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For diabetics, zeroing in on the number next to sodium on nutritional labels is a survival skill
Diabetics know what they will hear whenever they see their doctor: another exhortation to eat right and exercise, because that's how to keep blood sugar low and under control. It's proven advice, but not enough to prevent a long list of diabetic complications from sending you to the emergency room, say diabetes experts.
Diabetes-related complications, in fact, are among the most common reasons for hospitalization, according to a recent study in the
Moreover, the overall rate of hospital admissions for diabetics is rising -- up more than 65 percent between 1993 and 2006. And it will climb even faster if the
For those who already have the disease, though, there is hope. Some of these tips may help keep you healthy -- and out of the hospital:
1. Do a daily foot check.
"Keeping good watch over your feet is an important aspect of good diabetes care," says Joyce Lee, a coauthor of the
Data from the study indicates that young men are especially prone to such ulcerations. Applying lotion regularly and drinking lots of water can keep skin on the feet -- and the rest of the body -- from becoming dry and cracked, advises the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse.
2. Coddle your teeth and gums.
Diabetics run an increased risk of tooth decay, inflamed gums, and gum disease because the condition increases vulnerability to bacterial infections and hampers the ability to fight them. Periodontitis, an especially severe infection that destroys gum tissue and the bone that holds teeth in place, also complicates a diabetic's life by raising blood sugar levels when hormones are released by the immune system to battle the infection, warns the
3. Go easy on salt.
Sodium and high blood pressure go hand in hand, and high blood pressure multiplies a diabetic's already elevated risk of cardiovascular and kidney diseases, says Om Ganda, director of the lipid clinic at the
The landmark DASH study by researchers at the National Heart, Lung, and
Even unlikely suspects such as a half cup of low-fat cottage cheese or a smallish cinnamon-raisin bagel will kick in almost a third of the recommended total. For diabetics, zeroing in on the number next to sodium on nutritional labels is a survival skill.
4. Ditch the butter for olive oil.
Switching can make a marked impact on cholesterol, especially for those who have trouble reducing overall fat intake, says Ganda. The saturated fat in butter raises blood cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular problems; olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that can reduce bad cholesterol. A diet heavy in olive oil may even bring down the chance of developing diabetes.
A study published in October (2010) in Diabetes Care tracked 418 non-diabetic Spanish adults over four years who ate either a traditional Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, their normal Mediterranean diet supplemented with fat from nuts, or a low-fat diet. By the end, between 10 and 11 percent of those in the two Mediterranean groups had developed diabetes compared with 18 percent in the low-fat group.
5. Kick the habit.
Smoking is a major factor in atherosclerosis, which frequently puts diabetics in the hospital when an artery becomes blocked and causes a heart attack, stroke, or other vascular problem. Smoking also raises blood pressure and cholesterol. And a diabetic who smokes has a greater risk of pneumonia and of having a worse case.
6. Fend off depression.
"This is a chronic illness where patients are reminded daily they have diabetes," says Tom Donner, acting director of the
Yoga or meditation can reduce the stress, and a special interest or activity -- a book club, fantasy football, birdwatching -- can let you again take pleasure from life, making your disease more manageable.
Most complications stemming from diabetes are preventable; the key is to understand and manage the illness from Day 1 to keep minor complications from becoming major. Diabetes is a time bomb, says Rizza. "It's ticking," he says, "and unless you're taking care of it...you'll end up in the hospital."
Available at Amazon.com:
Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children From Nature-Deficit Disorder
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Health - Are You Diabetic? 6 Tips That Will Keep You Out of the Hospital