For most people with diabetes, their condition is a life-long journey of understanding what they need to do to keep their bodies as healthy as possible. The daily choices that a person makes can have a significant impact on how they feel.
There are the necessary things that have to be done daily, including monitoring your glucose levels to ensure that they stay in range and taking your medications, but there are other things that you can do to improve your health as well.
Here are five positive changes that people with diabetes can make in their lives to manage their symptoms and reduce their chances of complications.
1. Be More Physically Active
Exercise is good for everyone regardless of their age, but it is especially important for people with diabetes. The exercise doesn’t have to be overly strenuous, but it should elevate your heart rate and pump your blood.
Recent studies have shown that as little as 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day, five days a week, can reduce A1C levels by .03 to .06 points. This type of exercise can include things like:
In addition to aerobic exercise, it is important to ensure that you are not sitting in the same spot for long periods. If you have a job that requires you to sit at your desk, make sure that you get up and stretch or move around for a few minutes every 30-45 minutes.
You can also add in some light strength training which helps your body bulls muscle. Muscle is essential in helping your body learn to burn sugar for fuel which can further help lower blood sugar levels, increase insulin sensitivity, and lower your risk for cardiovascular disease.
Watch Your Weight
While you’re exercising, it is also important to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet consisting of proteins, fiber, and vegetables. Combined with frequent healthy exercise, a healthy diet can help you lose weight, lower your blood sugar, and lower your blood pressure.
According to the American Diabetes Association, losing 7-10% of their body weight reduces the risk of developing diabetes by 60% for people with prediabetes.
2. Get Regular Check-Ups and Keep Your Doctor’s Appointments
While this may seem self-explanatory, getting regular check-ups can help your doctor track what is normal for you. This helps them easily identify when something may be wrong and it can help them catch complications early.
People with diabetes should schedule appointments to see their primary care doctor at least twice a year and their podiatrist once a year.
Know the ABCs of Managing Diabetes
Your doctor will recommend getting bloodwork done at least once a year to measure your general lab work. Depending on the severity of your diabetes, they may also ask you to get your A1C checked on a more regular basis in addition to your daily glucose monitoring.
Although your doctor will keep track of your levels, it is beneficial for you to keep a record of them as well. The things to keep an eye on are your:
- Hemoglobin A1C
- Blood pressure
3. Be Mindful of Your Food Choices
Being mindful of the foods that you eat is critical when you have diabetes. Everything that you eat will have some effect on your body and the way that it affects your blood sugar levels.
While you don’t have to completely cut any food group out of your diet, you should know how much sugar, fats, and carbs you are regularly eating. These foods should be an occasional treat rather than a part of your everyday diet.
Instead of focusing on vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, dairy products, and the occasional fruits, your body will feel better and maintain its sugar levels better.
It is also beneficial to always eat around the same amount of carbs from meal to meal. This is because carbohydrates become sugar, and by having a high variance in the number of carbs that you eat regularly, you could cause your blood sugar to crash or severely elevate.
If you are unsure of what you should be eating or you don’t know what changes you need to make to your diet, consult your medical health provider for advice.
Lower Your Alcohol Intake
The best thing that a person with diabetes can do is not drink alcohol. That is not always possible, however, so if you choose to imbibe, it is important to drink in small amounts.
One of the main reasons that alcohol is so bad for people with diabetes is that it can cause your blood sugar to become too high or too low, depending on the medication that you are on. It is important to check your blood sugar before you drink, between drinks, and after you finish drinking to ensure that it is stable.
Drinking alcohol forces your liver into overtime. Because it is focused on removing the alcohol from your system, it does not work as efficiently as it should in trying to regulate your sugar levels.
Finally, drinking too much alcohol can lead to being drunk, impairing your ability to think clearly, disorientation, and sleepiness. It may cause you to forget to take life-saving medication.
4. Quit Smoking
Smoking is not healthy for anyone, regardless of their overall healthiness and level of activity. For people with diabetes, though, it can be even more deadly.
The chances of developing the potential complications that diabetes can cause are doubled when you smoke. These complications include:
- Heart disease
- High blood pressure
- Vision loss and other eye diseases
- Nerve damage and eventual neuropathy
- Kidney damage
- Vascular damage can lead to poor blood flow, which can cause infections
In addition to all of these complications, smoking also causes your blood sugar levels to fluctuate, which is extremely dangerous for people with diabetes.
5. Learn How to Manage Your Stress Levels
Stress is often called the silent killer because of the chronic damage that it can cause throughout your body. Frequently high-stress levels can perpetually cause your body to engage in a “fight or flight” response.
This causes your blood sugar to spike and can cause your glucose levels to elevate. At the same time, chronic stress can lead to anxiety disorders and other mental health conditions that can cause you to not take care of yourself as well as you should.
It may cause you to stop eating healthy, stop exercising, disrupt your sleep patterns, and in some cases, may even cause you to become forgetful enough that you don’t take your medicines.
Reducing stress is important for your overall well-being. The way that people relieve their stress is different for everyone, but some common stress relievers are:
- Deep breathing techniques
- Finding new hobbies
- Engaging in existing hobbies
- Spending time with friends or family
- Reading a book or watching a movie
Regardless of how you choose to relax, it is important to take time for yourself to keep yourself healthy and happy.