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The diabetes “cure”

You’ve heard the advice: Exercise every day and eat the right foods. But how far do these healthy habits go if you have type 2 diabetes? Could they reverse the disease? Not quite.

Managing your weight and eating healthy foods are crucial to controlling diabetes, as they can help keep your blood sugar in check. In fact, some people who have diabetes and lose excess weight can stop taking their medications altogether. But they still have diabetes.

Other people have pre-diabetes or insulin resistance. Pre-diabetes means that your blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to be considered diabetes. If you have insulin resistance, your body doesn’t properly use insulin—a hormone that helps your body use glucose, or blood sugar, for energy. Over time, this forces your pancreas to produce extra insulin to compensate.

While not full-blown diabetes, having pre-diabetes or insulin resistance can greatly increase your chance of developing the disease down the road (most people with pre-diabetes develop type 2 diabetes within 10 years). However, you can reverse pre-diabetes and insulin resistance through a diabetes-friendly diet, exercise and weight control.

Eat smart

Whether you’re dealing with diabetes, pre-diabetes or insulin resistance, you need a meal plan to control your condition.

There’s really no such thing as a diabetes diet, so you don’t have to resign yourself to a life of dull food. The focus is on eating an appropriate amount of calories, getting an even distribution of carbohydrates and substituting some carbohydrates with heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, such as peanut butter and walnuts, for the best blood sugar control. Your healthcare provider or a nutritionist can help you determine the right amount of fat, protein, carbohydrates and sugars for you to consume daily.

Break a sweat

Physical activity is great for lowering blood sugar and keeping weight in check. It can also improve blood flow and blood pressure. Your healthcare provider can help you tailor a safe exercise program based on your needs. These regimens are usually most effective when done for at least 30 minutes a day on most or all days of the week.

Combining aerobic exercise, such as walking or jogging, with stretching and strength training, like weight lifting, is extremely effective at lowering blood glucose. Because exercise lowers blood sugar, you’ll need to check your levels before and after working out to make sure they don’t get too low.