As we approach the holiday season, remember that diabetes is controlled by more than just eating fewer sweets. Experts urge us to know our ABC’s: A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Here’s why:
A1C is a simple blood test that indicates your average blood glucose levels over the past 2 to 3 months. An A1C level greater than 7 percent means your diabetes is not in good control.
Nutritionally, you can lower A1C values by eating smaller portions of foods that contain carbohydrates (sugars and starches), such as bread stuffing, potatoes and pumpkin pie. Large meals cause a surge of blood sugars that dangerously increase A1C levels. Space your intake of carbohydrate foods (fruit is a carbohydrate, too!) throughout the day.
Blood Pressure control helps prevent kidney disease, heart disease and stroke—major risks for people with diabetes. Your goal? Less than 130/80.
Nutrition strategies to lower blood pressure involve more than tossing the salt shaker. Our bodies rely on adequate intakes of potassium, calcium, and magnesium to regulate blood pressure. Foods that include these nutrients include fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals, dairy foods, nuts and legumes.
Cholesterol. People with diabetes are twice as likely to die of heart disease as people without diabetes. A yearly blood test that reveals your total cholesterol level plus the good (HDL), the bad (LDL) and the ugly (triglycerides) will also provide clues as to how you can change your diet.
For example, a high LDL indicates a need to reduce the amount of saturated and trans fats in your diet. A high triglyceride level can be treated with a diet lower in carbohydrates and alcohol and higher in omega-3 fats from fish, walnuts and other sources.
A gentle reminder if you are carrying extra weight into the holiday season: The most effective way to reduce A1C, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels is to lose some of that extra poundage.