Diabetes Self-Management Steps
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people around the world. While there is no cure for diabetes, with treatment and self-management strategies, a person can live a long and healthy life.
Diabetes self-management can reduce blood sugar levels, mortality risk, and healthcare costs, as well as weight in people with excess weight.
You may have heard people say they have “a touch of diabetes” or that their “sugar is a little high.” These words suggest that diabetes is not a serious disease. That is not correct. Diabetes is serious, but you can learn to manage it.
People with diabetes need to make healthy food choices, stay at a healthy weight, move more every day, and take their medicine even when they feel good. It’s a lot to do. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it! Here are 4 steps you can take to manage your diabetes.
STEP 1: DIABETES EDUCATION
WHAT IS DIABETES?
Diabetes happens when your body isn't able to take up sugar (glucose) into its cells and use it for energy. This results in a build up of extra sugar in your bloodstream.
Mismanagement of diabetes can lead to serious consequences, causing damage to a wide range of your body's organs and tissues — including your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.
WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF DIABETES?
The main types of diabetes are:
Type 1 diabetes: This type is an autoimmune disease, meaning your body attacks itself. In this case, the insulin-producing cells in your pancreas are destroyed. Up to 10% of people who have diabetes have Type 1. It’s usually diagnosed in children and young adults (but can develop at any age). It was once better known as “juvenile” diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin every day. This is why it is also called insulin-dependent diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes: With this type, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or your body’s cells don’t respond normally to the insulin. This is the most common type of diabetes. Up to 95% of people with diabetes have Type 2. It usually occurs in middle-aged and older people. Other common names for Type 2 include adult-onset diabetes and insulin-resistant diabetes. Your parents or grandparents may have called it “having a touch of sugar.”
Prediabetes: This type is the stage before Type 2 diabetes. Your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be officially diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes: This type develops in some women during their pregnancy. Gestational diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy. However, if you have gestational diabetes you're at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes later on in life.
MEMBERS OF YOUR HEALTHCARE TEAM
You are the most important member of your healthcare team. You are the one who manages your diabetes day by day. Talk to your doctor about how you can best care for your diabetes to stay healthy. Some others who can help are:
Friends and family
Mental health counselor
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO TAKE CARE OF YOUR DIABETES?
Taking care of yourself and your diabetes can help you feel good today and in the future. When your blood sugar (glucose) is close to normal, you are likely to:
have more energy
be less tired and thirsty
need to pass urine less often
have fewer skin or bladder infections
You will also have less chance of having health problems caused by diabetes such as:
heart attack or stroke
eye problems that can lead to trouble seeing or going blind
pain, tingling, or numbness in your hands and feet, also called nerve damage
kidney problems that can cause your kidneys to stop working
teeth and gum problems
STEP 2: ABCs OF DIABETES
KNOW YOUR DIABETES ABCs!
Talk to your healthcare team about how to manage your A1C, Blood pressure, and Cholesterol. This can help lower your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or other diabetes problems.
A for A1C test
The A1C is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months. It is different from the blood sugar checks you do each day.
Why is it important?
You need to know your blood sugar levels over time. You don’t want those numbers to get too high. High levels of blood sugar can harm your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and eyes.
What is the A1C goal?
The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below 7. It may be different for you. Ask your heathcare team what your goal should be.
B for Blood pressure
Blood pressure is the force of your blood against the wall of your blood vessels.
Why is it important?
If your blood pressure gets too high, it makes your heart work too hard. It can cause a heart attack, stroke, and damage your kidneys and eyes.
What is the blood pressure goal?
The blood pressure goal for most people with diabetes is below 140/90. It may be different for you. Ask what your goal should be.
C for Cholesterol
There are two kinds of cholesterol in your blood: LDL and HDL.
LDL or “bad” cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels. It can cause a heart attack or stroke.
HDL or “good” cholesterol helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from your blood vessels.
What are the LDL and HDL goals?
Ask what your cholesterol numbers should be. Your goals may be different from other people. If you are over 40 years of age, you may need to take a statin drug for heart health.
STEP 3: LEARN HOW TO LIVE WITH DIABETES
It is common to feel overwhelmed, sad, or angry when you are living with diabetes. You may know the steps you should take to stay healthy, but have trouble sticking with your plan over time.
1. COPE WITH YOUR DIABETES
Stress can raise your blood sugar. Learn ways to lower your stress. Try deep breathing, gardening, taking a walk, meditating, working on your hobby, or listening to your favorite music.
Ask for help if you feel down. A mental health counselor, support group, member of the clergy, friend, or family member who will listen to your concerns may help you feel better.
2. HAVE HEALTHY EATING HABITS
Make a diabetes meal plan with help from your health care team.
Choose foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and salt.
Eat foods with more fiber, such as whole grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta.
Choose foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, bread and cereals, and low-fat or skim milk and cheese.
Drink water instead of juice and regular soda.
When eating a meal, fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables, one quarter with a lean protein, such as beans, or chicken or turkey without the skin, and one quarter with a whole grain, such as brown rice or whole wheat pasta.
3. BE ACTIVE
Walk or jog with friends or family
Set a goal to be more active most days of the week. Start slow by taking 10 minute walks, 3 times a day.
Twice a week, work to increase your muscle strength. Use stretch bands, do yoga, heavy gardening (digging and planting with tools), or try push-ups.
Stay at or get to a healthy weight by using your meal plan and moving more.
4. KNOW WHAT TO DO EVERY DAY
Take your medicines for diabetes and any other health problems even when you feel good. Ask your doctor if you need aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke. Tell your doctor if you cannot afford your medicines or if you have any side effects.
Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots, and swelling. Call your healthcare team right away about any sores that do not go away.
Brush your teeth and floss every day to keep your mouth, teeth, and gums healthy.
Stop smoking. Ask for help to quit.
Keep track of your blood sugar. You may want to check it one or more times a day. Be sure to talk about it with your healthcare team.
Check your blood pressure if your doctor advises and keep a record of it.
5. TALK TO YOUR HEALTHCARE TEAM
Ask your doctor if you have any questions about your diabetes.
Report any changes in your health.
STEP 4: GET ROUTINE CARE TO STAY HEALTHY
See your healthcare team at least twice a year to find and treat any problems early.
AT EACH VISIT, BE SURE YOU HAVE A:
blood pressure check
review of your self-care plan
TWO TIMES EACH YEAR, HAVE AN:
A1C test. It may be checked more often if it is over 7.
ONCE EACH YEAR, BE SURE YOU HAVE A:
complete foot exam
dental exam to check teeth and gums
dilated eye exam to check for eye problems
urine and a blood test to check for kidney problems
AT LEAST ONCE IN YOUR LIFETIME, GET A:
hepatitis B shot
References: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases & Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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