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Diabetes and Blood Sugar –7 tips you need to know NOW (especially if you do NOT have diabetes….)!


Dear Ellen, I saw that November 14th is World Diabetes Day. I keep hearing about Diabetes and Blood Sugar in the news…What’s all the fuss?

The global prevalence of diabetes among adults over 18 years of age has risen from 4.7% in 1980 to 8.5% in 2014. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attacks, stroke and lower limb amputation. Download this infographic to see more.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs either when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or when the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Insulin is a hormone that regulates sugar in the bloodstream. Hyperglycaemia occurs when we have too much sugar in the bloodstream and hypoglycaemia when we have too little. The exact definition by the World Health Organisation can be found here, but in any case, for optimal health, we want to aim for stable blood sugar!

There are two main types of diabetes, type 1 diabetes  and  type 2 diabetes:

Type 1 is characterized by deficient insulin production and requires daily administration of insulin. The cause of type 1 diabetes is not known and it is not preventable with current knowledge, approximately 10% of diabetes is Type 1.

Type 2 results from the body’s ineffective use of insulin. Type 2 diabetes comprises the majority of people with diabetes in the world, and is largely the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity, approximately 90% of diabetes is Type 2.

We are all at risk for Type 2 Diabetes, so keeping blood sugar levels as steady as possible now may help avoid getting diabetes later. Controlling your blood sugar can also help make you feel better as it help keep your energy stable.


Here are 7 lifestyle tips that can help steady blood sugar and prevent Type 2 Diabetes!


1.    Eat a  healthy, balanced diet. Aim to get this balance over a day or a week if you cannot get it at each meal. This includes eating at least five portions of various fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, wholegrain carbohydrates, lean protein through beans, pulses, fish, eggs, or meat, unsaturated oils as well as the recommended 6-8 glasses of water per day. Keep in mind that fibre-rich foods help to slow down digestion, so sugar is released more gradually into the blood.

2.    Maintain a  healthy weight. Type 2 diabetes is largely the result of excess body weight. It is recommended that women target 2000 kcal per day and men 2500 kcal per day including all food and drink. For my tips on “scale-scare”, read here.

3.    Avoid refined carbohydrates, sweetened drinks and processed foods which the body quickly converts to sugar causing a rapid rise in blood sugar. Refined carbohydrates to avoid include bagels, pastries, white bread, white pasta, crackers, and cookies as well as sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods with added sugar such as cereal bars, flavoured yogurts, candy, and desserts. Learn to read labels to identify how much sugar is really in your food or download this Change4Life Sugar Smart app as a quick reference on-the-go.


4.    Quit smoking.  Recent research suggests that smoking increases the risk of diabetes, can raise blood sugar, and also weakens the body's ability to respond to insulin.

5.    Drink alcohol in moderation.  Drinking alcohol makes hypoglycaemia more likely to occur, can raise blood pressure and contribute to overweight. Government guidelines recommend not regularly drinking more than 14 units per week (4 units is equivalent to a bottle and a half of wine or five pints of export-type lager) over the course of a week. This applies to both men and women.

6.    Exercise  dailyGuidelines state that physical activity can reduce the chance of Type 2 diabetes by up to 40% by increasing the amount of glucose used by the muscles, lowering blood sugar levels, helping the body use insulin and maintain a healthy weight. For my tips on how to exercise more, click here.

7.    Sleep 7-8 hours!  Numerous studies have found that sleep deprivation has a dramatic effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time so you are consistently well rested. For my tips for better sleep, click here.

Healthy lifestyle choices can help you prevent type 2 diabetes now! As part of a healthy lifestyle, we have learned that we should consume fewer foods and drinks high in sugars but, how much sugar should we eat? To find out more, read my next article…How Sweet it Is …How much is too much?