By Diane Hwang
Diabetes is a condition that affects every 1 in 10 Americans. Even more people are living with prediabetes, which if left unchecked, can progress into diabetes. While there is no cure for diabetes, there are steps you can take to improve how diabetes affects your health.
Following these diabetes care tips, we hope that you’ll feel inspired to take action on improving your health, your habits, and find joy in your daily activities that help nourish your body.
The Effects of Diabetes
Diabetes seriously affects your body for the long term. Let’s just 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 attack, and stroke
- Blurry vision and blindness
- Hearing loss
- Kidney damage or kidney failure
- Yeast infections, bacterial infections, fungal infections
- Nerve damage that can affect the feeling 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 and dementia
- Miscarriage, stillbirth, or birth defects
These effects from diabetes on the body can greatly diminish your quality of life, and even lead to a lower life expectancy. How you improve your diabetes treatment plan revolves around lifestyle changes, as well as monitoring your blood sugar and following any prescription regimen as prescribed by your doctor.
Diabetes Care Tips
Whether you have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, or are new to diabetes, these health care tips for changing your lifestyle habits will improve your health. By following this advice, you may even be able to see a diagnosis of prediabetes be reversed, depending on your condition.
There is no specific diet care plan for people with diabetes, 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 care tip is important for everyone’s health. Cardio exercises that get your heart and blood pumping can do wonders to improve how diabetes affects 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 small, low impact exercises that you can start with and work your way up to more 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 before and after exercising. Your blood sugar 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 can be a life threatening condition that 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 read anytime from an app on your cell phone. Depending on your condition, you may need to monitor your blood sugar and A1C levels. For some, this means checking your levels multiple times throughout each day. For others, they 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, cholesterol, and the general health of your eyes, feet, and teeth.
The most important care tip to improve how diabetes affects your body is to properly take your medication. 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 when you need to refill your prescriptions. 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 with 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 checkups 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.
Learning how to live with diabetes and improve your condition is 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 through tough times and to help you be successful in your lifestyle changes. There are also many support groups that meet in person and online that can be your rock when you need it. When working towards these diabetes health care tips, set realistic goals that you can achieve.