When you live with diabetes, it can be challenging to find ways to fit your life around it. From constantly checking glucose levels to watching what you eat, managing this condition can sometimes make people feel like they don’t have much control of their life. Yet, it is possible to make your self-management routine more efficient and, in the end, more effective for your health. Follow these tips to help manage your diabetes more successfully.
The A1C test is a blood test used to diagnose diabetes and monitor your average blood sugar level. The A1C goal for those with diabetes is less than 7 percent, but it can vary for the individual. The test shows your average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months and can be taken every 3 months to ensure your blood sugar is in a target range. If your blood sugar levels are in a good range, then you can wait longer in between tests, but it recommended to take the test at least twice a year.
Talk to your healthcare provider about receiving this test and what A1C level goals you should aim for and the steps required to get there.
Blood glucose (blood sugar) monitoring should be used to find out if your glucose levels are within a healthy range. Glucose levels differ on individuals, but the American Diabetes Association recommends having an A1C level of less than 7 percent or 154 mg/dL for most nonpregnant adults with diabetes.
If glucose levels are too low, it can cause hypoglycemia which can make you lose the ability to think and function properly. If glucose levels are too high, it can cause hyperglycemia which causes high blood sugar, frequent urination, and increased thirst. Hyperglycemia can then cause ketoacidosis (diabetic coma) if not treated over time, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment.
Tracking your glucose levels and logging them down on a chart is a great way to monitor them. Share the chart with your healthcare provider and chronic care coordinator to make sure you’re staying on track and adjusting your diabetes treatment plan accordingly.
Diabetes can put you at risk for heart disease and stroke, but fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent them. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends checking your cholesterol every four to six years with your primary care doctor, but they may want to test you annually. You can also check your blood pressure with home monitoring devices at least twice a day: once in the morning before eating or taking any medication, and then another in the evening.
Speak to your provider about what those levels should be and monitor them closely. It’s also important that you continue to make wellness choices like destressing, quitting smoking, and eating healthier.
Meal planning is essential for any diabetes self-management program, but it can be tough deciding which foods to include. According to the American Diabetes Association, most healthy food plans have these choices in common: fruits and vegetables, lean meats and plant-based sources of protein, less added sugar and less processed food.
Begin eating healthier by trying to include these food choices in your everyday meals. If you need some assistance in creating a healthy meal plan, you can work with a registered dietician nutritionist to ensure you stay on track.
Often, people living with diabetes have several reasons why they cannot stick to a medication plan. For example, do you feel you have too many medicines to take? Or, do you tend to forget when to take a dose? Do you feel they’re not needed if you’re not showing any symptoms?
When people with type 2 diabetes don’t take their medication, they may experience some symptoms of blurry vision, fatigue, and poor wound healing. If type 2 diabetes goes untreated, the high blood sugar levels can cause complications such as kidney damage, dialysis, eye damage, or increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
So, it is vital to take your medication properly in order to control your diabetes and to maintain your health. Consider using a pillbox to organize your medications or setting alarms on your phone, watch, or computer to remind you when it’s time to take them.
The American Diabetes Association encourages physical exercise just as much as it encourages a healthy diet and medication. Physical activity can help in lowering glucose levels and blood pressure, burning extra calories, and feeling better overall.
When you’re active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin and can take up glucose and use it for energy. This means your blood sugar levels are lower, and your medication is working more effectively. Plan your exercise goals by talking to your providers about the types and amount of physical activity that could be right for you and how you can practice them safely.
In addition to the other tasks that come with managing diabetes, don’t forget to check your feet every day. It may not seem like a priority, but it’s an important one. Simply examining your feet for any “cuts, redness, swelling, sores, blisters, corns, calluses, or any other change to the skin or nails” can help prevent nerve damage and foot ulcers that may lead to amputation, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Making sure to treat your feet well is essential by washing them daily, wearing proper footwear, staying active on your feet, and checking them with your healthcare provider at every visit.
If diabetes is not managed well, it can lead to diabetic eye diseases that damage the eyes by causing poor vision or blindness. It may cause conditions such as diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It can also lead to pain, infection, and other problems in your mouth such as gingivitis, gum disease, dry mouth, or oral burning.
In order to prevent these problems, make sure to receive a dilated eye exam at least once a year to check your eye health. Managing your glucose levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol can also help preserve your eyes and vision.
For your dental health, you can visit a dentist at least twice a year and practice good dental hygiene. Make sure to brush your teeth twice a day and floss, and if you wear dentures, clean your dentures, gums and tongue thoroughly.
Even well-managed people with diabetes are at high risk for serious flu complications and infections. The CDC reported that about 30 percent of adult flu hospitalizations have had diabetes in recent seasons. The flu can make diabetes symptoms worse by weakening the immune system and making it harder to fight off infections. When people are sick, they sometimes don’t feel like eating which can lower glucose levels. Other times, the flu raises glucose levels and can make it difficult for diabetics to control their blood sugar overall.
The best prevention for the flu is receiving an annual flu vaccination to reduce the risk of getting it as well as reducing the serious complications of it. The flu shot has an established history in keeping people who have diabetes safe.
Managing your diabetes can be a daily challenge, but it doesn’t have to feel like it’s controlling you when trying to maintain it. Regain your control by taking steps like setting goals and getting vaccinations to self-manage your diabetes. That way, you can focus on living how you’d like rather than worrying about your condition. Talk further with your healthcare team to find out what you can do to improve your diabetes and live a healthier life.
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