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Ten Ways to Prevent Diabetes Complications

Part of the Diabetes For Canadians For Dummies Cheat Sheet

More than two-thirds of diabetes complications are avoidable when you undertake effective measures to keep your diabetes under control. Stay healthy and lead a full and active life by following these tips:

  • Learn for life. The more you know, the better your odds are of being healthy. Know what you should eat. Know how you should exercise. Know what your blood pressure is and what it should be, what your lipids are and what you are aiming for. Know what the best medicines are and how to safely and effectively use them.

  • Eat healthily. The most important point about a “diabetic diet” is that it is a healthy diet for anyone, with diabetes or without. A diabetes meal plan is a lifelong program of healthy, well-balanced eating. Follow a healthy diet designed by both you and your dietitian and you’ll have an excellent foundation in your plan for good health. Ignore proper nutrition and you’ll be destined to have poor glucose control; indeed, any and all blood glucose-lowering medications (including insulin) are much less effective without a proper diet.

  • Exercise regularly. It’s important to exercise daily (or at least most days of the week), for at least 25 minutes per day. Make exercise as much a part of your life as breathing. The key to success with exercise is finding the type you like and sticking with it; something as simple (and inexpensive) as a daily walk is highly therapeutic.

  • Cut out harmful habits. Smoking is bad enough for a person without diabetes, but if you have diabetes, smoking makes almost every complication more likely to occur. You place yourself at enormous risk of a heart attack, stroke, blindness, amputations . . . the list goes on and on. It’s also important to moderate your alcohol consumption: avoid drinking more than two (for women) or three (for men) units of alcohol a day.

  • Control your numbers. Most people with diabetes don’t know their own numbers, and as a result don’t know when they are above target and won’t know when they need to take corrective action. You need to monitor your blood glucose levels, cholesterol, blood pressure, and kidney function on a regular basis.

  • See your eye doctor. Don’t be misled into thinking that your vision has anything to do with the health of your eyes. Only a skilled eye professional can determine the true health of your eyes.

  • Fuss over your feet. Inspect your feet regularly. Having diabetes means that your feet are at risk of damage including ulcerations, infections, and even gangrene and, potentially, amputation. But these devastating complications are largely avoidable.

  • Master your medicines. Although no one wants to take medicines, you cannot underestimate their importance when it comes to managing your diabetes. These medicines can keep you healthy and even save your life. Most people with diabetes need to take medicines in order to optimize blood glucose, blood pressure, LDL cholesterol, and prevent heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, and pneumonia.

  • Help your doctor help you. Your doctor relies on you to work with her for the common goal of keeping you healthy. Work with your doctor by regularly attending appointments, sharing with your doctor how you are doing with your nutrition program and your exercise, what your blood glucose levels are, what your blood pressure is, if you are missing doses of your medicines or believe you’re having side effects from them, if you’re experiencing symptoms such as chest pain or shortness of breath, numbness or burning in your feet, and so on.

  • Don’t try to do it alone. While your doctor and many other healthcare professionals, including diabetes educators, dietitians, podiatrists, eye specialists, pharmacists, are available to help you, it’s important never to underestimate the importance of your family’s involvement. If someone else in the home does the cooking, take that person with you when you meet with the dietitian. Have family members learn how to help you if your blood glucose level is low. If you can’t inspect your own feet, ask a loved one to look for you.

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Diabetes For Canadians For Dummies Cheat Sheet

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