The fourth Tuesday in March, March 27th, is American Diabetes Alert Day. Sponsored by the American Diabetes Association (ADA), this special day is a chance for people all around the world to find out what their risk is for developing this debilitating disease.
Though diabetes cannot be cured, it can be controlled. With the right meal plan, regular exercise, and medications, anyone can, not only prevent or delay health the chronic complications associated with diabetes, they can increase their chances of living a long, healthy life. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to even greater health risks including heart and kidney failure. In some instances it can cause complications with pregnancy, blindness, or the amputation of limbs. In recent years, diabetes has been ranked as the 6th leading cause of death in the United States.
People living with diabetes play an important part in self-managing their disease through proper nutrition, lifestyle adjustments, medication management and follow-up care. It is important that they become informed and continue to learn how to maintain and improve their health.
With over ten years of experience in diabetes management and education, VNA HealthCare's Comalita Elliott, RN, BSN, CDE – a Certified Diabetes Educator provides tips to help you manage diabetes and avoid the serious complications related to your disease.
Test Your Blood Glucose Level Regularly
An important part of managing diabetes is checking and recording your blood glucose levels daily at different times of the day. Blood glucose levels are affected by what and how much you eat, how physically active you are, what medication you take, and whether you’re sick or under stress.
Checking your blood glucose is especially important if you are recently diagnosed with diabetes or when you have trouble keeping your blood glucose in control. Your doctor may also periodically give you an A1C test to check the average amount of glucose that’s been in your blood for the previous two or three months. This test is another measure of whether your blood glucose is in control.
Take Control of Your Nutrition
A healthy meal plan plays an essential part in helping you avoid high and low blood glucose levels throughout the day, reducing your risk for health problems such as heart disease and stroke, and helping to prevent, delay or manage diabetes-related complications. Seeing a registered dietitian every one to two years can help you plan a meal plan that is right for you diet, which can go a long way toward achieving good glycemic control.
You may be asked to keep a food diary, listing what, how much, when you eat and when you take your medications. This information helps your diabetes care team adjust your meal plan, physical activity or medications to keep your blood glucose in good control.
Regular exercise can help reduce stress, help control blood glucose levels, decrease the risk of heart disease, help you lose weight, and boost your immune system. Always inform your health care professional before beginning any exercise program, so they can assist you in terms of making any possible adjustments to your medicine or meal plan if necessary. Remember, it is important to check your sugars prior to and after vigorous exercise.
Be sure to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep to help prevent your immune system from getting run down. Recent studies indicate that there is a direct correlation between sleep and blood sugar control. In fact, the amount of sleep (sleep quantity) and sleep quality can vastly assist in improving blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes.
Managing your diabetes is a team approach. Your core diabetes team begins with you, the patient, and should also include: a physician, a nurse diabetes educator, a registered dietitian, an ophthalmologist, a podiatrist and a dentist. If you see a specialist, such as an endocrinologist for your diabetes care, you should have both an endocrinologist and a primary care provider. If you use diabetes medications, you should also have a pharmacist.
VNA HealthCare’s Comalita Elliot, RN, BSN, CDE is a Certified Diabetes Educator with over ten years of experience in diabetes management and education based on current best practice standards. She provides consultative services for Complex Type 1 and 2 diabetes.