Celebrate the Healthy Way

It’s sometimes hard to resist the sweet temptation of chocolates, especially on Valentine’s Day. It’s a challenge for everyone and particularly for people who need to manage their diet for health reasons. Unfortunately, it is common to see hyperglycemia, high blood sugar levels, in diabetic patients, especially around the holidays or celebratory events. The best way to avoid this is through proper management.

Celebrating the day with chocolate, a champagne toast or other alcoholic beverage is understandable once you keep in mind that moderation is key. For instance, it’s not advisable to have more than two drinks per day of beer or wine. Alcohol can lower blood sugars pretty rapidly so patients, who are already on medications to lower their blood sugar, can get into trouble if their blood sugar levels become dangerously low.

The good news is all chocolate is not made the same.

Pure dark chocolate made of cocoa has been found in some studies to lower blood sugar. It can be beneficial for most people, in moderation. If someone living with diabetes eats pure dark chocolate in small amounts, it can benefit the heart and lower blood sugar.

There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune dysfunction of the pancreas, where the pancreas does not make any insulin. Type 2 diabetes is closely related to lifestyle. Studies show, many people with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. Eating too much and not being active are two significant contributing lifestyle factors that can lead to diabetes.

The top 3 rules for patients with diabetes:

Monitor blood sugar levels.
By regularly monitoring their blood sugar levels, patients are more aware of what is happening with their bodies. This knowledge enables them to be more self-sufficient in managing their diabetes. Patients can identify patterns and changes in blood sugar levels and that can ultimately lead to better control before their next doctor’s visit. Advances in technology, now also allow devices to be worn on the skin that continuously monitor blood sugar levels throughout the day, so pricking the finger to test blood sugar levels may not be needed.

Create an active lifestyle.
That doesn’t mean going to the gym every day. It does mean incorporating active errands or chores such as cleaning, walking and gardening. Those activities will keep weight down and improve blood sugar control.

Maintain a healthy diet.
The key things to avoid are extremes.  You want a diet that is sustainable. Carbohydrates are not the enemy. Do not eliminate them. Carbohydrates do increase blood sugar levels when eaten in excessive amounts. The goal is to have small amounts and match the medications/insulin to the amount of carbohydrates that are eaten. It is a bit of trial and error, since people respond differently to carbs. Monitoring and making adjustments to medications and diet is important.

Whether you have diabetes or are just trying to eat healthy, making mindful small changes every day and especially for holidays like Valentine’s Day, can really make a difference in your overall health.

Alexander Lurie, MD is an endocrinologist in Miami, FL.