If you’ve just been newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes or have been living with type 2 diabetes for years, it’s not always easy to stay on top of your diabetes management. You know that diabetes is not a simple condition: your blood glucose levels can go up and down, you have to guess how much insulin you need before you eat, and you can only imagine what your A1C will be.
It’s hard to know where you should start for managing your diabetes better as there is a lot of conflicting and confusing information floating around the internet, and sometimes it can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are also some simple steps you can take to better diabetes management, which will help you manage your diabetic symptoms, protect against potential diabetic complications, and even improve your overall health.
1. Change Your Lifestyle
It’s not easy to live with a chronic condition. However, you can make a few changes to your habits and routine by adding exercise and adding or removing things from your diet are the first steps to creating a healthy lifestyle and better diabetes management.
Easy ways to incorporate exercise into your everyday routine doesn’t have to involve going to the gym and working out with weights for 45 minutes a couple of times a week. There are plenty of other low-impact exercises you can do right at home (or around the neighborhood) like walking, cycling or going up and down the stairs. Any type of cardio will keep the heart healthy, help regulate your blood sugars, and keep your body in shape as well.
Dietary changes involve cutting out high-sugar and high-carb foods, for example, processed foods, starchy vegetables, fruits, grains, specific milk products and sweets/desserts can quickly raise your blood sugar levels can cause you to have symptoms of high blood sugars (hyperglycemia). Instead, incorporate asparagus, healthy fats (i.e., avocados, eggs, etc.), lean meats, and seafood are just a few diabetic diet examples.
2. Have a Diabetes Action Plan
Even with careful blood sugar monitoring, you could run into trouble with blood glucose peaks and drops.
The better you know how to manage these episodes, the less discomfort you’ll experience. The warning signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugars) often brings dizziness, hunger, mood swings, trembling and difficulty concentrating, and the warning signs of hyperglycemia typically causes thirst, increased urination, feelings of weakness and blurry vision.
If you suspect a change in your blood sugar levels, test your blood glucose right away, and then take steps to fix it. For example, if you’re feeling low, drink some juice (orange or apple is the best) to help bring up your number and if you’re experiencing high blood sugar levels, take some additional insulin or go for a walk.
3. Watch for Potential New Symptoms
Like other many chronic conditions, diabetes can have complications, especially when you’re not taking proper care of your health.
While these diabetes complications aren’t immediate, they may build up slowly that you don’t even realize there’s a problem. Your diabetes could potentially cause permanent damage before you recognize the severity of the situation, so it’s important to take note of any changes in your eyes, teeth, feet, skin, and numbness or nerve pain/damage (diabetic neuropathy) anywhere on the body. Immediately report any changes to your doctor.
The best way you can prevent these complications is to keep your blood sugar levels under control.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking is known to affect insulin and makes blood sugar levels unpredictable and difficult to control. It is also one of the biggest risk factors for diabetic complications.
Diabetes and smoking may increase your risk of heart disease, and stroke. Smoking while diabetic is asking for trouble and undoes all the good effects of a healthy diet and exercise.
5. Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Alcohol can cause blood sugar levels to fluctuate. For example, beers, ales, and ciders contain carbohydrates that will increase your blood glucose levels for a short period of time, while spirits, dry wines, and sparkling wines may lower your blood glucose levels.
If you wish to drink, limit it to one to two drinks, never drink on an empty stomach, and eat before going to bed to avoid the sugar levels dropping too low overnight.
Focusing on self-care, lifestyle changes, and being aware are just as important for your body, but also for your mind: taking a stronger role in your diabetes management can help make you feel empowered and confident.
If you’re looking for more additional ways to better manage your diabetes, discuss with your doctor or diabetes educator about what else you can add to your diabetes management plan.
NewLifeOutlook aims to empower people living with chronic mental and physical health conditions, encouraging them to embrace a positive outlook despite unfortunate circumstances. Their articles are full of practical advice from people who have firsthand experience of type 2 diabetes.