Four Steps to Controlling and Living Well With Diabetes
By: Jean Gartner, director of Clinic and Home Care Services, LIFE Butler County
November is National Diabetes Month, which means it is a great time to take a look at what you can do to live well with diabetes.
Diabetes occurs in people of all ages, and is more common in older adults. Nearly 30 million people in the United States are living with diabetes. That’s more than nine percent of the population.
Diabetes can lead to serious health problems if it goes untreated or is poorly managed. And while there is no cure for diabetes, you can manage it and stay healthy.
The National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) has outlined four key steps to help people living with diabetes understand, monitor and manage their conditions and live a long, healthy and active life.
STEP 1: Learn about diabetes – When you have diabetes, your body cannot properly use and store glucose (a form of sugar). The glucose builds up in the bloodstream causing high blood glucose (sometimes referred to as high blood sugar). There are two main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes most often occurs in children and young adults. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not make insulin. People with type 1 diabetes must take insulin every day to live. Only five percent of people with diabetes have this type.
- Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. With type 2, the body does not use insulin properly and eventually stops making it. It may be treated by a combination of medications, diet and exercise.
STEP 2: Know your diabetes ABCs (A1C, Blood Pressure and Cholesterol) – Talk to your physician about the best ways to manage your A1C (blood glucose or blood sugar), blood pressure and cholesterol. Set goals for the levels of your ABCs. Ask for specific ideas and tips to help you reach those goals. Your ABC goals will depend on how long you have had diabetes, other health problems and how hard your diabetes is to manage.
- A is for A1C. A test that shows what your blood glucose is over a three month span. Your physician can give you an A1C target level that is right for you.
- B is for Blood Pressure. The goal for most diabetics is a measure below 140/90. High blood pressure makes your heart work too hard. It can lead to a heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.
- C is for Cholesterol. Cholesterol is a fatty material that is found in foods and made by your body. LDL, or bad cholesterol, can build up and clog blood vessels, which can cause a heart attack or a stroke. HDL, or good cholesterol, helps remove cholesterol from your blood vessels.
STEP 3: Learn to live with diabetes – Balancing a healthy diet with an active lifestyle and medicine (if prescribed) will help you take charge of your diabetes and live a much healthier life. Here are a few key tips to help you control your diabetes:
- Cope with your diabetes. Stress can raise your blood sugar. Try deep breathing, gardening, taking a walk, meditating or listening to your favorite music to lower your stress levels.
- Eat well. Choose foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and salt.
- Be active. Set a goal to be more active most days of the week. Walking every day, if you are able, can be a good first step.
- Know what to do every day. Take your medicines for diabetes, and any other health conditions, even when you feel good. Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters and swelling. Track your blood sugar numbers in a journal every day.
- Talk with your healthcare team. Ask questions and report any changes in your health.
STEP 4: Get routine care to stay healthy – Managing diabetes is worth it! After all, it can help you live a longer, healthier and more active life.