If you’re one of the millions of Americans living with diabetes, you know that keeping a constant eye out for signs of low blood sugar and overall managing the condition can feel challenging at times. But it shouldn’t get in the way of reaching your dreams. Living well — whatever that means to you — starts with strong diabetes management. Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are serious conditions, and can lead to the same complications. But you can do many things to stay well. Talk to your doctor about all of the following points. They are important for basic diabetes care. Your doctor and your health-care team will work with you to ensure you get the best care. Keeping your blood pressure and blood sugar at target will help you avoid diabetes complications such as heart attack, stroke, and damage to your eyes, nerves and kidneys. Proper diabetes management includes healthy eating, regular exercise, taking your medications, and staying informed of new treatments.
Steps to take to live a healthy life with diabetes include:
- Healthy eating. Choosing what to eat, as well as how much and when you eat, is very important in diabetes management. Healthy eating is important for everyone, even those who don’t have diabetes! Ask your doctor to refer you to a registered dietitian to learn about healthy eating. You should follow diabetes-friendly diet (Mediterranean style) or diets emphasizing specific foods (low-glycemic-index foods). Try to avoiding eating before bedtime- this can elevate your blood sugar overnight while you sleep.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Reaching and maintaining a healthy weight will help you control your blood sugar, blood pressure and blood fat levels. If you are overweight, shedding some of those extra pounds helps with your diabetes management plan- even losing 10 pounds can help make a difference in your overall health.
- Regular exercise. It’s recommended to exercise for at least 30 minutes five days out of the week. Find an exercise you enjoy doing so it doesn’t seem like a chore. Aerobic exercise helps keep your heart strong, and activities like walking, swimming, and even gardening gets your heart rate up. Also add strength training, stretching and balance exercises to keep you limber, build muscle and help you to stay steady on your feet.
- Quit smoking. Nearly one in six people with diabetes are smokers. Tobacco use boosts your risk for heart disease, stroke, blood sugar control problems, vision loss, nerve damage, kidney problems, and even amputation, according to a study review published by the CDC. If you’ve tried to quit in the past, make another attempt. Counseling or a support group plus nicotine-replacement products and medications to help control nicotine cravings can help.
- Reduce stress. Stress can greatly affect both the physical and emotional well-being. Whenever one is stressed, the body will not release insulin and automatically store sugar and fat to have enough energy to last the day. Studies have shown that people with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes have fluctuations in their blood sugar levels whenever they feel pressured or stressed. Stress can also pave the way for toxic coping mechanisms. Smoking, excessive snacking, and binge drinking are some notorious examples – all of them will contribute to an elevated blood sugar level. If you’re feeling burnt out, writing your thoughts down, reading a book, and talking to a close friend are healthier ways to get through a tough time.
- Properly managing medications. Take any prescribed medications as directed, following your doctor’s instructions as far as when to take them and the proper dosage. Make sure you’re aware of possible drug interactions, and keep an updated list of all your medications. You can use a daily pill organizer to make sure you’re taking everything you need to, and set an alarm to remind you when it’s time to take your next dose.
- Regular doctor appointments. Maintain all your doctor appointments, and when you are there, make sure you discuss any questions or concerns you may have with a health care professional. Bring a family member with you so they can help you keep track of important instructions the doctor may give you.
- Treating yourself. You can still include some treats in your diet, even while eating healthy. Learn how to make some tasty sugar-free desserts by purchasing a diabetic cookbook or searching online for diabetic-suitable sweets. Allowing yourself a treat every once in a while, will help you to stay on track with your healthy lifestyle.
- Drink in moderation. Drinking alcohol can produce signs of low blood sugar, according to the Mayo Clinic. When you drink, your liver works to process the alcohol, which can mean it’s too busy to perform another important function: releasing stored sugar in response to low levels. Also, drinking alcohol can impair your ability to think clearly and make good treatment decisions.
- Seeking support. Reach out to others who have diabetes by joining a support group. Or, share your story with friends and family members who can help you maintain your healthy lifestyle.
Being aware of possible complications. Knowledge is power, as they say, and knowing what complications to watch for will help you recognize signs that something might be wrong. People with diabetes have greater risk for complications like heart disease, stroke, eye problems, gum disease, foot problems, skin issues, and even depression. Changing some of your old habits can go a long way in your diabetes management. Knowing how to lead a healthy lifestyle will allow you to enjoy your life to the fullest. With planning and preparation, you can get back to normal life and resume your daily activities.
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