November marks the beginning of Diabetes Awareness Month, and Saint Joseph Berea is encouraging the public to become educated on how to manage the disease during the holidays. More than 30 million Americans are currently living with diabetes, including more than 531,000 people in Kentucky, according to the American Diabetes Association. While diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in Kentucky, our state ranks fourth in the nation for overall diabetes-related deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“With such high diabetes numbers in Kentucky and the season of celebration just around the corner, it is important that community members learn effective ways to control their diabetes,” said Amanda Goldman, Director of Diabetes and Nutrition Care, KentuckyOne Health. “By taking the proper precautions, those living with diabetes can still enjoy the holiday food and festivities this season.”
Diabetes is often a long-term disease that affects the way your body uses carbohydrates, protein and fats. This disease occurs when the pancreas doesn’t make a hormone called insulin at all, or like it once did. The body uses insulin to help get the blood glucose, or blood sugar, out of the blood vessels and into the body’s many cells for energy. In people diagnosed with diabetes, blood sugar levels build up, which can damage blood vessels in the eyes, kidneys, heart and nervous system.
There are three major types of diabetes: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. People with type 1 diabetes are unable to produce insulin and must take daily insulin injections. This form of diabetes usually begins during childhood. Type 2 diabetes is more common and typically occurs in adults who are overweight and have a family history of diabetes. This form occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is unable to use it properly. Type 2 diabetes can be managed by diet and exercise, but some people may need tablets or insulin as diabetes progresses. Gestational diabetes only occurs in pregnant women and also means the body is not producing insulin normally.
“For all types of diabetes, a healthy diet is essential for controlling blood glucose levels and managing the disease,” said Goldman. “Particularly around the holidays, it can be difficult to stay on track and watch what you eat. However, it is important for those with diabetes to have a plan for how to maintain a healthy diet, including not skipping meals, checking their blood sugar frequently, watching alcohol intake, cooking healthy dishes and staying active.”
While it may be tempting to skip meals to save up for a feast, this can negatively impact your blood sugar level and can make you more likely to overeat. During the holidays, remember to eat regularly or to eat a small snack between meals.
Decide which foods are worth eating and which can be ignored. Take small portions of indulgent foods like sweets, to keep your blood sugar from getting too high. Cook a light, healthy dish to take with you to holiday parties to help control your diabetes, and drink alcohol only in moderation. You should also check your blood sugar frequently during the holiday season to keep it from skyrocketing.
Exercising during the holiday season is also key to managing your diabetes. Try to stick to your normal exercise routine and incorporate exercise into your holiday celebration by going on walks with family.
It’s important that those living with diabetes come up with a plan before the holiday season so they can safely celebrate with family and friends. For additional information on diabetes and nutrition education, visit www.kentuckyonehealth.org/