5 Best Exercises for People with Diabetes

older woman performing yoga

If you have diabetes, exercise offers surprising benefits. Not only does it lower your stress levels, it may also lower your blood sugar level and may even reduce your insulin requirements.

Exercise is so important for people with diabetes that The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. And the American Diabetes Association recommends that you miss no more than two days of aerobic exercise in a row.

We asked diabetes specialists, Sue Cotey, RN, CDCES, and Andrea Harris, RN, CDCES about some of the best exercises if you have diabetes. Below are their recommendations on how much exercise is right for you, and some of the best ways you can get it.

5 exercises for people with diabetes

Try to make a habit of doing the following exercises on a regular basis, Cotey says. They’ll give you the maximum benefits to help you manage your diabetes, and are relatively easy to fit in each day.

  1. Walking — Because anyone can do it almost anywhere, walking is the most popular exercise and highly recommended for people with diabetes. Spending 30 minutes of brisk walking, five times each week is a great way to increase your physical activity. You can even break this 30 minutes down into 10-minute sessions three times a day.
  2. Tai Chi —This Chinese form of exercise uses slow, smooth body movements to relax the mind and body. Studies have shown those who complete tai chi sessions show significant improvement in blood sugar control. They also report increased vitality, energy and mental health.
  3. Yoga — A traditional form of exercise, yoga incorporates fluid movements that build flexibility, strength and balance. It’s helpful for people with a variety of chronic conditions, including diabetes. It lowers stress and improves nerve function, which leads to an increased state of mental health and wellness. According to the ADA, yoga may improve blood glucose levels due to improved muscle mass.
  4. Dancing — Dancing is not only great for your body. The mental work to remember dance steps and sequences actually boosts brain power and improves memory. For those with diabetes, it is a fun and exciting way to increase physical activity, promote weight loss, improve flexibility, lower blood sugar and reduce stress. Chair dancing, which incorporates the use of a chair to support people with limited physical abilities, makes dancing an option for many people. In just 30 minutes, a 150-pound adult can burn up to 150 calories.
  5. Swimming — Swimming stretches and relaxes your muscles and doesn’t put pressure on your joints, which is great for people with diabetes. For those with diabetes or at risk for developing diabetes, studies show it improves cholesterol levels, burns calories and lowers stress levels. To get the most benefit from swimming, we recommend that you swim at least three times a week for at least ten minutes and gradually increase the length of the workout. Lastly, let the lifeguard know that you have diabetes before you get in the pool.

Exercise safety

Before starting an exercise program, talk to your doctor to be sure the exercise you choose is safe and appropriate for your type of diabetes. Remember to start slowly, especially if you have not been physically active for a while.

Here are other safety tips:

  • Check your blood sugar before and after exercise until you are aware of how your body responds to exercise.
  • Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, make sure your blood sugar is less than 250 mg/dl before exercising. For people with Type 1 diabetes, exercising with a blood sugar higher than 250 mg/dl may cause ketoacidosis, which can be a life threatening condition resulting from a lack of insulin in the body. Do a five-minute warm-up before and a five-minute cool down after exercising.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
  • Be prepared for any episodes of low blood sugar. Have something available that can bring sugar levels up, such as hard candy, glucose tablets or 4 ounces of juice.
  • Wear a medical alert ID band. If an emergency occurs, EMS will know how to treat you properly.
  • Always carry a cell phone.
  • Avoid exercising in extremely hot or cold temperatures.
  • Wear proper shoes and socks to protect your feet.

As with any exercise, always listen to your body. If you become short of breath, dizzy or lightheaded, stop exercising. Report any unusual problems you experience to your doctor.

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Here are the Best Vegetables for Type 2 Diabetes

No food item is strictly forbidden for people with type 2 diabetes. Healthful eating for people with diabetes is all about controlling portion size and preparing a careful balance of nutrients.

The best vegetables for type 2 diabetes are low on the glycemic index (GI) scale, rich in fiber, or high in nitrates that reduce blood pressure.

In this article, we look at the best vegetables for people with type 2 diabetes. We also explain why vegetables are so important for people who are monitoring blood sugar, and we offer a range of tasty meal ideas.

Best vegetables for type 2 diabetes

Eating a wide variety of foods, including a mix of certain vegetables, can help people with diabetes stay healthy while enjoying a range of meals.

Low-GI vegetables

Vegetable skewers

The GI ranking of a food shows how quickly the body absorbs glucose from that food. The body absorbs blood sugar much faster from high-GI foods than low-GI foods.

People with diabetes should eat vegetables with a low GI score to avoid blood sugar spikes.

Not all vegetables are safe for people with diabetes, and some have a high GI. Boiled potatoes, for example, have a GI of 78.

The GI scores for some popular vegetables are:

  • Frozen green peas score 39 on the GI index.
  • Carrots score 41 when boiled and 16 when raw.
  • Broccoli scores 10.
  • Tomatoes score 15.

Low-GI vegetables are also safe for people with diabetes, such as:

  • artichoke
  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • cauliflower
  • green beans
  • lettuce
  • eggplant
  • peppers
  • snow peas
  • spinach
  • celery

It is important to note that the GI gives a relative value to each food item and does not refer to the specific sugar content. Glycemic load (GL) refers to how much glucose will enter the body in one serving of a food.

High-nitrate content

Nitrates are chemicals that naturally occur in specific vegetables. Some manufacturers use them as preservatives in foods.

