By Diane Hwang
Diabetes is a condition that affects every 1 in 10 Americans. Even more people are living with prediabetes, which can eventually progress to diabetes if left unchecked. While there is currently no cure for diabetes, there are some diabetes self-care tips you can follow to minimize the impact of the condition on your health.
Following these tips, we hope that you’ll feel inspired to take action to improve your health and your lifestyle habits on top of finding joy in the daily activities that help to nourish your body.
The Effects of Diabetes
Diabetes seriously affects your body in the long term. Let’s take a moment to look at what can happen to the body as a result of constant high blood sugar spikes. These bodily changes can include:
- Heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke
- Blurry vision that can eventually lead to blindness
- Hearing loss
- Kidney damage or failure
- Yeast infections, bacterial infections and fungal infections
- Nerve damage that can affect the sensation in your feet and your sexual response
- Wounds that take a long time to heal
- Damage to brain cells that increases your risk for Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia
- Miscarriage, stillbirth or birth defects
These unwanted side effects of diabetes can greatly diminish your quality of life and even lead to a lower life expectancy. Improving your diabetes treatment plan revolves around making lifestyle changes as well as monitoring your blood sugar regularly and following any prescription regimens by your doctor.
Diabetes Care Tips
Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes or are new to diabetes, these lifestyle modifications will go a long way in improving your health. By following this advice, you may even be able to see a diagnosis of prediabetes reversed, depending on your condition!
There is no specific diet care plan for diabetics but sticking with the basics for a healthy diet is the best rule of thumb. That means you should eat more vegetables and fruits. You’ll also want to increase your fiber intake for healthy digestion. Some examples of fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber as well as vitamins and minerals, include:
- Brussel Sprouts
You’ll also want to cut back on refined carbs, like those found in sugary desserts and snacks. Healthy carbohydrates like those found in fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, and whole grains should be kept on the menu. Fish is a healthy source of omega-3 fatty acids which are good for the heart, but you’ll want to stick to low-mercury options. As with everything you eat, remember to consume in moderation. For people with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes, experts recommend losing 7% of your total body weight.
This diabetes self-care tip is important for overall health. Cardio exercises that get your heart and blood pumping can do wonders to improve the effect of diabetes on your heart health. Exercise can also lower your blood sugar and blood pressure, boost your energy levels, and help you sleep better. No matter your current weight, there are low impact exercises you can start with before working your way up to more intense physical activities.
Some good examples of simple exercises that don’t require any equipment are:
- Walking, jogging, and running
- Climbing stairs
If you have diabetes, take care to drink plenty of water and check your blood sugar levels before and after exercising. Your blood sugar level should be less than 250 mg/dl before exercising. Exercising with blood sugar higher than 250 mg/dl may cause ketoacidosis in people with Type 1 diabetes. This condition can be life-threatening and is caused by a lack of insulin in the body.
There are many different types of glucose monitoring devices available, from manual glucose monitors and strips to automatic Bluetooth-enabled devices that can be accessed anytime from a phone app. Depending on your condition, you may need to monitor your blood sugar and A1C levels throughout the day. For some, this means checking your levels multiple times each day while others may need to check it less frequently.
Your doctor will give you specific instructions on when, how, and how often you will need to monitor your blood sugar and A1C levels. You’ll also want to make regular visits with your doctor to monitor your blood pressure and cholesterol as well as the general health of your eyes, feet, and teeth.
The most important care tip to improve how diabetes affects your body is to take your medication as prescribed. Learn exactly what pills and insulins you have been prescribed and take them as directed by your doctor. Keep a list of your current medications and set reminders on your cell phone for when they need to be taken. You should also set reminders for prescription refills. Always talk to your doctor about any side effects that you experience and any concerns you may have about the medications.
Some lifestyle habits can increase your risk for complications caused by diabetes. These include smoking cigarettes and maintaining a high body mass index (BMI). Reduce your risk for complications by quitting smoking and losing weight. Reducing your risk with diabetes also means going to regular health care check-ups with your doctor and dentist. When health issues do arise from diabetes, it’s always best that they are caught early and managed before they can progress.
Improve your outlook as a diabetic can be tough. It causes extra stress, additional health problems, and can even lead to depression. Get the support of your family and friends to help you stick to the lifestyle changes you have made. There are also many support groups that can be your rock when you need it. When working towards these diabetes health care tips, always remember to set realistic goals that you can achieve!