Living your best life with diabetes

Released: Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Recovery often requires change. At times, recovery means accepting a new normal and making a commitment to living your best life with some adjustments.

A diabetes diagnosis for yourself or a loved one is certainly one of those times, but for people with diabetes—that is 1 in 10 of us—a commitment to better nutrition and more physical activity can enable a longer, healthier life.

"A diabetes diagnosis can certainly feel shocking at first, but with a little help, you can fine-tune your routine to ensure that your food has plenty of flavor and that your blood sugar is properly managed," said Kate Blumberg, a registered dietitian at LSU's Pennington Biomedical Research Center, whose mission is to develop methods for better treating and preventing chronic diseases such as obesity and diabetes.

Kate says sticking to five key tips can put you on the right track to managing your blood sugar without sacrificing your favorite foods and pastimes.

  • Exercise regularly: Physical activity engages the muscles in your body that burn glucose—the more you move, the more glucose you burn; in turn, that helps lower your blood sugar. Additionally, exercise helps keep your heart, lungs and weight in check while giving you the added boost of extra energy.

    Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each week – that means 30 minutes of exercise, five times a week, with enough movement to get your heart rate up to the point that you can still talk but not sing a song. Dancing, riding a bike, swimming, doing housework or gardening are all great places to start. If you are just getting started, try walking five or 10 minutes each day.

    Pennington Biomedical offers online training plans for its annual 5k and 1-mile fun run called Doc's DASH. You can find a handy, easy-to-follow daily guide to either walking or running either race at
  • Eat smart: A diet for people with diabetes is the kind of diet that most of us should be eating anyway: a diet that incorporates plenty of whole foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, plenty of fiber, whole grains and low or fat-free dairy products.

    Making sure you have time for breakfast is crucial to avoiding crashes in blood sugar later in the day. Stay away from sugary or sweetened beverages, and make sure to keep small, healthy snacks, like a handful of nuts, around to help stave off spikes and drops in blood sugar that can happen between meals.

    Working with a dietitian is a great way to better plan to manage your diabetes, and many of Pennington Biomedical's studies include dietary counseling as part of the study. You can screen yourself to find out which studies you may qualify for at

    Also, check out the DASH Diet, which was developed in part at Pennington Biomedical and has been named "The Best Diabetes Diet" by U.S. News & World Report, for six years running. The DASH diet focuses on many of the nutrition points mentioned earlier, along with lowering sodium intake to prevent or manage high blood pressure.
  • Manage your stress: When your stress increases, it also increases your levels of stress hormones, which can lead to a spike in your blood sugar level and cause you to put on extra weight.

    Make it a priority to find ways to lower your stress naturally, such as exercising, taking a nap, working with a psychologist to identify stressors, joining a yoga or meditation class or carving out some time to talk and laugh with friends.
  • Monitor your blood sugar and take your medications: Research has shown that closely watching your blood sugar improves your ability to manage diabetes. You can work with your doctor to create the right testing schedule for your body.

    You may need to test once a day or multiple times of day, but staying on top of your blood sugar is the best way to manage your diabetes.

    Taking your medications regularly ensures that your body is getting the right amount of medication to help you regulate your blood sugar. Try keeping your medication in a daily pill box placed somewhere you are sure not to miss it, like close to your toothbrush or in your kitchen. Setting an alarm can help you remember to take your medicine at a specific time as well.
  • Know your family's risk: If someone in your family has diabetes, your risk of being diagnosed with the disease increases. In Louisiana, 1 in 3 people has pre-diabetes, and many do not know it. Pre-diabetes is a condition that, left untreated, can lead to diabetes.

    Talk with your loved ones about screening for diabetes or pre-diabetes. They should ask their doctor to check their blood glucose and A1C levels. Your doctor can also advise you on diet, lifestyle, physical activity habits and body mass index when determining your risk.

With a few slight alterations, people with diabetes can enjoy full, active lifestyles and ensure that their days are not defined by their disease.

To learn more about research studies that could help you control your diabetes, visit

For more information on how you can support this and other projects at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, visit