Eating natural, nitrate-rich foods can reduce blood pressure and improve overall circulatory health. People should choose vegetables with naturally high nitrate content, rather than those with nitrate that manufacturers have added during processing.

Nitrate-rich vegetables include:

  • arugula
  • beets
  • lettuce
  • celery
  • rhubarb

Protein

Protein-rich foods help people feel fuller for longer, reducing the urge to snack between meals.

Daily protein recommendations depend on a person’s size, sex, activity level, and other factors. People can speak to a doctor for the best insight on what their ideal daily protein intake should be.

Pregnant or lactating women, highly active people, and those with large bodies need more protein than others.

Vegetables higher than some others in protein include:

  • spinach
  • bok choy
  • asparagus
  • mustard greens
  • broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • cauliflower

Fiber

Fiber should come from real, natural food, not supplements, making vegetables essential in a glucose-controlled diet. Fiber can help reduce constipation, reduce levels of “bad” cholesterol, and help with weight control.

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics say that the correct amount of fiber per day is 25 grams (g) for women and 38 g for men.

This recommendation varies, depending on body size, overall health, and similar factors.

Vegetables and fruits with high fiber content include:

  • carrots
  • beets
  • broccoli
  • artichoke
  • Brussels sprouts
  • split peas
  • avocados

Why choose vegetables?

Grocer carrying box of vegetables

Good carbohydrates provide both nutrients and energy, making them a safe, efficient, and nutritious food choice for people with diabetes.

Low-to-moderate-GI vegetables, such as carrots, improve blood glucose control and reduce the risk of weight gain.

Nitrate-rich foods, such as beets, are among the best vegetables for people with type 2 diabetes who also have a higher than usual risk of cardiovascular disease. This fact remains true despite their high carbohydrate content.

The key to effective food management is to boost vegetable intake and reduce carbohydrate consumption elsewhere in the diet by cutting down on foods such as bread or sugary snacks.

A person with diabetes should include sufficient amounts of fiber and protein in the diet. Many dark, leafy greens are rich in fiber, protein, and other vital nutrients.

Fiber can help control blood glucose levels. Vegetables, fruits, nuts, and legumes have excellent fiber content.

Vegetables also support improved levels of healthy cholesterol and lower blood pressure. As with protein, fiber can make people feel fuller for longer.

Eating vegan or vegetarian with diabetes

Eating a vegan or vegetarian diet can prove challenging for people with diabetes. Animal products generally have the most protein, but vegans completely avoid dairy and other animal products.

Some of the most protein-rich vegan options include:

  • lentils
  • beans and chickpeas
  • peas
  • almonds
  • pumpkin seeds
  • amaranth and quinoa
  • sprouted-grain bread
  • soy milk
  • tofu and tempeh

A vegan or vegetarian person who has diabetes can eat a balanced diet. Whole grains, nuts, seeds, and lentils offer plenty of protein often with low calories.

Learn everything you need to know about the vegan diet here.

5 Tips To Help You Snack Healthier at Work

healthy snacks at work

Eating healthy doesn’t apply solely to what you consume for breakfast, lunch and dinner. That is, unless the only time you eat is at mealtimes.

Most of us, however, like to have a couple of snacks during the day. The right snacks can help us to focus mentally by taking the edge off our hunger and can provide a much-needed energy boost until the next meal.

It’s important to choose wisely when selecting your snacks. You may eat the healthiest lunches in the office, but all of those salad greens and turkey sandwiches on whole-grain breads won’t amount to much if you’re noshing on junk between meals.

Junk food such as candy bars, soda and potato chips won’t help to power you through the afternoon — and consistent consumption of junk foods can harm your body over the long run by boosting your risk for disease.

One strategy to make sure you’re eating the most nutritious snacks is to plan ahead, says dietitian Beth Czerwony, MS, RD, CSOWM, LD. This way you avoid deciding while standing in front of the vending machine (or your fridge) at 3 p.m. with your stomach growling.

Here are five tips help make you snack savvy:

1. Plan your snacks for the work week and make them at home on Sunday night

Put your snacks in serving-size bags or containers so all you have to do is grab a couple on your way out of the door in the morning (or can easily grab one between Zoom meetings).

Czerwony suggests making up individual containers of juicy watermelon or other fruit. Or cut up crunchy celery into sticks that you can munch on at your desk. The point is to plan healthy and plan ahead.

“It makes it much easier when you feel overworked, overstressed and overscheduled,” she says.

2. Considering adding a little protein to keep hunger at bay

Pair a handful of heart-healthy nuts to accompany the fruit or a tablespoon of peanut butter for your celery.

3. Snack on fruits with the skin on them

Don’t peel your fruit. The skins on apples, peaches or plums provide extra fiber and will help you to feel fuller for a longer period of time. Whole fruits are delicious and portable, easily stored at work or eaten without plates or utensils when you’re on the go. Wash the fruit at home so you can eat them immediately at work.

4. Pack snacks that won’t spoil quickly

Consider high-fiber health bars or a cup or two of a nutritious dry cereal. Czerwony suggests keeping a pre-seasoned pack of tuna at your desk that you can easily open and eat with a fork.

“Right there you have a lunch if you get stuck at your desk unexpectedly for the day,” Czerwony says. “You don’t want to skip eating. That’s another bad thing to do when you’re trying to maintain your weight.”

