Being diagnosed with diabetes is life-changing. It can be difficult for some people to navigate through all of the changes the diagnosis may mean without getting overwhelmed or feeling isolated. To help, we’ve compiled 10 of the top tips for managing diabetes. Making just a few simple changes can help people gain control over their health and make the best out of their diagnosis.
See the doctor regularly
For diabetics, finding a doctor to help manage their diabetes is essential. When choosing a doctor, it is critical to ensure they are trained in managing diabetes and any potential complications. It is also vital that diabetics develop a report with their doctor, as trust is an essential component to receiving quality, holistic care. Experts recommend that diabetic patients see their doctor at least every four to six months for regular checkups, as well as making an appointment if anything changes with their physical health.
Take medication as directed
If the patient’s diabetic doctor has prescribed a medication to help manage their diabetes, it is important to always take that medication as directed. This will be noted on each medication’s label and can be confirmed by speaking to the pharmacist when picking up the medication. This means not only taking each medication every day but also means taking the medication at the right time every day. For diabetics who have prescribed insulin, make sure to rotate injection sites to minimize the risk of lumps and bruising.
Be aware of the body
Diabetes, especially poorly managed diabetes, can affect almost every system of the body. It is especially important for diabetic patients to be aware of their body, and take any changes seriously. Precisely, they should monitor their entire body for changes (in eyesight, sores that won’t heal, new aches and pains, swelling, and rapid weight gain or loss, specifically). Diabetics should take any concerns or changes immediately to their managing physician.
Choosing and sticking with a healthy eating plan catered to diabetics is another key to help manage diabetes. Controlling blood sugars can be more natural with a low carbohydrate diet, but that can also be much easier said than done. Diabetics should focus on eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and divide their food into three meals a day to help the body with natural insulin production. It is important to avoid saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and excessive sodium. Diabetic educators can be very helpful at putting together a healthy eating plan, especially if completing overhauling a diet seems overwhelming.
Consider losing weight
Although being overweight or obese isn’t the only cause of diabetes, it can be a contributing factor in elevated blood sugar. Studies have shown that diabetics who lose even a small amount of weight, sometimes only just ten pounds, have noticed significant positive changes in their blood sugar management. Start by making small changes, like being more active (wearing proper footwear, of course).
Physical activity is essential for everyone, but especially for diabetics. Staying active can help the body be more sensitive to insulin, and lowers the risk of nerve damage and heart disease (which occur more often in diabetic people). An excellent goal to set is to try to get in about two and a half hours of moderate physical activity a week. Examples of this type of activity include swimming, dancing, brisk walking, or bicycling. It is imperative for diabetic patients to remember to wear cotton socks and well-fitting athletic shoes (discussed below) to reduce potential issues with the feet.
Wear proper shoes
Due to the risk of severe complications with the feet in diabetic patients, wearing proper shoes can significantly reduce the risk of issues. Simple problems with the feet, like blisters, calluses, or corns, can very quickly turn into systemic infections and nerve damage. Diabetics should start by visiting a shoe store with a knowledgeable staff that can measure their feet to make sure that shoes aren’t either too big or too small. Look for shoes that do not have a pointed tip, and try to avoid sandals, high heels, or other open-toed shoes that may put too much pressure on their feet. There are also shoes specifically designed for people with diabetes and, in some cases, they may be covered by insurance. Diabetics can call their insurance company directly to request more information.
Check blood sugar
This often goes without saying, but checking blood sugars is possibly the most important thing diabetics can do to manage their diabetes. Patients, especially those who have been diabetic for years, have a tendency not to appreciate just how much blood sugars can tell them about the management of their disease process. Blood sugars should be collected at least before you eat and one to two hours after a meal. Many machines and test strips are covered by insurance, so diabetic patients should check their coverage. Diabetics should discuss any concerns with their diabetic educator or primary care physician, and newly diagnosed patients should see them learn how to properly test their blood sugars before attempting it on their own.
In addition to stress negatively impacting mental health, it can also affect physical health. Excessive stress levels can also potentially increase blood glucose levels, which increases how much insulin patients will need to manage their diabetes. Managing stress can be a big task, but breaking it down into manageable bites can help. Diabetics should attempt to get to bed around the same time every night and consider learning how to meditate. Deep breathing, even for a few minutes a day, can help reduce heart rate. There are many helpful apps that can help diabetics learn these skills. Even just taking a walk when they are feeling stressed can help, and also increase their physical activity level (as long as they are wearing appropriate shoes).
Join a community
It can sometimes feel isolating and lonely to have diabetes. The people who have been the most successful at managing their diabetes often state how vital and supportive it is to join a community of other people living with diabetes. Making connections with others who can truly understand what it is like to live with diabetes on a daily basis can reduce stress, help patients to make healthy choices, and just give them an ear or a shoulder when they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. Many primary care physicians and diabetic educators have information on how to find these types of groups, and patients who may live in more rural areas can even find groups on social media if they are unable to find one to attend in person.
A diagnosis of diabetes doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If patients simply follow our Top 10 tips for managing their diabetes, it will make staying on top of their health and minimizing any potential complications significantly easier and less lonely. Remember, diabetes is not the end of life, it is merely the start of a new phase. Get some new shoes, find a community, check in with a doctor, and enjoy life!