The National Diabetes Education Program Shares Four Steps to Managing Diabetes for Life
Step 1: Learn about diabetes and take it seriously.
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. 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!
There are three main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes – Your body does not make insulin. This is a problem because you need insulin to take the sugar (glucose) from the foods you eat and turn it into energy for your body. You need to take insulin every day to live
- Type 2 diabetes – Your body does not make or use insulin well. You may need to take pills or insulin to help control your diabetes. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes – Some women get this kind of diabetes when they are pregnant. Most of the time, it goes away after the baby is born. But even if it goes away, these women and their children have a greater chance of getting diabetes later in life.
Step 2: Know your diabetes ABCs.
Talk to your health care 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 the A1C test.
The A1C is a blood test that measures average blood sugar level over the past three months. It is different from the blood sugar checks diabetics do each day. The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below 7. It may be different for you. Ask what your goal should be.
B for Blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the force of your blood against the wall of your blood vessels. 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. 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.
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. Coping with the challenges of the disease is critical to a healthy life.
Minimize Stress. 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. 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.
Eat well. 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.
Be active. 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.
Get regular care to stay healthy.
See your health care team at least twice a year to find and treat any problems early.
At each visit, be sure you have a:
- blood pressure check
- foot check
- weight check
- review of your self-care plan
- have an A1C test two times a year or more often if it is over 7.
Once each year, be sure you have a:
- cholesterol test
- complete foot exam
- dental exam to check teeth and gums
- dilated eye exam to check for eye problems
- flu shot
- urine and a blood test to check for kidney problems
At least once in your lifetime, get a:
- pneumonia shot
- hepatitis B shot