5. Try drinking a glass of water or decaffeinated tea with your snack

Liquids can help you to feel full and are good for you too. Research suggests that adequate hydration increases cell metabolism, allows the muscles to work harder by providing oxygen and promotes the body’s elimination of waste.

5 Strategies to Help You Stop Emotional Eating

You stand at the freezer, steaming over a fight with your spouse and searching for some ice cream to cool your emotions. You sit on the couch and mindlessly munch through a whole bag of chips after a stressful day.

This is emotional eating. You might have heard it called “stress eating,” but “emotional” is more accurate, says registered dietitian Anna Kippen, MS, RDN, LD. Many negative emotions — including anger, sadness and stress — can trigger bad eating habits.

Here’s the problem: The feel-good foods you reach for can actually make you feel worse. Fortunately, there are strategies to help make sure your emotions don’t turn into diet damage in the long term.

1. Get down to the root cause

A bad day at work or a fight with a friend are short-term issues. But emotional eating can stem from bigger issues, too. These include chronic stress, long-term anger, depression and other concerns. If these apply to you, you may benefit from counseling, stress management, exercise and other techniques.

The strategies outlined here can help. But ultimately, you need to identify and address the true source of your emotional eating.

2. Ask why you’re eating

When you walk to the refrigerator, pantry or vending machine, pause and ask a simple question: “Am I really hungry?”

Kippen suggests rating your hunger on a scale from 1 to 5, with one being you’re not hungry at all, and five being you’re so hungry that you would eat the food you hate most in the world.

“It’s too easy to just dive into mindless eating, but by asking yourself this question, you at least recognize your motivation,” she says.

If your hunger clocks in at a level three or four, she suggests grabbing a healthy, balanced snack within 15 minutes or a healthy, balanced meal within 30 minutes. If your physical hunger is lower than that, she recommends trying an alternative activity like drinking a cup of fruity herbal tea or going for a walk.

“Becoming more aware of your hunger level can help you to curb excessive snacking and make better choices,” she says.

3. Swap out your worst snacks

If you don’t have a giant bag of greasy chips at your fingertips, you can’t eat the whole bag. That’s good, because overeating processed snacks can raise your levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

If you need a salty snack, stock popcorn (with salt and oil only) instead. You’ll get the whole grains that are one important source of the feel-good hormone serotonin. You’ll also get antioxidants to boost your immune system and far fewer calories than chips. Roasted chickpeas are another great crunchy option with protein and fiber to fill you up.

If stress, anger or sadness trigger your sweet tooth, remember this: The sugar high comes with a low afterward. This low can lead to increased cravings later. And, sweets and processed foods can even make certain mental concerns, including symptoms of depression, worse.

As an alternative to your favorite candy, cake or pies, Kippen recommends keeping a bowl of sweet fruit out in the open. (Studies show you’re more likely to eat fruits and veggies when they are easy to access).

“I also suggest keeping frozen berries on hand that can quickly be thrown into a blender to make a healthy sorbet,” she says.

emotional eating

4. Choose foods that fight stress

Have you ever wondered why people offer hot tea in emotional situations? It turns out there’s more to it than soothing steam. Tea often contains helpful antioxidants. And green tea, matcha tea and white tea contain an amino acid called L-theanine that may help reduce stress levels.

If you tend to snack late at night, try dark cherries. Not only do they offer a sweet treat, but they also help increase natural levels of melatonin to help you sleep. Likewise, salmon and other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help with sleep.

The list goes on: Dark chocolate (at least 72% cacao), whole grains, nuts, legumes, and fruits and vegetables all have a part to play in maintaining a healthy mind. “The key is stocking up on foods that help with your stress or emotions, and avoiding processed junk that might make you feel worse,” Kippen says.

5. Make emergency packages

If you’re prone to stress-related snacking, prepare for it.

For example, don’t eat any food straight from the package. Grabbing snacks from the package is a recipe for binge eating and overindulgence.

Instead, pre-portion snacks such as nuts, popcorn or sliced veggies into baggies or containers. Consider these your emergency snack packages — or just your healthy snack options on an ongoing basis.

Beyond these tips, it bears repeating: If you need medical help to address emotional issues, ask for it. A doctor can help you tackle stress, depression, anger or any other negative emotions with a full treatment plan.

The Link Between Diabetes and Sexual Dysfunction

man in white robe beside woman in white shirt

In the famous words of George Michael, “Sex is natural, sex is good.” Of course, we know the obvious — when the mood is right and the chemistry is there, sex can be mind-blowingly awesome.

From lowering blood pressure to even helping ease stress and anxiety, sex offers quite a few health-related benefits. But if you’re one of the 300+ million Americans living with Type 2 diabetes, sex might not be that spectacular to you.

Endocrinologist Shirisha Avadhanula, MD, explains how diabetes could impact your desire or ability to enjoy sex. And she offers suggestions to help you get back to having fun in the bedroom.

The sexual side effects of diabetes

“Sexual dysfunction includes any problems that happen within the sexual response cycle,” says Avadhanula. “Everything from attaining an erection to reduced libido can be an issue for people living with diabetes.”

Avadhanula says that while most of the studies focus on sexual dysfunction in men with diabetes, the disease affects women as well. “With both genders, the longer you have diabetes, the more likely you are to experience sexual dysfunction in some way,” she says.

