The first step in learning to live with diabetes is to ensure that you understand exactly what it is and how it is affecting your body. Put simply, diabetes is a metabolic disorder that affects the way our bodies digests food for growth and energy. There are generally three main types of diabetes, namely:
- Type 1 diabetes – In type 1 diabetes, your body makes no insulin. Insulin is required daily by the body in order to break down sugars into glucose (energy) for your body. Without this your body cannot completely digest food.
- Type 2 diabetes – This is the most common type of diabetes where your body does not make or produce insulin well. In addition, your body may also become insulin resistant which often leads to type 2 diabetes. You may need to take insulin or pills to help control the diabetes.
- Gestational diabetes – This is only found in pregnant women and usually goes away after the baby is born. It however increases both the mother and the child’s risk of developing diabetes later in life.
It is important to recognize diabetes as a serious disease that can lead to significant health complications if not handled with care. Here are a few tips to make living with diabetes a little easier as well as general ways to keep healthy to prevent you from developing the disease:
Know your ABC’s
It is important to manage your A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol when you are diagnosed with diabetes. This reduces the risk of of any diabetic complications such as strokes or heart attacks
- A1C Test – This is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the last 3 months which is different from the blood/sugar level tests you would do every day. It is important to know your blood sugar level over a long period of time in order to avoid harming your body due to high blood sugar.
- Blood Pressure – For most people with diabetes, the blood pressure goal is to generally below 140/90, however it may be different for everyone so you should consult your doctor. Maintaining this goal is crucial as having high blood pressure means your heart is working too hard and you are more at risk of heart attacks, strokes or kidney and eye damage.
- Cholesterol – There are two kinds of cholesterol, one bad (LDL) and the other good (HDL). Acceptable levels are different from everyone so you should contact your doctor and ask what your goals should be.
With or without diabetes, healthy eating is the cornerstone of healthy living, but for diabetics, it is especially crucial to know how certain foods affect your blood sugar levels. It is not simply what types of food you eat but also how much and in what combinations. Here are some general guidelines when it comes to eating properly as a diabetic:
- As much as possible, every meal should be well balanced with a good mix of fruits, vegetables, starches, proteins and fats.
- Your meals should be coordinated with your diabetic medication, especially insulin. Not adhering to this can result in dangerous blood sugar levels.
- Learning how to count carbs is an important part of any diabetic’s meal plan as this is the type of food that has the greatest effect on your blood sugar level.
- Avoiding sweetened beverages such as soda or drinks sweetened with high fructose corn syrup is best as they cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly and provide little in the way of nutritional value.
Exercising and staying active
Exercising regularly is another critical part of your diabetes management plan. This is because physical activity uses glucose for energy and also helps insulin work more efficiently. These two factors work in combination to help control your blood sugar level. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when working out:
- Make sure to check your blood sugar levels to be certain they are within appropriate levels, especially if you have to take insulin or any other medication that reduces blood sugar level.
- Drink plenty of fluids as dehydration can affect blood sugar levels.
- If you take medication such as insulin, make sure you adjust your dose respectively before exercising. Consult your doctor on advise as to how to do this.
- Be prepared with soda or juice in case your blood sugar level does indeed drop too low.
Take Medication Properly
Most diabetic medications are designed to reduce blood sugar level when your normal lifestyle is not enough to control it. However, their effectiveness is dependent on its timing and dose. Consult your doctor to find the right dosage and timing for you. Also make sure to store the insulin properly, as it is sensitive to temperature changes, and not to keep it beyond its expiration date.
Properly manage other illnesses
Being ill or sick means that your body is producing hormones to help combat the disease and this may also have an effect on your blood sugar levels through changes in your appetite and activities. Here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re sick:
- Continue to take your medication. However, with severe appetite changes consult your doctor for any adjustments to your treatment plan.
- As much as possible try to adhere to any meals plans or schedules so as to try to keep your blood sugar level as stable as possible through the illness.