Living Well with Diabetes: The 7 Pillars of Diabetes Management
Eating for health and happiness and reaping the rewards of fitness should be a lifelong commitment through all ages and stages of life. The following discussion covers these and the other pillars of diabetes management.
Eating a healthy diet
Food should be a positive part of creating and maintaining health, and it should be something to enjoy and savor too! Choose the foods that promote health and wellness: colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, lean proteins, fish, vegetarian protein alternatives, heart-healthy fats, and dairy foods (or nondairy substitutes).
If you eat wholesome foods in appropriate portions, you’ll have the right recipe for health. This book provides you with a deeper understanding of how food choices affect your diabetes, weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and cardiovascular health.
If you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, it’s time to go gluten-free all the way.
Staying fit with exercise
Exercise has long been recognized as a foundation therapy in the treatment of type 2 diabetes. If you have prediabetes, exercise coupled with moderate weight loss has been shown to prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.
Everyone can cash in on multiple health benefits related to physical fitness. Exercise helps with weight control, improves blood pressure and cholesterol, strengthens bones and improves circulation, relieves stress, and improves sleep. No one comes back from an exercise session saying, “I wish I hadn’t done that!” On the contrary, most people feel better and actually think, “I’m so glad I did that! I’ll have to do that more often!”
If you aren’t currently engaged in regular exercise, start by building more activity into your usual day. Don’t sit for hours on end. Get up and move around. You can decide whether you move for one minute or for ten minutes. The first step is simply taking the first step. Walk while talking on your mobile phone. Do leg lifts and use hand weights while watching television. Put on some music and dance in your living room. Join an exercise class or a water aerobics group.
Taking your medication
People with type 1 diabetes rely on insulin for life. Prior to 1921 when insulin was first discovered and made available for use, type 1 diabetes was a fatal disease. Insulin is essential for transporting glucose (fuel) into cells. Take all insulin doses as prescribed. Insulin omission can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, which is a potentially life-threatening condition.
Insulin isn’t just for treating type 1 diabetes; many people with type 2 diabetes use insulin to manage their diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is a state of insulin resistance and oftentimes a concurrent deficiency in insulin production. When diet and exercise fail to adequately control glucose levels, medications are required. There are several classes of diabetes medications. Some stimulate insulin production, while others improve the way insulin works. Medications can decrease the amount of glucose released by the liver, increase the amount of glucose excreted in the urine, or delay the digestion of glucose. Whether it takes one medication or multiple medications, the goal is blood-glucose control because that’s how you prevent complications.
Some people struggle with medication adherence. It may be due to the number of medications prescribed or the dosing schedule. Pill caddies that separate morning and evening doses assist with remembering meds. Another reason for missing meds is simply a lack of perceived benefit. Many people with diabetes feel fine. Feeling good is important, but knowing your ABCs is important. That means know your A1C, Blood pressure, and Cholesterol results. Those numbers are a window into what is happening in your body.
There is no denying that well-controlled diabetes and cardiovascular health have big payoffs. If you wait until you feel bad before you decide to adhere to the medication regimen prescribed, you might wait too long. Discuss any side effects with your provider. Your doctor can decide whether a different dose or a different medication would be more appropriate.
Monitoring your blood-glucose levels
Home blood-glucose monitors are amazing little machines. Apply a tiny droplet of blood, and within five seconds, you know the result. Glucose meters have been available for home use only since the 1980s. In the scope of things, that’s a relatively short period of time. Prior to glucose monitoring, people with diabetes checked their urine glucose levels, which was a grossly inaccurate way to attempt to evaluate blood-glucose levels. Back in the diabetes “dark ages,” people didn’t have the tools and technologies to safely manage diabetes, so some people developed complications.
Monitoring your blood glucose and knowing how to respond to those numbers can greatly reduce the risks of diabetes-related complications. Ask your healthcare provider how often you should check and what your targets are. Keep records and share the results with your diabetes team. Diabetes management decisions are based on glucose results. When your numbers aren’t in target ranges, don’t get discouraged. There’s no such thing as good numbers or bad numbers. All numbers are useful. Managing diabetes is somewhat like solving a puzzle; each and every piece of the puzzle is important.
Most people encounter stressful situations from time to time. Finding healthy ways to cope with stress before small problems fester, grow, and get out of hand is important. If stress goes unchecked, it can contribute to anxiety, low mood, a feeling of hopelessness, or depression. Chronic conditions such as diabetes can contribute to stress and may have an additive effect to life’s other challenges. Talking about it helps. Confide in friends, family, support groups, and your diabetes healthcare team.
Physical activity is a wonderful outlet. Exercise increases natural chemicals that improve mood. Hobbies, arts, crafts, volunteer work, and faith-based gatherings are other positive ways to relieve pressure and boost mood. When you’re feeling blue, think about some of your favorite people and your best memories. Keep the self-talk in your head positive. Don’t focus on your shortcomings; recount your successes instead.
If you can’t shake the funk and the stress is preventing you from taking care of yourself, seek the help of a mental-health specialist.
Discovering how to problem-solve
Part of diabetes self-management is understanding how to assess a situation and decide the best course of action. Understanding cause and effect allows you to make adjustments to steer outcomes in the direction you desire. When something goes awry, reflect carefully on the chain of events that led up to the issue. If you can decipher the cause, you can formulate a solution. Over time you gain experience, which makes it easier to predict outcomes and make adjustments to your diabetes care. Your diabetes team can help you learn how to make informed decisions. There will still be things that happen unexpectedly from time to time because that’s just how life is. You can’t plan for all scenarios, but you can be prepared for most.
Problem-solving means reflecting and trying to figure out why things didn’t go as planned. Formulate a new plan or make adjustments to the old plan. Execute your plan, pay attention, and see whether things improve.
Reducing risk with healthy behaviors and regular medical checkups
Taking care of your diabetes is an investment in your future health and quality of life. Diabetes complications are preventable. Follow these guidelines:
- Eat right and exercise.
- Don’t smoke. Smokers are more likely to develop serious diabetes-related complications.
- Limit alcohol. Alcohol can cause profound hypoglycemia for some people with diabetes.
- Stay up to date on medical visits and health screenings.
- Get a handle on hypertension. High blood pressure increases the risk of health problems because it can damage small and large blood vessels.
- Have the necessary bloodwork needed to monitor diabetes, heart health, and other medical conditions.
- See your doctor regularly (every three months or as your doctor advises).
- Get your flu shot and have your eyes and kidneys checked annually.
- Keeping healthy will keep you happy, so show your smile to your dentist at least every six months.