If you have diabetes, plus any of these symptoms, there may be a connection:

  • Lessened (or nonexistent) libido: Do you feign headaches more often than not to get out of sex?
  • Arousal inability: Does it no longer get up the way it used to? Or, have you stocked up on lubricant because you go through it so quickly?
  • Decreased sensation: Are you going through the motions without the promise of an orgasm?
  • Intercourse-related pain: Do you avoid sex because it just plain hurts?
  • Infections: Have you routinely experienced vaginitis or urinary tract infections?

Diabetes increases the risk of sexual dysfunction

There are several reasons people with diabetes experience sexual dysfunction more often than the general public.

“Obesity, high blood pressure, sleep apnea and depression are common conditions that occur alongside diabetes,” says Avadhanula. “Obesity can indirectly lead to erectile dysfunction (ED). Sleep apnea can cause ED for men or put women at a higher risk for sexual difficulties. Depression and anxiety can also negatively impact the libido or lead to the use of medication that affects sexual interest or function.”

Emotional health concerns

Men and women who wear an insulin pump may feel self-conscious. Plus, the time and energy spent managing diabetes and related conditions can take a toll on emotional health. This may lead to disinterest in sex or the use of a medication that negatively affects sexual function.

Hormonal changes

“Changes in testosterone or estrogen (because of diabetes, menopause or co-occurring conditions) can impact libido, lubrication and the ability to become sexually aroused,” says Avadhanula.

Less blood flow

Diabetes impacts blood flow, which could affect blood reaching the penis or vagina. For a man to achieve and sustain an erection, he needs blood to flow to the penis. In women, decreased blood flow could play a role in vaginal dryness.

Medication side effects

“High blood pressure medications may impact the ability to achieve or maintain an erection,” says Avadhanula. “And some medications which  help manage depression or anxiety are notorious for inhibiting arousal or sexual interest.”

Nerve damage

Having high levels of glucose can damage nerves. The tip of the penis and clitoris are loaded with nerves. If those nerves become damaged, the result might be decreased sexual sensation or even painful intercourse.

Diabetes doesn’t have to ruin your sex life

“The reasons for sexual dysfunction are different for each person. It’s the role of your provider to tease things out to get to the bottom of what’s causing the concerns,” says Avadhanula. “But some people go years without saying anything to their doctor.”

According to Avadhanula, approximately 80% of patients reported they prefer if a doctor asks about sexual function, so they don’t have to bring it up. “If your provider doesn’t ask about your sex life, bring up any concerns because sex is an important component of a high-quality life.”

Avadhanula says providers will ask a series of questions to determine the cause of the sexual dysfunction. Your provider will also perform a physical exam. This approach helps your doctor determine what the cause could be and how to treat it.

“There are treatment options for both men and women,” says Avadhanula. “You may not see instant success but keep talking with your care team to move to the next option. There is hope that you can resume an active, enjoyable sex life.”

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One Simple Salad Dressing May Benefit You in More Than One Way

One Simple Salad Dressing May Benefit You in More Than One Way

If you’re like most Americans, you like your salad dressings creamy.

You may try “light” ranch or bleu cheese to reduce the fat, sodium and carb content — only to discover it’s not much better for you.

But what if you learned one simple salad dressing could benefit not just your health, but also your weight?

Yes, we’re talking about oil and vinegar. More specifically, extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) and apple cider or red wine vinegar.

“Olive oil and vinegar dressing offers the most potential benefit for those with prediabetes or diabetes,” notes integrative medicine physician Irina Todorov, MD.

That describes more than 100 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Substantial research proves heart health benefits

Extra-virgin olive oil, a staple of the Mediterranean diet, is good for your overall health. But it’s especially good for heart health — a key consideration for anyone with prediabetes or diabetes.

One Spanish study looked at EVOO consumption and mortality in more than 40,000 people over 13 years. It found the overall risk of death was 26% lower, and the risk of death from heart disease was 46% lower, among those who consumed the most EVOO.

The team also looked at whether this benefit disappeared after a certain amount of EVOO was consumed.

“The results were clear,” says Dr. Todorov. “For those eating a typical 2,000-calorie diet, overall mortality fell by 7%, and heart disease mortality fell by 13%, for every 10 grams of EVOO they consumed.” Wow.

Small studies suggest glucose-lowering benefits

Two small studies suggest that the vinegar and oil dressing may have other benefits, as well. They focused on two beloved additions to our meals: bread and potatoes.

Because both foods are high in carbs, they are swiftly absorbed and quickly raise blood sugar. That’s not a good thing when you’re prediabetic or diabetic and trying to keep your glucose down.

The first study fed five volunteers simple meals on different days after fasting all night:

  • Lettuce dressed with olive oil, both with and without bread.
  • Lettuce dressed with olive oil and vinegar, both with and without bread.
  • Lettuce dressed with olive oil and vinegar (neutralized to lower its acidity), both with and without bread.

Their blood sugar levels were measured before, and 95 minutes after, each meal.

“When participants ate bread with lettuce, olive oil and vinegar, their blood sugar rose 34% less, on average, than when they ate bread alone,” says Dr. Todorov.

In the second study, conducted in Sweden, three healthy volunteers were fed:

  • Freshly boiled potatoes.
  • Cold-stored potatoes (boiled, then refrigerated for one day).
  • Cold-stored potatoes, dressed with olive oil and vinegar.

Researchers measured blood sugar and insulin levels multiple times in the two hours after each meal.

“Those who ate the cold-stored potatoes with olive oil and vinegar dressing had a 43% lower blood sugar response and a 31% lower insulin response than those who ate the freshly boiled potatoes,” says Dr. Todorov.

