Common health concerns associated with diabetes can be combated with a variety of nutritional lifestyle strategies.
Each year, approximately 1.9 million people over age 20 hear the words, You have diabetes. Around 90 to 95 percent of those diagnoses are for type 2. While living with the disease can be difficult, perhaps most challenging is the complications diabetes can cause blindness, osteoporosis and heart disease, just to name a few.
If you have type 2 diabetes, there is hope: Along with living an active lifestyle, there are nutritional strategies for diabetes support. Lets look at the seven main health concerns for type 2 diabetes and how to manage them.
Healthy Antioxidant Levels
Concern: High levels of free radicals unstable molecules that can cause damage to many of the body’s systems are common in people with diabetes. A study in Free Radical Biology & Medicine found that free radicals are not only a risk factor for diabetes, but they also contribute to long-term complications of the disease.
Strategies: Antioxidants like vitamin C, vitamin E and CoQ10 may protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. In turn, this supports the health of the entire body.
Blood Sugar Support
Concern: The American Diabetes Association recommends that fasting blood glucose levels should range from 70 to 130 mg/dL for adults with diabetes, but many people struggle to stay within that range. Along with eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise, monitoring blood sugar is important to managing the disease.
Strategies: According to the Mayo Clinic, a 2009 study found that taking a 500mg cinnamon capsule twice daily may help support healthy hemoglobin A1c levels. Supplementing with chromium picolinate can also help increase chromium levels in the body, which may support effective functioning of insulin and healthy blood sugar levels.
Concern: People with diabetes have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, diabetes increases the risk of stroke two to four times over that of someone without diabetes. This is partially because diabetes and cardiovascular disease share many of the same risk factors.
Strategies: Regular exercise and a healthy diet are the most important steps for supporting cardiovascular health. Taking a heart-supportive supplement like the powerful antioxidant CoQ10 may help provide energy to the heart and reduce free radical damage. Omega-3 fish oil, krill oil, magnesium and vitamin D may also provide the building blocks for a healthy cardiovascular system.
Osteoporosis and Osteoarthritis Support
Concern: Excess weight which is common in people with type 2 diabetes can put additional stress on the bones and joints. This can be a risk factor for osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, a condition that can lead to decreased bone quality and an increased risk of fractures.
Strategies: Along with weight loss, a calcium supplement combined with vitamin D and vitamin K, which help the body absorb calcium, can support bone health. Long-term use of a glucosamine supplement may slow the breakdown of joints and help with the pain associated with osteoarthritis, according to the National Institutes of Health. Chondroitin and MSM may also support joint health.
Concern: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness among adults in the United States. Increased oxidation in the body can damage the eyes, impacting vision and increasing the risk of eye complications.
Strategies: Supplementing with the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidants that are found in the eye, may provide vision support. Bilberry extract has also been shown to support healthy blood circulation, which may support the health of the retina for people with diabetes. Omega-3 fatty acids from eating more fish or taking a fish oil supplement, along with antioxidant-packed blueberries, are good choices for supporting eye health, too.
Healthy Blood Pressure
Concern: Elevated blood pressure is common in people with diabetes and can increase the risk of stroke. The good news? Lowering your systolic blood pressure just 10 mm/Hg reduces the risk for all diabetes complications by up to 12 percent.
Strategies: A healthy diet, daily exercise and nutrients like omega-3 fish oil and B vitamins may help maintain healthy blood pressure levels. Supplementing with the amino acid L-arginine may also help support healthy blood pressure in people with type 2 diabetes by widening the arteries.
Concern: Ninety percent of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. If you have prediabetes, weight loss and regular physical activity can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes; in some people, blood glucose levels may even return to normal. If you already have the disease, losing weight can help support healthy blood glucose levels.
Strategies: Regular exercise and eating a low-calorie diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, protein, whole grains and low-fat dairy are great steps toward supporting a healthy weight. Since chromium plays an important role in processing carbohydrates and fats, supplementing with chromium picolinate may help support a healthy body weight. Green tea extract may also support metabolism and digestion by supporting the way the body converts fat into energy, which is important for weight management. A study in BMC Pharmacology showed that green tea extract can support insulin function by increasing the body’s ability to utilize blood sugar. And, as a bonus, it supplies antioxidants to the body.
Whether you’re newly diagnosed or have been living with diabetes for years, now is the perfect time to modify your lifestyle habits. Set the foundation with a healthy diet and regular exercise, and then add a targeted supplementation regimen. If you’re not sure how to get started or are taking medications that might interact with supplements talk to your doctor. Most physicians can help you put together a plan that fits your specific needs. Visit the American Diabetes Associations website at www.diabetes.org for more information, tips and resources for healthy living.
Dr. Andrew Myers, an expert in nutrition and preventive medicine and the co-author of Health Is Wealth: 10 Power Nutrients That Increase Your Odds of Living to 100 and Health Is Wealth: Performance Nutrition. Visit healthiswealth.net for more information.