Diet & Nutrition

4 Ways to Manage Diabetes for Life

Editor’s note: It can be frightening to get a diabetes diagnosis. You may feel overwhelmed or hopeless. But diabetes, while a serious condition, can be managed. Here, experts from the National Diabetes Education Program suggest strategies that will help you:

Step 1: Learn about diabetes.

There are three types:

Type 1 diabetes – Your body does not make insulin. But you need it to take the sugar from the foods you eat and transform it into energy. So you need to take insulin daily.

Type 2 diabetes – The most common type of diabetes. Your body either doesn’t make insulin or else doesn’t use it well. You probably have to take pills or insulin to help control that.

Take classes to learn more about diabetes. Check with your health care team, or a local hospital or clinic. You may also find a class on line. Click here for more information.

Step 2: Know your diabetes ABCs.

A for the A1C test (A-one-C).

The A1C is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months. The NDEP experts emphasize that it’s not the same as a daily blood test. You should know your blood sugar levels over time, because high levels can harm vital organs including your heart and kidneys.

The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below 7, according to the NDEP. Ask your doctor what your level should be.

B for blood pressure.

The force of your blood against the wall of your blood vessels, blood pressure shouldn’t be too high. Otherwise, it can cause your heart to work too fast, leading to heart attack, stroke and kidney or eye damage. Ideally, the blood pressure reading for most diabetics is below 140/90. Ask your doctor what reading is ideal for you.

C for Cholesterol

Your blood has two kinds of cholesterol : LDL or “bad” cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels, leading to a heart attack or stroke. HDL (“good” cholesterol) helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from your blood vessels. Your doctor can tell you what your numbers should be. You may have to take a statin drug for heart health, the NDEP says.

Step 3: Learn how to live with diabetes.

Because stress can raise your blood sugar, practice stress-reduction techniques such as deep breathing or meditating. You can also relax by listening to music, gardening or taking a walk. Get help if you feel depressed. Eating well is crucial to your health; be sure to ask your health-care team to help you make a meal plan focused on healthy foods.

Be active. The NDEP recommends starting slow by taking 10-minute walks, three times a day. Ask your doctor, though, what’s right for you.

Keep up your daily health routines. Take your medicine every day, even If you feel well. Test your blood sugar. Check your feet for signs of damage, since diabetes-related injuries often occur there.

You should also brush your teeth and floss every day. And if you smoke, quit. Call 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669) for free help.