More research is needed to confirm the results of these small studies. But she recommends adding a salad with EVOO and vinegar to meals because of its potential to keep carbs from spiking blood sugar.

“Try making a potato salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing. Even better: Include other vegetables and chopped olives,” says Dr. Todorov.

Tips for buying vinegar and oil

When buying vinegar, look for apple cider vinegar that is raw, organic and unpasteurized, says Dr. Todorov. Or find red wine vinegar with 5 to 6% acidity.

And make sure the label on your olive oil says “extra-virgin.” If it says only “olive oil,” the product is a mixture of extra-virgin olive oil and refined oil, she says.

You also want cold-pressed EVOO. “The ripe olives have been mechanically pressed, without heat, so it is rich in polyphenols. These are typically lost in the processing of refined vegetable oils,” explains Dr. Todorov.

So, the next time you grab a salad, do your health a favor. Try replacing that creamy dressing with EVOO and apple cider or red wine vinegar.

5 Ways to Avoid Blisters and the Best Way to Treat Them

blister on heel of foot

Blisters. Painful and fluid-filled, they mark the palms of our hands or heels to protect irritated skin. Often, they may just as easily be called the scourge of the new shoe wearer.

While blisters can have many causes, the most common reason is friction. The best way to deal with them? Avoid them in the first place. Foot specialist Georgeanne Botek, DPM, offers five easy ways.

1. Keep your skin dry. “If you tend to have sweaty feet, you’re going to be more prone to blisters,” says Dr. Botek.

2. Wear socks with your shoes. This alone can help prevent blisters. Preferably, wear socks that will wick moisture away from your skin, especially for athletic activities where you’re likely to sweat.

3. Use drying agents like aluminum chloride or talcum powder that you can apply to your feet before athletic activities. Or apply a drying agent in the morning that can help prevent overly sweaty feet, Dr. Botek advises.

4. Break your shoes in ahead of time before you use them for athletic events that require running, accelerating, quick stopping, jumping or other athletic moves. The same applies for new dress shoes, high-heeled shoes or boots. Make sure you break them in slowly before wearing them for long periods of time. If your shoes are rubbing, place petroleum jelly or an adhesive bandage on the spot where the rubbing occurs.

5. Wear gloves if you are raking, shoveling, moving heavy objects or lifting weights. “Wash your hands frequently and use a towel to be sure that your hands are dry, which will help you prevent blisters,” says Dr. Botek. “Even playing video games or other repetitive motions for extended periods of time can give you blisters, too, so just be aware of the onset of redness, drainage or sweating and pain.”

There are other types of blisters, too, such as those caused by minor burns, blood blisters from pinching or crushing injuries to your skin or those from medical conditions.

How to care for a blister

Here are the best ways to care for a blister, if you get one:

If it doesn’t hurt, don’t pop it. You can take care of most blisters that occur because of friction or minor burns yourself. Typically, new skin forms underneath the skin, and the clear fluid you see will absorb back into your skin.

“There are different types of blisters, but the most common type is the sterile blister that’s filled with plasma or serum,” says Dr. Botek. “As long as it’s not painful, the general rule is not to pop it.” If it is painful, though, Dr. Botek recommends opening one of the edges of the blister — not the center — and leaving the outer layer intact.

Keep it clean. Use a clean sewing needle or sharp knife tip —​ and make sure you sterilize it first with iodine, an antiseptic skin cleanser or rubbing alcohol or by heating it to kill germs. Clean your skin first, too, Dr. Botek says.

After you open it, keep the blister area as clean as possible to help prevent infections. Topical ointments such as iodine or other over-the-counter topical antibiotic products can help keep a blister clean while it’s healing, Dr. Botek says. Keeping the blister covered and changing the bandage daily can help keep it clean and protected, as well.

Avoid infectionsIf you pop a blister and the liquid that drains is clear, that’s the sign of a sterile blister. White or milky yellow liquid is a sign of infection. “You don’t necessarily need oral antibiotics at that point,” Dr. Botek says. “But you should be more diligent in wound care and watch it more closely in case it does need medical treatment.”

The other thing to watch for, Dr. Botek adds, is daily improvement. If instead, you have increased redness, drainage or discomfort, those are signs that you should seek medical treatment for the infection.

“Time to seek out a physician’s care, would be if the blister worsens daily or if the drainage persists even after you’ve drained the blister,” she says.

A word of caution if you have diabetes

Dr. Botek says “If you have diabetes mellitus, a blister can lead to a more serious wound if you have risk factors such as loss of feeling, poor circulation or uncontrolled blood glucose.” She says if you have a blister and one of these conditions, you should be evaluated by a healthcare provider more urgently.

5 Tips to Prevent Gum Disease If You Have Diabetes

brushing teeth when you have diabetes

Gum disease, also known as gingivitis, has been called the fifth complication of diabetes behind heart, nerve, kidney and eye disease. Gingivitis is simply the inflammation of the gums around your teeth caused by plaque buildup.

So, why are you more at risk for developing gingivitis if you have diabetes? Diabetes educator Sue Cotey, RN, sheds some light on this question.

Gum disease begins with bacteria build up on and around your teeth that extends into the gums. Cotey says there is no difference between the bacteria in the mouth of someone with diabetes compared with someone without diabetes. “The reason gum disease is worse if you have diabetes is because you have a greater inflammatory response to this bacteria,” she explains.

