Managing Type 2 Diabetes: Taking Care of Yourself
Making yourself a priority is one of the best steps toward taking care of your diabetes. Yes, you are a priority. After all, only you can manage your diabetes. It’s not your endocrinologist or your wife or your son who is dealing with diabetes every day. It’s you.
Feel better most days
Start taking care of your diabetes so you can feel better most days. Perhaps leading up to your diagnosis of diabetes, you didn’t feel so great. You may have gained weight. Or you may have had symptoms of diabetes such as dehydration and blurry vision. Perhaps you were more irritable and out-of-sorts than usual.
In some ways, it may have felt like a relief to discover a cause for these issues. In other ways, it may have felt scary to find out that diabetes was the answer.
The good news is that you can feel great living with type 2 diabetes most days. Not every day is going to be a home run, but most days can be base hits. That’s because taking care of yourself and managing your diabetes can positively impact your daily life.
Keeping your blood glucose on target can improve your mood and give you more energy. High blood glucose happens when you have undiagnosed diabetes or when your blood glucose is not on target (see Chapter 1 for more about blood glucose). High blood glucose can make you feel tired, irritable, and thirsty. It may cause you to urinate a lot or blur your vision. Keeping your blood glucose on target with an A1C below 7 percent will reduce the chances of these symptoms.
Two ways to keep your blood glucose on target are to eat healthy foods and exercise regularly.
Exercise in and of itself is a mood booster. It can reduce stress, lessen symptoms of depression, and release those amazing brain chemicals called endorphins, which make you feel good. So even though you may be exercising to help manage your diabetes, you’ll have the bonus effect of improving your mood on a daily basis.
Reduce the risk of complications
In the long term, untreated diabetes can really take a toll on your body. Why? It goes back to that issue of high blood glucose we talk about in Chapter 1. With diabetes, glucose gets trapped in the blood because it can’t get inside cells to provide energy. When glucose builds up in blood vessels, it creates a recipe for disaster.
High blood glucose damages blood vessels. People with diabetes also have an increased risk of high blood pressure, which can make things worse; blood vessels can’t pump enough blood or nutrients to all the parts of your body, and they can die or become clogged.
Blood vessels are everywhere in your body. They’re in your heart, eyes, toes, penis or vagina, intestines, and brain. High blood glucose affects all these blood vessels. It is an equal-opportunity blood vessel destroyer.
Blood vessel problems fall into two categories:
- Microvascular: Your small blood vessels. Complications can include the following:
- Damage to small blood vessels in your eyes: This can lead to ruptures and unhealthy regrowth, which can cause vision impairment or blindness.
- Damage to small blood vessels in your kidneys: This affects their ability to filter. And overworked vessels can lead to kidney failure.
- Damage to capillaries throughout your body: This could affect how quickly wounds heal.
- Macrovascular: Your large blood vessels. Complications can include the following:
- Damage to the large blood vessels in your heart: This can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, and death.
- Damage to large blood vessels in your brain: This can cause strokes and death.
- Damage to large blood vessels in your legs: This causes peripheral artery disease, a painful condition that makes moving painful.
Now it’s easy to understand why diabetes affects so many parts of your body. Uncontrolled blood glucose increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, nerve loss, and even amputation.
Keeping your blood vessels healthy is one of the holy grails of managing your diabetes. It may not sound exciting: “I took a bike ride today and improved my blood vessels.” But it’s why it’s important to take care of yourself and manage your blood glucose and diabetes.
The UK Prospective Diabetes Study showed that improving blood glucose and/or blood pressure reduced complications of type 2 diabetes. In this 20-year landmark study, scientists learned that complications were not inevitable for people with type 2 diabetes.
Healthy pregnancy, healthy baby
Taking care of your diabetes is important if you’re thinking about becoming pregnant. Try to get your blood glucose under control before you become pregnant and avoid an unplanned pregnancy if you have type 2 diabetes.
Before you become pregnant, try to lose weight if you need to, and get active. Make sure your A1C is within your target range. Talk to your doctor about your plans and make sure you’ve had a complete checkup, including a dilated eye exam. Eye disease can progress rapidly during pregnancy for some women. All these steps will set you up for success once you conceive.
High blood glucose can harm your baby during the first few weeks after conception, even if you don’t know you’re pregnant yet. It can cause birth defects in the developing baby such as heart or brain problems.
During your pregnancy, you may need to take medications such as insulin to manage your blood glucose. You may also need to adjust the foods you eat. Your hormone levels change during pregnancy, and they can affect your blood glucose, so you may need to revamp your regimen. Keeping your blood glucose under control will help you prevent complications such as preeclampsia (involving high blood pressure) or having a large baby with injuries during birth.
Taking care of your blood glucose during your pregnancy (and before) will help keep you and your baby healthy.