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Manage Your Diabetes: Glycemic Control

Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects 29.1 million Americans, or 9.3% of the population (including over eight million who remain undiagnosed). Diabetics have trouble regulating their blood glucose (sugar) levels due to a shortage of insulin or an inability to use insulin correctly. The disease is particularly prevalent among seniors, affecting more than one quarter of all Americans 65 and older.

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with diabetes, you are most likely familiar with a Glycemic Index (GI). This is the number that represents how a certain food will affect a person’s blood glucose levels. The GI indicates the total increase in one’s blood sugar levels after consuming a specific food, and it is important for diabetics to understand the importance of GI and how to maintain it. Adequate glycemic control means getting as close to a normal (non-diabetic) blood glucose level as you safety can – which is between 70 and 130 mg/dl before meals and less than 180 two hours after starting a meal.

However, the task of maintaining a healthy GI is easier said than done. So your friends at Angel’s have summed up the most important factor in taking control of your diabetes and maintaining a healthy GI:

Your diet is key.

Here’s why. The GI of food is measured on a scale ranging between 0 and 100. The closer the GI is to 100, the more quickly it will raise your blood sugar after consumption. In order to determine the GI of a specific food, nutritionists measure the weight of digestible carbohydrates found in the food on 10 different test subjects. The effects this food has on their blood sugar levels is averaged, and this determines the GI of this specific food. All foods can be organized into one of three different categories:

  • Low GI = 55 or less
  • Medium GI = 65-69
  • High GI = 70-100

If you have diabetes, your goal is to keep your GI level below 100. This means that you should seek out foods that have the lowest GI rating as possible. Some low GI foods include beans, whole grains, most vegetables, and fruits such as strawberries and peaches. Some high GI foods that should only be eaten in moderation include white bread or rice, some juices and cereals. To understand the GI levels of all foods, you can find information by reading Glycemic Index charts.

Maintaining good glycemic control should not be something you do on your own. It needs to be discussed with your healthcare team (doctor, diabetes educator, dietitian). They will help determine guidelines in terms of diet and exercise, and put you on the right program for maintaining adequate glycemic control.


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