Why gum disease makes it more difficult to control blood sugars

If you develop gum disease and it’s left untreated, it can lead to something called periodontitis, or an erosion of your jaw bone. This, in turn, can lead to loose teeth and damage to the gums. People with uncontrolled diabetes tend to get periodontitis more often than the average person or those who keep their diabetes under control.

Some signs that you have gum disease include:

  • Red, swollen and/or bleeding gums.
  • Loose or sensitive teeth.
  • Persistently bad breath.

If you have diabetes and have moderately advanced periodontal disease, it can be more difficult for you to control your blood sugars. “You may need deep cleaning, antibiotics or even oral surgery depending how advanced the gum disease is,” Cotey says.

In her 25 years of being a diabetes educator, Cotey says she has seen firsthand the relationship between gum health and diabetes management. “I’ve witnessed on multiple occasions that when people with diabetes see the dentist and address any current issues related to gum disease or inflammation, their blood glucose levels respond almost immediately,” says Cotey.

5 tips to avoid gum disease

Follow these tips to steer clear of gum disease:

  • Avoid acidic drinks like soda, energy drinks and water with lemon. These can erode the enamel of your teeth, which can lead to decay.
  • Floss daily between each tooth, sliding up and down and back and forth gently to avoid bleeding.
  • Brush your teeth and gum line for two full minutes, two times each day. Use a soft bristle brush using gentle strokes and make sure you reach all of your teeth. The goal is to get rid of plaque buildup. To do this, vibrate your brush across the tooth surface, the gum line and your gums.
  • Remember to gently brush your tongue for a few seconds, too, to get rid of bacteria.
  • See your dentist at least once a year and report any of the signs mentioned above immediately.

Other oral concerns if you have diabetes

People with diabetes are also more likely to have a dry mouth due to elevated blood glucose or medications. To avoid dry mouth, Cotey recommends chewing sugar-free gum, using a mouth gel or eating some sugar-free candy to stimulate saliva production. “If these don’t help, talk to your dentist for recommendations,” she says.

And if you’re into having a super white smile, you’re in luck! Cotey says many over-the-counter teeth whiteners are mild enough to be used by people with diabetes too.​

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15 natural ways to lower your Blood Pressure

 

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High blood pressure is a dangerous condition that can damage your heart. It affects one in three people in the US and 1 billion people worldwide (12).

If left uncontrolled, high blood pressure raises your risk of heart disease and stroke.

But there’s good news. There are a number of things you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally, even without medication.

Here are 15 natural ways to combat high blood pressure.

1. Walk and exercise regularly
senior ladies doing exercises in a swimming pool as a one of the natural ways to lower blood pressure
Regular exercise can help lower your blood pressure.

Exercise is one of the best things you can do to lower high blood pressure.

Regular exercise helps make your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood, which lowers the pressure in your arteries.

In fact, 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running, per week, can help lower blood pressure and improve your heart health (34).

What’s more, doing even more exercise than this reduces your blood pressure even further, according to the National Walkers’ Health Study (5).

Bottom line: Walking just 30 minutes a day can help lower your blood pressure. More exercise helps reduce it even further.

2. Reduce your sodium intake

Salt intake is high around the world. In large part, this is due to processed and prepared foods.

For this reason, many public health efforts are aimed at lowering salt in the food industry (6).

Many studies have linked high salt intake with high blood pressure and heart events, including stroke (78).

However, more recent research indicates that the relationship between sodium and high blood pressure is less clear (910).

One reason for this may be genetic differences in how people process sodium. About half of people with high blood pressure and a quarter of people with normal levels seem to have a sensitivity to salt (11).

If you already have high blood pressure, it’s worth cutting back your sodium intake to see if it makes a difference. Swap out processed foods with fresh ones and try seasoning with herbs and spices rather than salt.

Bottom line: Most guidelines for lowering blood pressure recommend reducing sodium intake. However, that recommendation might make the most sense for people who are salt-sensitive.

3. Drink less alcohol

Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure. In fact, alcohol is linked to 16% of high blood pressure cases around the world (12).

While some research has suggested that low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol may protect the heart, those benefits may be offset by adverse effects (12).

In the U.S., moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. If you drink more than that, cut back.

Bottom line: Drinking alcohol in any quantity may raise your blood pressure. Limit your drinking in line with the recommendations.

4. Eat more potassium-rich foods

Potassium is an important mineral.

It helps your body get rid of sodium and eases pressure on your blood vessels.

Modern diets have increased most people’s sodium intake while decreasing potassium intake (13).

To get a better balance of potassium to sodium in your diet, focus on eating fewer processed foods and more fresh, whole foods.

Foods that are particularly high in potassium include:

  • vegetables, especially leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes, and sweet potatoes
  • fruit, including melons, bananas, avocados, oranges, and apricots
  • dairy, such as milk and yogurt
  • tuna and salmon
  • nuts and seeds
  • beans

Bottom line: Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, which are rich in potassium, can help lower blood pressure.

5. Cut back on caffeine

If you’ve ever downed a cup of coffee before you’ve had your blood pressure taken, you’ll know that caffeine causes an instant boost.

However, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that drinking caffeine regularly can cause a lasting increase (14).

In fact, people who drink caffeinated coffee and tea tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, than those who don’t drink it (15161718).

Caffeine may have a stronger effect on people who don’t consume it regularly (19).

