If you’re one of the millions of Americans living with type 2 diabetes, you know it’s a complex, chronic disease. You also know it requires you to play an active role.
That’s because medications only help so much. The secret to making gains is careful management – not only of your blood sugar levels, but also your daily habits.
Now’s the time to make a commitment to your overall health. Diabetes might feel like a challenge, but it can also be the diagnosis that spurs you to ultimately live better.
Start with these 10 tips for managing your diabetes:
1. Make exercise part of your daily life.
Diabetics benefit from a mix of aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching and balance exercises. All types of physical activity help lower your blood glucose, and the perks of being active extend well beyond your A1C.
- Improves blood pressure and cholesterol levels
- Increases energy while relieving stress
- Increases joint flexibility and muscle strength
- Lowers risk of heart disease and stroke
- Improves balance, reducing risk of falls
2. Brush twice and floss once a day.
Diabetes puts you at higher risk for gum disease. One reason is the extra sugar in your saliva. Gum disease worsens diabetes because the inflammation goes beyond your gums into your body, making it harder to manage your blood glucose.
3. Get your weight under control.
Being overweight or obese makes it hard to manage diabetes, and also increases your risk for high blood cholesterol and blood pressure – both common risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which is the leading cause of death among diabetics. A modest 5-10% sustained weight loss has a dramatic effect on reducing complications of obesity and improving control of blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol.
4. Check your feet daily.
Look for swelling, redness, blisters, cuts, sores. Diabetes is the leading cause of lower-limb amputations.
5. Adopt healthy eating habits.
Look for diabetes-friendly versions of your favorite dishes.
Give healthier foods a chance and allow your taste buds time to adapt – you might find yourself craving a once-unfamiliar food or dish. To maximize your results, create a routine eating schedule which will help you manage your blood sugar levels.
6. Become a tracker.
Keep a log of your blood glucose levels, and also keep tabs on your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood fat levels.
7. Quit smoking.
Having diabetes means you are two to four times more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. That risk is multiplied if you smoke.
8. Get regular medical exams.
Make sure to get a yearly physical exam, comprehensive foot exam, cholesterol tests, kidney test, dilated eye exam and a flu shot. Diabetes management is a team sport, so work with your primary care physician and his team, including nurses, medical assistants and diabetic educators. You should have a trusted dentist, pharmacist and optometrist or ophthalmologist. You may also need to be referred to medical specialties, such as:
9. Take time to enjoy life, relax, be social and get enough sleep.
If you feel isolated, take up a new hobby or consider adopting a dog or cat. Having a pet has been shown to lower stress, blood pressure and decrease your risk of heart disease and stroke.
10. Pay attention to changes in your body.
Follow up on quickly on new symptoms. Call your physician’s office if you experience:
- Blurred vision
- Foot numbness/tingling
- Persistent swelling of the hand, foot or face
- Leg cramping or pain
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness/weakness on one side of body
- Unusual weight gain
Remember that untreated or under treated diabetes can cause damage to the eyes, kidneys, nerves and circulation and that damage can be irreversible. The chronic nature of diabetes may challenge you to manage your health more actively than ever before. If you embrace the situation, you can make gains in your overall well being and end up feeling better than ever before while living with type 2 diabetes.