Many people with type 2 diabetes completely avoid the problems associated with diabetes by taking a few steps daily to keep themselves healthy and well. When you control diabetes and your glucose levels are closer to normal, you are more likely to avoid problems.
This post originally published 2015, now updates with new photos, facts and links.
Diabetes can affect every part of your body so it is important to recognize the extra care that is needed for good control. In addition to learning survival skills, you will want to make sure you are visiting your health care professional regularly in addition to other specialists such as a Registered Dietitian, Pharmacist, Social Worker, Eye Doctor, Foot Doctor, Dentist and Mental Health Counselor.
The team approach is always best for prevention of such diabetes-related problems as heart disease and stroke, eye diseases, nerve damage to hands, feet and legs, kidney disease and dental problems like gum disease and tooth loss.
"Diabetes can affect every part of your body so it is important to recognize the extra care that is needed for good control."
Step 1- Know Your Numbers
The A1C test shows you how your blood glucose has been over the last 2-3 months. Why is this important? Your A1C number will tell you if you are experiencing high glucose levels at times when you may not be aware of them.
For example, if you test your levels 4 times a day and you have normal results, you may think all is well with your diabetes. But, what about your numbers when you are asleep or times when you aren’t testing? A1C helps your doctor to know if your current treatment plan is “covering all the bases” and controlling your glucose levels 24 hours a day, so to speak.
According to the American Diabetes Association, for most people, A1C levels below 7 are recommended, but check with your health care professional for your individualized recommendations. An A1C below 7 is closer to levels shown in people who do not have diabetes and is linked to a lower risk of the complications of diabetes.
A1C is reported as a percentage that can be translated into a number to let you know what your glucose has been averaging. Here is a conversion chart to show this in detail. Armed with A1C information, you and your health care provider can make a plan to improve diabetes control and bring your glucose levels closer to normal.
Many people with diabetes also have high blood pressure which can lead to heart attack and stroke if not controlled properly. Be sure to get your blood pressure checked regularly as recommended by your doctor. High blood pressure has also been linked to kidney disease.
These lipids include cholesterol, HDL, LDL, triglycerides and others that your doctor will want to monitor for good health and prevention. New research is constantly changing the recommended approach to heart disease prevention, so be sure to rely on your health care professional for your individualized treatment plan and goals.
Step 2 – Daily Management
Your Meal Plan-
It is important to ask your health care team for recommendations about your meal plan and goals. These goals may include a calorie restricted diet, carbohydrate restrictions or a combination of these.
Ask for a referral to see a Registered Dietitian who can help you develop an individualized meal plan which will take into account your food preferences, glucose level goals and other factors.
In general, your meal plan will include:
*A variety of foods including healthful carb sources in moderation like fruit, whole grains, dairy products and veggies with plenty of fiber
*less processed foods
*foods which are lower in salt and fat
*overall reductions of dietary sugar
Your health care team will help you develop a plan to get more exercise based on your doctor’s recommendations. Exercise helps your body utilize the carbs you eat in a more effective manner and can also help your body use your own insulin more effectively.
Let your team guide you on choosing physical activities you will enjoy safely and also let them help you determine the best time of day to exercise based on your individual goals.
Emotions and Eating
Did you know stress of any kind can affect your glucose levels? Sometimes, stress cannot be removed from your life, so you must learn ways to keep it from affecting your health. Once again, rely on your diabetes care team and open up about issues you are facing that are stressing you out.
Sometimes just talking things over can be a relief. Explore ways to divert your attention from stressful events or thoughts whether through music, art, exercise, volunteer service, etc. – based on your individual interests.
Your health care professional may prescribe medications for diabetes or other health conditions so be sure to follow all recommendations. If you are having problems following their prescribed medication routines, be sure to tell your doctor or health care team.
Medication is a cornerstone of treatment for many people, so work with your team and pharmacist and they can guide you. Be sure to follow all recommendations even when you are feeling good so you can maintain your health.
Once again, ask your health team for help to quit. They have resources to make this as easy as possible and can offer individualized support.
Take Care of Your Feet-
Diabetes can make healing become a slower process. Small sores or blisters on your feet can become a big problem if not cared for properly. Be sure to have your health care professional check your feet at every visit. Don’t wait for them to suggest a foot check- go ahead and take your shoes and socks off as you are waiting to see the doctor and ask for a foot check yourself.
Check your feet daily using a small mirror to see under around your feet. Look for small cuts, sores, blisters or swelling. Take immediate action by calling your doctor for any sores that do not go away. Do not wait for these small sores to grow larger. Your health care team will be very pleased to help you, so don’t feel like any sore is too small to ask about!
Use Your Glucometer-
Test your glucose levels as often as your health team suggests for best results. Open up to your team if there are obstacles keeping you from testing as frequently as you need to. They have the resources and experience to guide you through such problems as lack of testing supplies, fear of testing, getting into a routine, etc.
Many glucometers feature the ability to have data downloaded which can be used by your health team to tweak your treatment routine and goals. Is it perfectly fine to write your glucose testing results in a notebook, too, which can be taken with you to your office visits.
Take Care of Your Teeth-
Don’t forget to carefully brush and floss daily per your dentist’s recommendations to avoid any diabetes-related dental problems. Be sure to let your dentist know that you have diabetes so they can plan your care properly.
Step 3 - See Your Health Team and/or Health Care Professional Routinely
Diabetes can affect so many aspects of your life, it is important to check in with your team as often as they suggest. Just because you are feeling great does not mean you can skip a visit!
- Blood pressure check
- Foot check
- Weight check and review of food diary if needed
- Exercise plan
- Stress Control if needed
- Help to quit smoking if needed
- Glucose testing results
- A1C test- as often as recommended (usually twice a year)
- Other tests/treatments as recommended by your team
- Referrals for eye, dental and foot care prevention
- Help with insurance/medicare coverage for other needs such as :
- Meal planning visits with a Registered Dietitian
- Diabetes shoes if needed
- Medicines/testing supplies
Keep records of your visits to note lab results and specific recommendations your receive. Don’t rely on “memory”! You will want to look back and note your progress or refer to your last labwork results to see how much you have achieved especially on those days when taking good care of yourself is more of a chore.
Don’t stress out about a slip up now and then or a high glucose reading now and then! No one is perfect- just return to your routine. If you find you are having many days of slip ups or frustrations- contact your health care team! They will be happy to help you re-evaluate your plans and goals and help you find ways to overcome obstacles in your path toward maintaining good health. Here is link to the diabetes resource page with lots of diabetes info and reference websites to help you get started.
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