Diabetes: Living Well and Staying Healthy

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In the final part of our three-part series, you’ll learn key strategies for managing type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes cannot be reversed and can eventually trigger serious health problems ranging from eye damage to cardiovascular disease. That’s why the preventive information outlined in parts 1 and 2 of this series is so critical.

“If you’re diagnosed with this chronic disease, don’t give up hope. There’s a lot you can do to manage diabetes, so you can feel your best and live fully,” says Janet Pachta, M.D., adult medicine provider at Martin’s Point Health Care.

The following strategies and steps all focus on one goal: Controlling your blood sugar levels so they stay in your target range.

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Start a lifestyle revolution.

Take it from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – the following changes can truly help fend off the health problems that typically come with diabetes:

  • Eat smart. You’ve heard it before, but it’s worth repeating. Add fruits and vegetables. Cut sugar and salt. Drink more water and fewer sugary drinks (soda, lemonade, sweet tea, hot chocolate).
    • Swap calorie-dense foods like French fries, burgers and doughnuts with healthier choices like roasted sweet potatoes, turkey or tuna sandwiches on whole wheat bread or wraps and berries.
    • Cut back on or eliminate alcohol. It’s also important to spread your intake of refined carbohydrates out over the day to keep blood sugar low. Learn more about healthy eating here.
  • Be active. There’s nothing like icy sidewalks, driving rain, or bone-chilling winds to challenge your good intentions to get and stay moving. So be ready. First, find one – better yet several – things you’ll look forward to. Walking, hiking, cycling, yoga, swimming, cross-country skiing, tennis, ultimate frisbee, golf (no cart!), dance and fitness classes are all great choices.

Second, have a plan for bad weather. Get clothing and footwear that keeps you comfortable in all conditions or be ready with indoor options at home or a local YMCA or gym.

“Over the phone, we’ll teach you exercises you can do in a chair for your arms and legs,” says You can also walk inside using your hallways, and use soup cans or water bottles for weights,” add Elaine Blackwood, RN, Chronic Care Case Manager at Martin’s Point.

  • Stop (or don’t start) smoking. This is an important way to slash your risk of heart disease and stroke.

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Monitor readings and keep in touch with your health care team.

  • Test your blood sugar regularly. Knowing what’s normal for you from day to day helps you keep blood sugar levels in hand. According to the American Diabetes Association, the goals are:
    • Before meals: 80 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) to 130 mg/dL.*
    • After meals: Less than 180 mg/dL 1 to 2 hours later.*
  • Take medications your doctor has prescribed according to his or her instructions.
  • Schedule medical appointments as recommended – and keep them. Monitoring your health is a team effort.
  • Talk with your doctor about your goal for A1C tests. This blood test provides a snapshot of your average blood sugar levels over the previous three months. Your target? Under 7%, says the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Disease.
  • Control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  • Keep a close eye on skin and feet. Diabetes can cause nerve damage the makes it hard to feel problems or minor injuries. Untreated, these issues can escalate into troubling infections. Your defense: Daily foot checks and wearing shoes and socks that fit right. More foot care tips.

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Don’t go it alone

If you’re frustrated or overwhelmed by the efforts of diabetes self-care, getting support can help keep you on track. Lean on friends, family, leaders from your church or faith, support groups – whatever works for you.

“Taking care of yourself is even more challenging if the stress of managing diabetes gets you down,” adds Dr. Pachta. “If you’re feeling depressed or struggling, talk with your health care provider and ask for help.”

“If you’re ready to make healthier choices and set goals, we can help,” says Blackwood, who leads a team that supports any member who would assistance managing a chronic disease like diabetes. “We’re here to listen and offer suggestions without judgement. We help you decrease complications and take steps toward feeling better.”

You can also sign up for the American Diabetes Association’s FREE one-year program, designed to help people adjust to and live well with diabetes. The program includes information packets, e-newsletters, Diabetes Forecast magazine and more.

Adding so many new components to your routine can be overwhelming. In that case, focus on the most important steps – most agree these are controlling your blood sugar and adding physical activity. With these key habits in place, you can work on adding the rest gradually. Every step you take counts!

*Pregnant women, please check with your doctor for recommended target levels.

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