What things should I keep in mind if I have diabetes?

Kelly Traver
Internal Medicine

When you have diabetes, it can be hard to keep track of all the things you're supposed to do for your health. Here's a simple way of remembering. It's called the "ABCs and double-DEFs" of diabetes.

A is for hemoglobin A1c, the measure of your average blood sugar level over the previous three months. This should be checked two to four times a year. Your goal for hemoglobin A1c is less than 7 mg/dl.

B is for blood pressure. Your blood pressure should be checked every time you visit the doctor, but it is also a good idea to have a blood pressure monitor at home so you can check it yourself. Aim for a blood pressure of less than 130/80 mmHg; the lower, the better.

C is for cholesterol. Your cholesterol should be checked one to two times a year. Your LDL goal, since you have diabetes, is less than 100 mg/dl (less than 70 mg/dl if you also have heart disease).

DD is for proper dental care and a healthy diet. Simply follow a healthy diet. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean meat, unsaturated fat-you've heard it before. Nonetheless, there is intrinsically no difference in the way you should eat if you have diabetes and the way you should eat to achieve optimal health. With diabetes, it is especially important to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Flossing helps stimulate the blood flow to your gums to keep them healthy; this is particularly important in diabetes because a high blood sugar level can promote plaque buildup in the tiny end arteries that feed the gums.

EE is for a yearly eye exam and regular exercise. It is important to have your eyes checked on a regular basis since the blood flow in the back of the eyes (necessary for sight) can be reduced in diabetes; however, this is very treatable when caught early. Exercise is important since it improves sensitivity to insulin and helps keep excess weight off.

FF is for feet checks and flu vaccine. Check your feet every night before you go to bed, as they can develop sores due to the reduction in blood flow and your compromised immune system. In addition, all diabetics are strongly encouraged to get a yearly flu inoculation (as well as the pneumococcal vaccine that protects against a certain type of bacterial pneumonia) because high blood sugar levels impair the immune system, allowing infections to occur more easily.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.