Living Well With Diabetes


There is really only one thing someone diabetes cannot do — use tobacco. According to John Hancock, a registered nurse and the area’s only certified diabetes educator, the old models of telling newly diagnosed diabetics what they can’t have are a thing of the past.

Hancock talked at a breakout session at Saturday’s 16th Annual Women’s Wellness Forum. He told the small group that if diabetics keep four things in mind, they can live well despite the disorder.

Unfortunately, diabetes has few warning signs until the disorder takes hold. Once symptoms develop, ignoring the disease can cause vascular disease and serious problems with the eyes and kidneys, skin and the body’s ability to heal.


Green beans are among the best vegetables to eat.

Pre-diabetes does not necessarily mean doom a person to the disease. Just dropping 7 percent of your body weight — usually 10 or 15 pounds — reduces the odds the disorder will progress by 58 percent when combined with moderate exercise.

The four things that will make it possible to live well with diabetes: diet, exercise, medication and spirituality.

A normal, healthy diet

The diabetic diet resembles any other normal, healthy diet: No forbidden fruit, but good sense and moderation mandatory, not just for diabetics, but by everyone, Hancock said.

“Portion size is very important,” he said.

Providing a handout, “Making Healthy Food Choices” Hancock said green beans are among the best vegetables to eat. A cup of green beans has only four carbohydrates. A non-starchy vegetable, green beans don’t spike (raise) blood sugar.

Many other non-starchy vegetables should constitute the biggest portion of your “healthy plate” (go to for details on this). A serving size for vegetables is a half-cup cooked or vegetable juice and a cup raw.

Also among the healthy food choices, Hancock recommended:

• Fruit — Serving sizes range from a small piece of whole fruit to a half-cup of frozen or canned fruit (canned fruit should be in its own juice or light syrup; three-quarters to a cup of berries or melons; and about two tablespoons of dried fruit

• Grains and starchy vegetables — Whole grains are the best choice because of the fiber content; fiber aids in processing glucose more efficiently and makes you feel fuller faster; to make sure you are getting the most fiber possible, don’t rely on the food’s primary label, check the more detailed nutrition information; for instance, most breads have just 2 grams of dietary fiber, true high-fiber breads should have more (check the difference between the double fiber selections and the so-called multi-grain choices), Hancock suggests looking for breads and cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 6 grams of sugar.

A serving of starchy vegetables is three-quarters to a cup.

• Protein — Choose lean proteins (chicken, beans, tuna and salmon).

Additional healthy food choices include nuts and seeds, meat substitutes (soy/tofu items), non-fat/low-fat dairy.

He said our bodies convert everything we eat into glucose (blood sugar), which fuels the body and all its functions. Non-diabetics can handle the glucose efficiently; pre-diabetics and diabetics cannot. Non-diabetics process the glucose and expel the excess; diabetics retain more of the excess.

The key to keeping blood sugar level lies in frequent small meals rather than the old model of three square meals a day.

Exercise: The key to health

Exercise helps manage blood sugar. The recommended goal: get your heart rate up for 30 minutes five days a week and try to walk 10,000 steps a day. You don’t have to exercise 30 minutes all at once; it can be 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minutes after lunch, 10 minutes after dinner. Hancock said the best time to walk is after eating.

Medication: Keeping things level

In regard to medications and diabetes — check blood sugar regularly and take medications as prescribed. A diabetic himself, Hancock said he checks his blood sugar eight times a day; other recommendations: check it upon waking; two hours after breakfast; before lunch; two hours after lunch; before dinner; two hours after dinner; and before bed. Once you have a sense of what keeps your sugar level and what causes spikes (up or down), checks can become more random, he said.

Spirituality: The power of a good attitude

Addressing spirituality — or keeping a positive attitude with diabetes — Hancock said, each individual needs to find their own way to be OK with where they are.

Hancock has diabetes education sessions at 1 p.m. the last Monday of the month at the Payson Regional Medical Center’s Senior Circle and at noon every other Wednesday at the Tonto Apache complex. Both sessions are open to everyone, it is not necessary to be a member of the Senior Circle or the tribe to participate, he said.

He is also available to do one-on-one education sessions. To arrange a private session, have your primary care provider make the arrangements.


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