster of moods every day of your life.

      No one but a diabetic appreciates the stress a diabetic is under to manage so many things that a non-diabetic takes for granted. I feel for you, but I also know that we, the successful "diabetes fighters" in the world do get up and gird ourselves for another day, another sunrise, another talk with a friend, another smile from a child or grandchild. So, I'm with you, I'll bitch a little and I will still say that the price of being a diabetic is hard but worth it.

      Have a great day,

      DON

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Marcy Goodfleisch- Thanks for the read and the great comment.

      Diabetes is a battle that you do not wnt to get involved in. But, happily, eating the right foods, exercise, and managing Carbs can help keep the non-diabetic healthier as well as the serious diabetic.

      I know, that sentence sounds like your typical TV advertisement that you see that touts every medicine on the market; diet, exercise, etc. LaDaLaDaLaDa.

      But it is true.

      Good luck with your situation and I hope you never have to be involved with this crazy disease.

      DON

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 

      3 years ago from Planet Earth

      Really great tips - for anyone, whether they're dealing with diabetes or not. Sadly, diabetes runs in my family, and we are all on alert for symptoms & get checked regularly. However, just following the advice you give here is a great step in prevention.

      Thanks for the excellent hub!

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      4 years ago from California

      Don, It was flabbergasting to see the wild things being written here the few times I was connected to the internet last summer. I think perhaps things are picking up. We can thank billbuc for that. His superb writing, teaching and total dedication to civility has been contagious.

      I am being optimistic and think things will get better.

      Judy :)

    • Don Bobbitt profile imageAUTHOR

      Don Bobbitt 

      4 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      tirelestraveler- I appreciate the read and the comment. Google has me so choked down at the moment that I feel like a nomad sitting in a desert filled with magazines.

      There's no one around to read the darn things, and just the Great Google pointing at articles by other people, of course while throwing a sneer in my direction. LOL!

      While the French coined their famous phrase; C'est La Vie!.

      I presently like the Rapper phrase; Aint that a Bitch! LOL!

      Have a great day,

      DON

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 

      4 years ago from California

      Very thorough hub with many good ideas for managing diabetes.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Important information and encouraging for those with diabetes. Nice job, Don.

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