Tips for Living with Diabetes to Mark American Diabetes Month
Diabetes is one of America’s fastest growing diseases. During American Diabetes Month, observed in November, Broward College Nursing Professor Jennifer Lunny is offering tips on successfully living with and managing diabetes.
“I have experienced Type 1 diabetes for 45 years, and the management of this disease affects each area of my daily life,” said Lunny. “The good news is nearly all of this is positive and not restrictive. Despite this being a tough disease, it can also be a blessing in disguise since it causes such a healthy focus on lifestyle, diet and exercise.” Here are five tips on individuals managing diabetes:
- Obtain a Flu Shot. Diabetics are more likely to get a cold or other illness, so it is advised you get a flu shot. Any illness can make diabetes more difficult to control, and people with diabetes who do get the flu are more likely than others to experience other complications.
- Keep Active to Prevent Complications. Regular physical activity is important and critical to managing diabetes. When you are active, your cells become more sensitive to insulin, so they work more efficiently. Your cells also remove glucose from the blood during exercise. Other benefits of physical activity include, but are not limited to, lowering risk of heart disease, reducing or maintaining your weight, strengthening your heart, muscles and bones, and sleeping better.
- Check Your Blood Sugar Often. The Hemoglobin A1C blood test measures your average blood glucose for the past 2 to 3 months, and therefore, gives you a good idea of how well your diabetes treatment plan is working. Diabetes is diagnosed at an AIC value of greater than or equal to 6.5 percent. The American Diabetes Association suggests that people experiencing diabetes attempt to achieve an AIC value of 7 percent; however, a more or less rigid glycemic control may be appropriate for you.
- Prevent Low Blood Glucose Readings. Symptoms happen quickly when your blood glucose is low. Your reaction to hypoglycemia can be different from other people’s reaction. It is important that you learn your own signs and symptoms. The only sure way to know that you are experiencing hypoglycemia is to check your blood glucose. It is also important to educate others that spend time with you about the signs and symptoms of low blood sugar. If you are unable to check your blood glucose, treat the hypoglycemia with 15-20 grams of simple carbohydrates (i.e., ½ cup of juice or regular soda). Usually, there is no reason to consume any more than this to restore blood glucose to an acceptable level. Severe hypoglycemia has the potential to cause accidents, injuries, coma and death.
- Make Healthy Food Choices. Knowing what to eat can be confusing. A healthy meal plan for people with diabetes is generally the same as a healthy diet for anyone — low in saturated and trans-fat, moderate in salt and sugar, and focused on meals based on lean protein, non-starchy vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and fruit with portion size and frequency being key. Be careful, as “dietetic” or diabetic foods generally offer no special benefit, cost more, contain carbohydrates and cause a laxative effect if they contain sugar alcohols. Sweets are not “off limits” to people with diabetes. The key is to have a very small portion and save them for special occasions.