If you suspect you’re caffeine-sensitive, cut back to see if it lowers your blood pressure (20).

Bottom line: Caffeine can cause a short-term spike in blood pressure, although for many people, it does not cause a lasting increase.

6. Learn to manage stress
Listening to soothing music may help lower stress.

Stress is a key driver of high blood pressure.

When you’re chronically stressed, your body is in a constant fight-or-flight mode. On a physical level, that means a faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels.

When you experience stress, you might also be more likely to engage in other behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or eating unhealthful food that can adversely affect blood pressure.

Several studies have explored how reducing stress can help lower blood pressure. Here are two evidence-based tips to try:

  • Listen to soothing music: Calming music can help relax your nervous system. Research has shown it’s an effective complement to other blood pressure therapies (2122).
  • Work less: Working a lot, and stressful work situations, in general, are linked to high blood pressure (2324).

Bottom line: Chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure. Finding ways to manage stress can help.

7. Eat dark chocolate or cocoa

Here’s a piece of advice you can really get behind.

While eating massive amounts of dark chocolate probably won’t help your heart, small amounts may.

That’s because dark chocolate and cocoa powder are rich in flavonoids, which are plant compounds that cause blood vessels to dilate (25).

A review of studies found that flavonoid-rich cocoa improved several markers of heart health over the short term, including lowering blood pressure (25).

For the strongest effects, use non-alkalized cocoa powder, which is especially high in flavonoids and has no added sugars.

Bottom line: Dark chocolate and cocoa powder contain plant compounds that help relax blood vessels, lowering blood pressure.

8. Lose weight

In people with overweight, losing weight can make a big difference to heart health.

According to a 2016 study, losing 5% of your body mass could significantly lower high blood pressure (26).

In previous studies, losing 17.64 pounds (8 kilograms) was linked to lowering systolic blood pressure by 8.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 6.5 mm Hg (27).

To put that in perspective, a healthy reading should be less than 120/80 mm Hg (4).

The effect is even greater when weight loss is paired with exercise (27).

Losing weight can help your blood vessels do a better job of expanding and contracting, making it easier for the left ventricle of the heart to pump blood.

Bottom line: Losing weight can significantly lower high blood pressure. This effect is even more significant when you exercise.

9. Quit smoking

Among the many reasons to quit smoking is that the habit is a strong risk factor for heart disease.

Every puff of cigarette smoke causes a slight, temporary increase in blood pressure. The chemicals in tobacco are also known to damage blood vessels.

Surprisingly, studies haven’t found a conclusive link between smoking and high blood pressure. Perhaps this is because smokers develop a tolerance over time (28).

Still, since both smoking and high blood pressure raise the risk of heart disease, quitting smoking can help lessen that risk.

Bottom line: There’s conflicting research about smoking and high blood pressure, but what is clear is that both increase the risk of heart disease.

10. Cut added sugar and refined carbs

There’s a growing body of research showing a link between added sugar and high blood pressure (293031).

In the Framingham Women’s Health Study, women who drank even one soda per day had higher levels than those who drank less than one soda per day (32).

Another study found that having one less sugar-sweetened beverage per day was linked to lower blood pressure (33).

And it’s not just sugar — all refined carbs, such as the kind found in white flour — convert rapidly to sugar in your bloodstream and may cause problems.

Some studies have shown that low carb diets may also help reduce blood pressure.

One study on people undergoing statin therapy found that those who went on a 6-week, carb-restricted diet saw a greater improvement in blood pressure and other heart disease markers than people who did not restrict carbs (34).

Bottom line: Refined carbs, especially sugar, may raise blood pressure. Some studies have shown that low carb diets may help reduce your levels.

11. Eat berries

Berries are full of more than just juicy flavor.

They’re also packed with polyphenols, natural plant compounds that are good for your heart.

Polyphenols can reduce the risk of stroke, heart conditions, and diabetes, as well as improving blood pressure, insulin resistance, and systemic inflammation (34).

One study assigned people with high blood pressure to a low-polyphenol diet or a high-polyphenol diet containing berries, chocolate, fruits, and vegetables (35).

Those consuming berries and polyphenol-rich foods experienced improved markers of heart disease risk.

Bottom line: Berries are rich in polyphenols, which can help lower blood pressure and the overall risk of heart disease.

12. Try meditation or deep breathing

While these two behaviors could also fall under “stress reduction techniques,” meditation and deep breathing deserve specific mention.

Both meditation and deep breathing may activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is engaged when the body relaxes, slowing the heart rate, and lowering blood pressure.

There’s quite a bit of research in this area, with studies showing that different styles of meditation appear to have benefits for lowering blood pressure (3637).

Deep breathing techniques can also be quite effective.

In one study, participants were asked to either take six deep breaths over the course of 30 seconds or simply sit still for 30 seconds. Those who took breaths lowered their blood pressure more than those who just sat (38).

Try guided meditation or deep breathing. Here’s a video to get you started.

Bottom line: Both meditation and deep breathing can activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps slow your heart rate and lower blood pressure.

13. Eat calcium-rich foods

People with low calcium intake often have high blood pressure.

While calcium supplements haven’t been conclusively shown to lower blood pressure, calcium-rich diets do seem linked to healthful levels (3940).

For most adults, the calcium recommendation is 1,000 milligrams (mg) per day. For women over 50 and men over 70, it’s 1,200 mg per day (41).

