Each November, National Diabetes Month is observed to bring attention to diabetes and its impact on millions of Americans. The good news is that diabetes can be managed to prevent health problems such as heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, vision loss and amputation. With proper knowledge and early support, diabetes doesn’t have to take over your life.
It starts with self-management education. Begin by taking small steps such as walking for 15 minutes twice a day, or replacing sugary drinks with water. Set realistic goals to change your eating habits. A rule of thumb should be to fill ½ of your plate with fruits and veggies, ¼ with lean protein like beans, chicken or turkey without the skin, and ¼ with whole grains such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta. Once you get into the groove, you’ll probably notice your energy levels increasing and your weight easier to manage, which is an important part of staying healthy and preventing complications.
Exercise doesn’t have to be strenuous, start with a goal to be active most days of the week. Try to walk 10 minutes per day, 3 times per day. Work on building muscle strength twice per week doing things such as stretch bands, yoga or even heavy gardening.
Engage your family, friends and health care team in supporting you in making lifestyle changes. It’s much easier to eat well when everyone shares the same healthy food. Walking with friends or co-workers is a great way to spend time together and is helpful in managing stress—another important aspect of diabetes management.
In addition to having more energy, taking care of yourself and keeping your blood sugar (glucose) close to normal, you are likely to be less tired and thirsty, will heal better, won’t need to urinate as often and will have fewer skin or bladder infections.¹
From a medical perspective, it’s important to keep track of your ABC’s of diabetes.
- A1C test. This test measures your average blood sugar level over the past 3 months. This is different from your daily tests since it’s important to know your levels over time.
- Blood Pressure. Keep your blood pressure in check, otherwise it causes your heart to work too hard and can cause heart attack, stroke and damage to the kidneys. People with diabetes should be around 140/90.
- Cholesterol. There are two types of cholesterol, LDL is a bad cholesterol causing clogging in your blood vessels which could lead to heart attack or stroke. HDL is a good cholesterol that helps remove the bad cholesterol from your blood vessels.
Every day, it’s important to:
- Take your medications. If you can’t afford them or have side effects, talk to your doctor.
- Check your feet daily for cuts, blisters, red spots and swelling.
- Brush and floss to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
- Stop smoking. For help, call 1-800-QUIT NOW.
- Check your blood sugar one or more times per day and keep a record in order to track any abnormalities.
- If your doctor advises, check your blood pressure daily.
With careful management, you can live a healthy life regardless of diabetes.
¹US Department of Health and Human Services https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/manage-monitoring-diabetes