If you have diabetes, it is important to stay on top of your treatment plan so you can manage your condition. These four steps are recommended by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases to help you deal with your disease.
Step 1) Learn About Diabetes
Diabetes is the condition which occurs when your blood sugar is too high. There are two basic types of diabetes, and a third which affects women in pregnancy.
• Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes usually begins in young people when the immune system destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. When the body does not produce insulin, sugar accumulates in the blood where it causes damage to other systems in your body. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to stay alive.
• Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes typically begins later in life, although it can start at any time. This condition develops when the pancreas is no longer able to produce enough insulin to keep up with the body’s needs, leading to high blood sugar. People who are overweight or who are not active are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
• Gestational Diabetes
Women who are pregnant may also develop a condition known as gestational diabetes. Factors such as weight gain during pregnancy make it harder for their bodies to use insulin late in pregnancy. If the body cannot produce enough extra insulin to keep up with the need, gestational diabetes may occur.
For most women, gestational diabetes goes away after the pregnancy is complete. But women who have gestational diabetes are at higher risk to develop type 2 diabetes later in life.
Step 2) Know Your Numbers
There are three key numbers you need to keep track of when you have diabetes, in addition to your daily blood sugar levels:
This blood test gives you the average of your blood sugar for the last three months. You need to track this number in addition to your daily sugar levels in order to understand how well you are managing your sugar over time. For most people with diabetes, the A1C goal is less than seven, according to NIDDK. Ask your doctor what your goal should be.
• Blood Pressure
This pair of numbers can help you track how hard your heart is working to push your blood through your blood vessels. Ask your doctor what your blood pressure goal should be.
Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in your blood. Some cholesterol is made by your body and other cholesterol comes from the foods you eat. Your body uses cholesterol to stay healthy.
But too much of the wrong kind of cholesterol can plug your blood vessels and make it harder for blood to flow throughout your body. Ask your health care provider what your cholesterol numbers should be.
Step 3) Live With Diabetes
Having a serious health condition can affect the way you live your life. The choices you make can help you stay healthier and in control of your diabetes.
• Food Choices
Because your body has a hard time removing sugar from your blood, you need to give careful thought to the foods you eat. The Mayo Clinic has these suggestions:
- Count carbs: Carbohydrates are the foods that have the biggest impact on your sugar levels. Measuring portions and learning how many carbs are found in different foods can help you plan meals that are healthy and well balanced.
- Balance variety: Having diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t eat anything you like. But it does mean you need to maintain a balance of starches, fruits and vegetables, proteins and fats.
It is also important to understand that carbs are not all processed the same in your body. Learning to eat “good” carbs like whole grains, fruits and vegetables can help you keep your blood sugar levels stable.
- Plan for meals and medications: Whether you take insulin or medication to help your body produce more insulin, you need to be aware of the timing between your medication and your meals.
If you take insulin but don’t eat, your blood sugar levels can drop. If you eat too much and don’t take enough insulin or don’t take your medications at the right time, your sugar levels may be too high. Make sure you understand your plan for when to take medications in connection with your meals.
- Skip sweet drinks: Whether the label says it is sweetened with sugar, with high fructose corn syrup or with sucrose, sweet drinks can make your blood sugar rise quickly. If you have diabetes, avoid sweet drinks unless instructed by your doctor to drink them if your blood sugar is too low.
Your muscles use sugar for energy when you are physically active. So being active can help keep your blood sugar more stable.
Before you start an exercise program, be sure to talk to your doctor and understand how exercise can affect your sugar levels. Your doctor can advise you on what your blood sugar levels should be before and after you exercise, and what time of day to exercise relative to your meals.
When exercising, be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Being dehydrated can affect your blood sugar. Have a snack or glucose source with you when you work out in case your sugar levels drop too low. Also, wear a medical ID and be sure others know that you have diabetes so they can get help if you become sick while exercising.
Step 4) See Your Doctor Regularly
Diabetes is a serious medication condition. You can be your own best advocate when you are aware of your body and your disease. Talk to your doctor if you are unsure about any steps in your plan, or if you don’t feel that your sugar is well controlled.
Also talk to your doctor or pharmacist before adding or changing any medications. Some medications prescribed for another condition can affect your blood sugar. And some over-the-counter medications contain sugar or other sweeteners to mask a bad taste.
Be sure to see your doctor at least twice a year for a routine checkup, even if you don’t think anything is going on. If you have questions about diabetes or how to manage your blood sugar levels, talk to your health care provider.
Reviewed November 17, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Types of Diabetes. Web. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Managing Diabetes. Web. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar. Web. Retrieved November 2, 2016.
About Cholesterol. American Heart Association. Web. Retrieved November 2, 2016.