Diabetes can sometimes feel like an uphill grind, but not when you learn to control it daily. If you’re dealing with diabetes, you’re not alone. It takes a community to keep diabetes at bay, and you’re the most important member of your care team. From eating right to staying active, you’re in control of the choices you make each day.
Diabetes is a serious disease that affects 30 million people in the U.S. Even if you feel great or think your sugar is just a bit high, you should treat diabetes like other serious conditions. It's possible to manage your diabetes well and reduce complications, but it requires awareness, consistency, and healthy habits. Check out these practical tips for a healthy life with diabetes:
1. Be active and reduce stress levels.
Did you know that stress can drive up blood sugar levels? Simple things like taking a deep breath or gardening can calm your mind. Regular exercise is also important to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. If you have diabetes, being active helps control blood sugar levels. Try activities you enjoy so that it’s easier to stick with them. Walking and jogging are also great. They’re free and gentle on the joints. Try walking twice a week for 30 minutes.
2. Eat well and pay attention to portion sizes.
You don’t have to sacrifice taste for good nutrition. It’s all about portion control and making healthy choices. Foods high in fiber help manage your diabetes and should be part of your diet. Fill half your plate with greens and the other half with equal amounts of lean protein and carbohydrates, but choose your carbs wisely. Consult your physician or advanced practice provider, or ask for a referral to a nutritionist if you need help creating a diabetes meal plan.
3. Develop a daily routine.
The more you know about the disease and how to prevent and control it, the more power you have. If you have diabetes, understand what type you have and take your medication as directed. You can find resources online, including the American Diabetes Association website. Your physician is also a great source of information.
It’s also helpful to understand which tests you need and when. If you're living with diabetes, you should know your target blood sugar range. You should also stay on top of cholesterol and blood pressure checks and know what the numbers mean. If you have diabetes, you may be prone to heart and gum disease and at risk of strokes and vision problems. Check your feet for blisters or ulcers, brush and floss your teeth daily to avoid complications, and have a diabetic eye exam annually.
4. Quit smoking.
Smoking can harm your health, even for people who don't have diabetes. It can lower good cholesterol and temporarily raise blood pressure. If you have diabetes, smoking can be even worse for your health as it can increase your blood sugar levels and put you at risk of heart and vascular disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage. Ask your provider for tips or information about stop-smoking classes. You can also call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for help.
5. Keep a food and blood sugar diary.
It’s helpful to write down what and when you eat and how it affects your blood sugar levels. For type 1 diabetes, you should check your blood sugar before meals. Those with type 2 diabetes should check before meals and at bedtime. Speak with your provider to determine how often to check your blood sugar.
6. Take charge and get tested regularly.
If you know what to do and make smart decisions every day, you can feel better and prevent complications. Test for type 2 diabetes if you’re 45 or older. If you have already been diagnosed with diabetes, keep up to date with checkups. Your primary care provider, dentist, and eye doctor are excellent resources for better health. If you have diabetes, you should visit your primary care provider twice a year for a foot and weight check. Your provider will also check your blood pressure and how you’re coping with the disease.
Remember that the path to a healthy life starts with what you can control. Be your own best advocate by eating well, exercising, quitting or avoiding smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight. Your insurance plan may cover diabetes education, medicine, testing devices, and even appointments with a dietitian. Call your primary care provider at St. Luke's Health to learn how to live a healthier life with diabetes.
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4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life | NIDDK (nih.gov)
4 Steps to Manage Your Diabetes for Life (cdc.gov)
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What is Diabetes? | NIDDK (nih.gov)
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Recipes & Nutrition | ADA (diabetes.org)
1-800-QUIT-NOW: 15 Years of Helping People Quit | Smoking & Tobacco Use | CDC