Health Topics 

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Type 2 Diabetes Every year 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes, a condition that results from too much sugar in the blood. It's usually related to being overweight, so getting to a healthy weight is the critical first step to fighting or even reversing the disease.

The most common form of diabetes is type 2, which causes your body not to use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. Your pancreas makes extra insulin, but eventually it isn't able to make enough to keep your blood sugar at normal levels. But there are things you can do to decrease your risk.

Fight Back with Healthful Foods.
"Foods like white bread, rice and sugary snacks digest quickly and raise your blood sugar in a short period of time," says David Castrilli, M.D., internal medicine physician at CHI Memorial Internal Medicine Associates -Chattanooga. "Choosing foods low in simple sugars and high in other nutrients - like fruits, vegetables, dairy products, whole grain breads and lean proteins - help insulin do its job and remove sugar out of the blood vessels."

Make Moving a Must Do.
The American Diabetes Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate-to vigorous exercise at least five days a week or a total of 150 minutes. Moderate intensity means you can talk, but not sing, through your workout or activity. If you're just getting started, begin with 10 minutes a day and increase a few minutes each week.

Don't Be Afraid to Ask for Help.
If you're concerned about your weight or your risk for developing diabetes, your doctor probably is too. Your doctor, a registered dietician or diabetes educator can answer your questions. They can also help you set realistic weight loss goals (if needed), and show you ways to get to your healthy weight - and stay there.

"Everyone needs to be aware of their blood sugar levels, and the simple blood test for diabetes is usually covered by insurance," says Dr. Castrilli. "The sooner you know about a pre-diabetes or diabetes diagnosis, the sooner you can make lifestyle changes that can reverse the condition in its early stages and improve your health overall."

Could you have diabetes and not know it?
The initial symptoms of diabetes or pre-diabetes can be subtle - so subtle that you might not even notice them. If you're experiencing one or more of these symptoms, talk to your doctor.

  • Excessive thirst
  • Using the bathroom more frequently, especially at night
  • Increased irritability
  • Blurry vision
  • Feeling exhausted, even after sleeping all night
  • Slow or non-healing wounds
  • Recurring yeast infections

 Healthy Diet Principles

Many of us our familiar with counting calories, but we miss thinking about macronutrients which are the three main categories of food.

It’s important to get a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Our bodies need each of these to function.  In the typical American diet, we gravitate towards eating fast food and snacks which contain high amounts of fats and carbs - and not always good fats and carbs. We need to consider proportions of food rather than what seems healthy based on a nutrition label.

Serving sizes are based on weight and how active you are.  It’s helpful to talk with your physician or a nutritionist to find out serving sizes that fit your lifestyle.  I like to use some of the Zone diet principles for guidance which is geared toward an active lifestyle.

Balanced diet

About one-third of your meal should be protein. I like eating more plant protein than animal because of cardiovascular benefits. Legumes are a great source. These are a good source of fiber, protein, zinc, iron, and b vitamins. Examples include chickpeas, lentils, and beans.

The next third of your meal should consist of healthy fats. Fats are important for energy and brain health. They cushion our organs and have other important roles. Fats from plants are the healthiest. Avocado, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish are good sources.

Carbs should make up 30-40% of our meal. While carbohydrates fuel our body, some help maintain our energy more than others. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of different forms of carbs, but the short version is most carbohydrates should come from colorful vegetables and fruits. Vegetables are the ideal because they generally contain less sugar than fruit.

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. A good guideline to follow is shopping on the perimeter - though skipping the bakery, of course - helps keep you on track.

My veggie super stars 

  • Beets – They do come with a warning because they contain a higher sugar content, but they are nitrate rich which improves blood flow and naturally lowers blood pressure.
  • Bell peppers – These are easy to add in to several kinds of dishes or eat raw. They are valuable source of nutrients and antioxidants.
  • Zucchini - Zoodles are all the rage!  Zucchini is low in sugar, high in fiber and electrolytes.
  • Cabbage – It’s an unsung hero, and great for the immune system which helps with acute and chronic illness.
  • Exercise
As far as exercise goes, we often think that getting healthy means getting back on that treadmill. While cardio is good for us, research shows that strength training is also important.

Lifting weights is amazing for bone health and weight loss or just maintaining a healthy weight.  It also improves blood sugar levels and may improve cognitive function.  You can use weight resistance bands, dumb bells, or your own body weight.  Weight training twice a week helps mix up your workout routine, and helps you see results faster.  Weights don’t make you bulky, and you don’t have to be a power lifter. To learn how to lift weights, it’s helpful to find someone who knows proper technique like a personal trainer.     

- Jacqueline Gentry, M.D.

Video Library

Dr. David Castrilli discusses cholesterol, exercise and healthy eating.

Dr. Jacqueline Gentry shares tips for eating healthy and exercising to achieve optimal health.

Dr. David Castrilli discusses tips for managing type 2 diabetes.

Dr. David Castrilli shares tips managing type 2 diabetes in the summer months.