The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that medical costs and lost wages for those diagnosed with diabetes total $327 billion yearly. Although there is no cure for diabetes, there are ways to manage the disease and take preventative measures to manage your blood sugar level and prevent further health conditions.
This article, the last in a series relating to diabetes education, breaks down the three types of diabetes, discusses the cause, risk factors, signs and symptoms, and how to manage the condition. Links to prior articles are below.
Know Your Blood Sugar Levels
Self-testing is an important tool in managing your diabetes and preventing health complications. Patients use devices such as a blood sugar meter or a continuous glucose monitor. The type of machine you use will be determined by your health care provider and your insurance. The benefits of testing your blood sugar levels include:
- Monitoring the effects of your medication.
- Identifying when levels are too high (hyperglycemic) or too low (hypoglycemic).
- Tracking your progress can assist in treatment plans and goals.
- You can understand how diet and exercise affect your blood sugar levels.
- Notice the effects of illness, stress, and even alcohol on your blood sugar levels.
When Should You Test & What is a Good Blood Sugar Level?
The frequency of testing usually depends on the type of diabetes you have and your treatment plan and should be discussed with your provider.
The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below 5.7%, but your A1C level requirement may vary so it’s important to have a discussion with your health care provider to establish the correct goal for your health.
Lifestyle Changes are Key to Managing Diabetes
Some factors affecting your blood sugar are within your control. Although sometimes difficult, lifestyle changes can prevent further complications including cardiovascular disease.
Developing a healthy eating plan is one of the major lifestyle changes that must be made when diagnosed with diabetes. It is important to do the following:
- Develop a healthy eating plan to manage your weight.
- Meet with a dietician who will help you develop meal plans and understand the types of foods and the amounts that will affect your blood sugar levels.
- Be aware of carbohydrates.
- Carbohydrates break down into sugar and can have the greatest effect on your blood sugar level. Reduce simple carbohydrate intake and replace it with complex carbohydrates and foods high in fiber such as whole grains and fruits and vegetables.
- Discuss foods with complex carbohydrates and simple carbohydrates with a dietician to help you determine the types and amounts and adjust your insulin accordingly.
- Eat meals at regularly scheduled times.
- Maintain portion control.
- Reduce cholesterol and trans-fat intake.
- Follow the American Diabetes Association Plate Method
- Fill half of your plate with non-starchy vegetables, such as spinach, carrots, and tomatoes.
- Fill a quarter of your plate with lean protein, such as tuna, lean pork, or chicken.
- Fill the last quarter with a carbohydrate, such as brown rice, beans, or a starchy vegetable, such as green peas.
- Include “good” fats such as nuts or avocados in small amounts.
- Add a serving of fruit or dairy and a drink of water or unsweetened tea or coffee.
Losing Weight, Maintaining Weight and Exercise
Being active is important when you have diabetes and will have a positive effect on your weight and overall health. There are many ways to incorporate physical activity into your day and it does not have to be overwhelming. You can do the following:
- Work with a personal trainer to create an exercise plan that fits your lifestyle and is realistic to your goals.
- Join a local gym or community exercise group.
- Incorporate walking into your daily routine.
- A slow build in exercise intensity should be key. Working towards increasing your heart rate to a point where it is hard to speak while exercising is a good goal to work towards.
The key is to stay active. When you are active your body can more efficiently utilize blood sugar resulting in a drop in blood sugar levels.
Please visit the RPM365 Health Blog to learn more about maintaining a healthy, safe active lifestyle.
Health Appointments and Medications
It is important to see your health care provider at least twice a year. Catching warning signs early can prevent further complications.
At each visit, your provider should perform the following:
- A blood pressure check.
- Check your feet.
- Take your weight.
- Check for wounds. Diabetic patients are likely to have wounds that may not heal.
- Review your self-care plan and medications.
- Order an A1C test to test blood sugar. It may be checked more often if the reading is over seven.
Once a year, the following tests or exams should be performed:
- A cholesterol test.
- A complete foot exam. You may want to schedule a yearly visit with a podiatrist.
- A dental exam.
- An eye exam by an ophthalmologist.
- Urine and blood tests to check for any issues with your kidneys.
- Receiving a flu shot.
It is critical to have conversations with your provider regarding your medication, and to take the medication as prescribed. A key person that can assist in managing your medications is your pharmacist. A pharmacist can watch for drug interactions and speak with your health care providers regarding these interactions.
Stress is all too common these days and can be difficult to overcome, but when dealing with chronic health conditions, stress can increase the likelihood of developing complications. Managing stress can help maintain a balance to keep you from over-indulging or raising your blood pressure. The following can assist in managing stress:
- Go outside for a walk.
- Try breathing exercises.
- Watch a funny movie or television show.
- Call a friend or counselor.
- Develop a hobby or engage in activities such as crafting or writing.
These actions may not eliminate the challenge, but they can help to relax you and bring down your blood pressure, keeping you from turning to bad habits such as stress eating or drinking.
Support groups led by diabetes educators are also a great tool for those that would like more education and guidance on lifestyle changes and coping with diabetes. Support groups can offer the following:
- Developing eating plans and sticking to them.
- Keeping records of blood sugar readings.
- Recognizing the signs of high or low blood sugar and what to do.
- Medication and injection guidance and education.
- Monitoring your overall health with particular attention to feet and eyes to identify early warning signs.
- Obtaining necessary diabetic supplies.
- Techniques to manage stress.
Living with diabetes may not be easy but incorporating lifestyle changes, making and keeping health care provider appointments, taking medications as prescribed, monitoring your sugar levels and the foods you consume, finding techniques to ease stress, and finding support can help you live an active and enjoyable life.
Diabetes Health Tip
Hypoglycemia and diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) are two health conditions that can affect those with diabetes.
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which blood sugar levels drop quickly, needing to be addressed. Causes include:
- Too much insulin.
- Waiting too long for a meal or snack.
- Not eating enough.
- Excessive physical activity.
Diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) is a serious complication of diabetes that can be life-threatening. DKA develops when you don’t have enough insulin to let blood sugar into your cells. Very high blood sugar and low insulin levels lead to DKA. The two most common causes are illness and missing insulin shots. Talk with your doctor and make sure you understand how you can prevent and treat DKA.
The lifestyle changes mentioned above are important in helping to prevent complications from diabetes, but it is important to keep your health care provider informed about any noticeable changes or increased frequency of signs or symptoms.
Diabetes Health Series
This article, the last in a series relating to diabetes education, breaks down the three types of diabetes, discusses the cause, risk factors, signs and symptoms, and knowing how to manage the condition. Links to prior articles are below.
What Is Diabetes
Causes and Risk Factors for Diabetes
As part of living a healthier life, RPM Healthcare offers remote patient monitoring and care coaching services for those with diabetes and other health conditions. This series on diabetes, the RPM365 platform, and care coaches are aimed at working with you to achieve a healthy lifestyle and assist in helping you manage your diabetes, and other health conditions that can affect your everyday life. Visit RPM365.com for more information and to sign up for our free monthly webinars.
All health content is reviewed by Irina Koyfman, DNP, NP-C, RN, Chief Population Health Officer, RPM Healthcare.