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How can I manage my diabetes?

Ximena Jimenez
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

Succesful diabetes management takes three major components: medication adherence, physical exercise if possible and healthy eating habits. It is also important to remember that carbohydrates found in starches, starchy vegetables, milk/yogurt, fruits and sweets have the biggest impact on blood sugar levels and they need to be consumed in moderation.

For better blood sugar control, please visit a registered dietitian www.eatright.org.

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, it is essential that you receive comprehensive information—whether from a primary healthcare professional, certified diabetes educator or endocrinologist—on how to manage your condition and avoid complications.

Living with diabetes can be overwhelming at times. Like all chronic diseases, it affects every aspect of your daily routine. Diabetes management is not as simple as just taking a pill. It requires timing of meals, checking blood sugar and being vigilant about exercise, all in accordance with a personalized management plan developed in consultation with healthcare professionals.

Laura Motosko, MSEd, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

It is important to have the will to want to learn, plan and take action to manage diabetes. Seek out diabetic specialists that you can relate to and trust. A diabetic clinic may offer access to several healthcare professionals in one visit. It is important to see regularly an endocrinologist, diabetic educator or registered nurse, dietitian, ophthalmologist, exercise specialist, podiatrist and pharmacist. Treatment to maintain optimal health includes diet, physical activity, medications, medical exams and tests. Support from your healthcare team, friends, family and other diabetic patients will help you to stay motivated and informed to maintain behaviors that will promote your health.

The following can help you manage diabetes:

  • Following good nutrition guidelines
  • Exercising regularly
  • Taking medications as prescribed
  • Monitoring the blood glucose and keeping a record
  • Talking with your healthcare provider if your blood glucose is out of normal range
Stacy Wiegman, PharmD
Pharmacy Specialist

The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) has outlined four steps you can take to control your diabetes. These steps include:

  • Learning about diabetes, its causes, symptoms, potential complications and treatments.
  • Knowing your diabetes ABCs. A stands for A1C test, an important measurement of blood sugar. B stands for blood pressure (BP). The goal for most people is keeping BP below 130/80. C is for cholesterol. Try to keep your LDL ("lousy" cholesterol) below 100; keep your HDL ("healthy" cholesterol") above 40 if you're a man and 50 if you're a woman.
  • Managing your diabetes by following a diabetes eating plan, exercising 30 to 60 minutes a day, stopping smoking, coping with stress, monitoring your blood sugar levels, and taking your medications as recommended by your doctor.
  • Getting routine care, including seeing your healthcare team at least twice a year and following guidelines for getting cholesterol, blood pressure, A1C and foot checks.

Patients play a crucial role in their own care once diagnosed with diabetes. Watch as Carole Radney, diabetes management coordinator at Coliseum Medical Centers, explains how patients can control their diabetes.

Clark Jensen
Administration Specialist
To manage your diabetes, you need to make healthy choices every day. You also need to know what to do when you have problems. Make healthy everyday choices:

Learn as much as you can about diabetes. Ask your doctor how to sign up for diabetes education. Diabetes education is a special class or one-on-one meeting to help you learn to manage your health.

See your doctor at least 2 times a year. You need regular health checkups. You also need a chance to talk about how your diabetes treatment is working.

Lose weight if you need to. You'll feel better, and you may need less medicine.

Don't smoke. Smoking can make the health problems that come with diabetes worse.

Help your family make healthy choices too. Diabetes tends to run in families. You can help your family stay healthy by exercising and eating healthy meals together.

Stick to your treatment plan. Your doctor or diabetes educator can help you learn to do these things:
  • Test your blood sugar. Use a meter. A healthy range before you eat is about 90 to 130 mg/dL. Your blood sugar should always be under 180 mg/dL.
  • Eat regular, healthy meals. Don't skip meals or eat too much at once. Eat mostly vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Eat less salt and fat, and fewer sweets. A personal meal plan from your diabetes educator or doctor can help you make good choices.
  • Take your medicine every day, the right way. You might have medicine for diabetes and for other health problems. Make sure you know what to take and when to take it.
  • Exercise every day. Try for at least 30 minutes of fast walking or other exercise. Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Dr. Jack Merendino, MD
Endocrinologist

Management of your diabetes needs to be supported by a good diet, enough exercise and proper medications. Addressing all three is the only way to achieve the best possible blood sugar control, stave off complications and increase the chances that you’ll live your best possible life. If you already have some complications, this program can help prevent them from progressing any further and, in some cases, can reverse the damage.

The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

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The Best Life Guide to Managing Diabetes and Pre-Diabetes

Bob Greene has helped millions of Americans become fit and healthy with his life-changing Best Life plan. Now, for the first time, Oprah's trusted expert on diet and fitness teams up with a leading...

Over time, high levels of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, can cause health problems. These problems include heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease, nerve damage, digestive problems, eye disease, and tooth and gum problems. You can help prevent health problems by keeping your blood glucose levels on target.

Everyone with diabetes needs to choose foods wisely and be physically active. If you can't reach your target blood glucose levels with wise food choices and physical activity, you may need diabetes medicines. The kind of medicine you take depends on your type of diabetes, your schedule, and your other health conditions.

Diabetes medicines help keep your blood glucose in your target range. The target range is suggested by diabetes experts and your doctor or diabetes educator.

This answer from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases has been reviewed and/or edited by Dr. William D. Knopf.

Successfully managing diabetes can be as simple as eating a healthy diet, exercising and managing one’s blood glucose levels. To help, eat more fiber, fruit, vegetables and whole grain foods, and avoid fried or fatty foods and excessive carbohydrates. Opt for water over soda and plan ahead to keep healthy snacks around instead of turning to vending machine snacks or fast food. Finally, watch your portion sizes and choose low-fat dairy options.