In addition to dairy, you can get calcium from collard greens and other leafy greens, beans, sardines, and tofu.

Bottom line: Calcium-rich diets are linked to healthy blood pressure levels. You can get calcium through eating dark leafy greens and tofu, as well as dairy.

14. Take natural supplements

Some natural supplements may also help lower blood pressure. Here are some of the main supplements that have evidence behind them:

  • Aged garlic extract: Researchers have used aged garlic extract successfully as a stand-alone treatment and along with conventional therapies for lowering blood pressure (4243).
  • Berberine: Traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, berberine may increase nitric oxide production, which helps decrease blood pressure (4445).
  • Whey protein: A 2016 study found that whey protein improved blood pressure and blood vessel function in 38 participants (46).
  • Fish oil: Long credited with improving heart health, fish oil may benefit people with high blood pressure the most (4748).
  • Hibiscus: Hibiscus flowers make a tasty tea. They’re rich in anthocyanins and polyphenols that are good for your heart and may lower blood pressure (49).

Bottom line: Researchers have investigated several natural supplements for their ability to lower blood pressure.

15. Eat foods rich in magnesium

Magnesium is an important mineral that helps blood vessels relax.

While magnesium deficiency is pretty rare, many people don’t get enough.

Some studies have suggested that getting too little magnesium is linked with high blood pressure, but evidence from clinical studies has been less clear (5051).

Still, eating a magnesium-rich diet is a recommended way to ward off high blood pressure (51).

You can incorporate magnesium into your diet by consuming vegetables, dairy products, legumes, chicken, meat, and whole grains.

Bottom line: Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps regulate blood pressure. Find it in whole foods, such as legumes and whole grains.

Take home message

High blood pressure affects a large proportion of the world’s population.

While drugs are one way to treat the condition, there are many other natural techniques, including eating certain foods that can help.

 

Controlling your blood pressure through the methods in this article may, ultimately, help you lower your risk of heart disease.

5 Best Exercises for People with Diabetes

woman smiling near tree

If you have diabetes, exercise offers surprising benefits. As it lowers your stress levels, it lowers your blood sugar level.

How much exercise is right for you? For people with diabetes, The National Institutes of Health  (NIH) recommends 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. Exercise is so important for people with diabetes that the American Diabetes Association recommends that these patients miss no more than two days of aerobic exercise in a row.

5 exercises for people with diabetes

There are many exercises that will benefit people with diabetes. Here are five we recommend:

  1. Walking — Because anyone can do it almost anywhere, walking is the most popular exercise and one we highly recommend for people with diabetes. Thirty minutes to one hour of brisk walking, three times each week is a great, easy way to increase your physical activity.
  1. Tai Chi —This Chinese form of exercise uses slow, smooth body movements to relax the mind and body. In 2009, researchers at the University of Florida studied 62 Korean women assigned to one of two groups—a control group and an exercise group that began a regular practice of Tai Chi. Those who completed the tai chi sessions showed significant improvement in blood sugar control. They also reported increased vitality, energy and mental health.
  1. Yoga — A traditional form of exercise, yoga incorporates fluid movements that build flexibility, strength and balance. It is helpful for people with a variety of chronic conditions, including diabetes. It lowers stress and improves nerve function, which leads to an increased state of mental health and wellness. According to the ADA, yoga may improve blood glucose levels due to improved muscle mass.
  1. Dancing —Dancing is not only great for your body. The mental work to remember dance steps and sequences actually boosts brain power and improves memory.  For those with diabetes, it is a fun and exciting way to increase physical activity, promote weight loss, improve flexibility, lower blood sugar and reduce stress. Chair dancing, which incorporates the use of a chair to support people with limited physical abilities, makes dancing an option for many people. In just 30 minutes, a 150-pound adult can burn up to 150 calories.
  2. Swimming — Swimming stretches and relaxes your muscles and doesn’t put pressure on your joints, which is great for people with diabetes. For those with diabetes or at risk for developing diabetes, studies show it improves cholesterol levels, burns calories and lowers stress levels. To get the most benefit from swimming, we recommend that you swim at least three times a week for at least ten minutes and gradually increase the length of the workout. Make sure to have a snack and monitor blood sugars. Lastly, let the lifeguard know that you have diabetes before you get in the pool.

Exercise safety

Before starting an exercise program, talk to your doctor to be sure the exercise you choose is safe and appropriate for your type of diabetes. Remember to start slowly, especially if you have not been physically active for a while.

Below, find other safety tips:

  • Check your blood sugar before and after exercise until you are aware of how your body responds to exercise.
  • Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, make sure your blood sugar is less than 250 mg/dl before exercising. For people with Type 1 diabetes, exercising with a blood sugar higher than 250 mg/dl may cause ketoacidosis, which can be a life threatening condition resulting from a lack of insulin in the blood.
  • Do a five-minute warm-up before and a five-minute cool down after exercising.
  • Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration.
  • Be prepared for any episodes of low blood sugar.  Have something available that can bring sugar levels up, such as hard candy, glucose tablets or 4 oz. of juice.
  • Wear a medical alert ID band. If an emergency occurs, EMS will know how to treat you properly.
  • Always carry a cell phone.
  • Avoid exercising in extremely hot or cold temperatures.
  • Wear proper shoes and socks to protect your feet.

Listen to your body. If you become short of breath, dizzy or lightheaded, stop exercising. Report any unusual problems you experience to your doctor.