Drink in moderation, if at all. If you smoke, it's important to try to quit. Drinking and smoking can exacerbate the complications caused by diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends drinking no more than one drink per day (12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol, defined as 80­proof). Additionally, quitting smoking is the best thing you can do for your health. When diabetics smoke, it hinders their ability to regulate blood sugar levels and places them at a heightened risk for cardiovascular disease, kidney disease and failure, nerve damage and erectile dysfunction.

Stay upbeat. Every day millions of adults with diabetes enjoy full and active lives. Enlist your friends, family and partners in helping you reach your goals. Consider joining a support group to help you better understand what living with diabetes might mean for you. 

Successful diabetes management is a team effort. Your healthcare providers form a support team dedicated to your good health. Learn as much as you possibly can about diabetes and how it affects you. Ask all the questions you need to have answered and become your own advocate. Your provider, diabetes educator or dietitian can listen to your needs, help you meet your goals and provide you with information, but it is up to you to make the day-to-day choices and decisions.

Making wise food choices, adding physical activity to your daily routine, checking your blood glucose and taking medications are all important parts of diabetes care. Reaching your goals can help you feel well every day and can prevent or delay the long-term complications of diabetes.

Whether you have recently been diagnosed or have been living with diabetes for years, whether you have type 1 diabetes, type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes, your concerns are probably the same: to learn to live with diabetes, to maintain a high quality of life and to mesh the day-to-day management of diabetes into your routine. At first, the idea of trying to “master” the disease may seem overwhelming. Diabetes management can often be frustrating, even if you’re an old hand at it. The trick to living with diabetes is to take it one step at a time. Don’t try to do everything at once. Decide what goals are most important, and work on these first.

To manage your diabetes, you need to make healthy choices every day. You also need to know what to do when you have problems. Make healthy everyday choices:

  • Learn as much as you can about diabetes. Ask your doctor how to sign up for diabetes education. Diabetes education is a special class or one-on-one meeting to help you learn to manage your health.
  • See your doctor at least 2 times a year. You need regular health checkups. You also need a chance to talk about how your diabetes treatment is working.
  • Lose weight if you need to. You'll feel better, and you may need less medicine.
  • Don't smoke. Smoking can make the health problems that come with diabetes worse.
  • Help your family make healthy choices too. Diabetes tends to run in families. You can help your family stay healthy by exercising and eating healthy meals together.
  • Stick to your treatment plan. Your doctor or diabetes educator can help you learn to do these things:
    • Test your blood sugar. Use a meter. A healthy range before you eat is about 90 to 130 mg/dL. Your blood sugar should always be under 180 mg/dL.
    • Eat regular, healthy meals. Don't skip meals or eat too much at once. Eat mostly vegetables, whole grains, and fruits. Eat less salt and fat, and fewer sweets. A personal meal plan from your diabetes educator or doctor can help you make good choices.
    • Take your medicine every day, the right way. You might have medicine for diabetes and for other health problems. Make sure you know what to take and when to take it.
    • Exercise every day. Try for at least 30 minutes of fast walking or other exercise. Talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

There's a lot you can do to help manage your diabetes and lower your risk of complications. Being an active member of your diabetes treatment team will help ensure that your personal management plan reflects your needs—and it may also help you stay on track. Start by learning all you can about your condition; doing so will help you communicate with your healthcare team, understand test results, and make informed decisions about managing your diabetes.

There are many other things you can do as part of self-management:

  • Eat healthfully.
  • Be physically active.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Consider self-monitoring of your blood glucose. Self-monitoring (called SMBG) may help you better understand both how your blood sugar is affected by food, drink, exercise, or stress and what you can do to help manage it more effectively. Talk with your doctor about whether SMBG may be a good addition to your management plan and, if so, what monitoring schedule would be appropriate.
  • Brush and floss. Protect your teeth and gums from the effects of diabetes by brushing after every meal, flossing daily, and going to the dentist at least once a year.
  • Check your feet daily. Pamper your feet by gently washing, drying, and moisturizing, and check them for sores, blisters, or unusual redness. Let your doctor know if you find anything out of the ordinary.
  • If you smoke, try to quit.
  • Limit your alcohol if you drink—one drink a day if you're a woman, two drinks if you're a man.
  • Get regular checkups. That includes diabetes checkups (every 2-3 months) as well as yearly eye exams and dental appointments.
  • Monitor your medications. If you take medications, take them as prescribed, even if you feel fine. But if you notice any side effects or start feeling worse rather than better, contact a member of your healthcare team.
  • Look after your emotional health. Living with a chronic condition can be challenging, so if you feel overwhelmed or depressed, talk to a member of your healthcare team, a close friend, or a family member. You may also want to consider joining a support group for people living with type 2 diabetes.

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If you already have diabetes, managing the disease can lower your risk of complications such as kidney failure, heart disease and stroke, blindness, and amputations of legs and feet. Here are some important steps to take to control diabetes:

  • Talk to your healthcare provider about how to manage your blood glucose (A1C), blood pressure, and cholesterol.
  • Get a flu vaccine. For those with diabetes, it is important to ask for the "shot" version rather than the nasal spray. Talk to your health care provider about a pneumonia (pneumococcal) shot. People with diabetes are more likely to die from pneumonia or influenza than people who do not have diabetes.
  • Reach or stay at a healthy weight.
  • Make sure you're physically active. Plan for 2 hours and 30 minutes each week of moderate physical activity, such as walking quickly or gardening, or 1 hour and 15 minutes each week of vigorous physical activity, such as jogging or jumping rope. Add muscle strengthening activities on 2 or more days each week. Physical activity can help you control your weight, blood glucose and blood pressure, as well as raise your "good" cholesterol and lower your "bad" cholesterol.

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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.