5 Steps to Start Managing Diabetes

There’s much you can do to manage your diabetes and boost your chances of living a long, healthy life.

By
Health Monitor Staff

When you first bite into a turkey sandwich, you might not be thinking about what’s going on in your pancreas. But as someone with diabetes, that’s not a bad place to start! Eating usually prompts the pancreas to release insulin, a hormone that helps nutrients—in the form of glucose (blood sugar)—penetrate the body’s cells, where they act as fuel. But when you have diabetes, your pancreas either doesn’t make enough insulin (insulin deficiency), or your body can’t respond to the insulin it does make (insulin resistance). In either case, excess glucose remains in the bloodstream, which, over the course of several years, can damage tiny blood vessels in your eyes, kidneys and nerves.

The bright side? There’s a whole lot you can do to control the disease. Don’t worry; that doesn’t mean you have to overhaul your entire life overnight. Begin with these tweaks to your regular routine and work with your diabetes-management team to build your treatment plan from there.

1. Balance your meals
Fill your plate with non-starchy vegetables, like green beans and broccoli. Have smaller portions of starchy foods (such as bread, rice and pasta) and meats. 

Vegetarian? Eating gluten-free? No problem! Ask your diabetes educator or dietitian to help you create a diet that suits your dietary needs and preferences.

2. Get a move on
First, get your doctor’s OK to exercise. Then, if you’ve been inactive, get outside for just three 10-minute walks a week. Gradually lengthen your walks, then increase the number of walks you take each week!

Motivation problems? Sign up for a class that’s right for your fitness level or join a walking group with other people in your area.

3. Know your numbers
Low levels may mean you need something to eat, while levels that are too high may mean you need additional insulin. Aim for these target levels:

  • Before-meal: 70-130 mg/dl
  • After meal: 180 mg/dl or less
  • Hemoglobin AIC: less than 7 percent

4. Monitor your blood sugar
If you have diabetes, you probably already use a blood glucose meter. Make your finger pricks count! Keep a pad and pen handy to record the results so you—and your care team—can see how food, activity and stress affect your glucose.

Don’t let your numbers get you down! Your doctor or diabetes educator can help you understand what your results mean—and if a simple change can bring improvement.

5. Take your medications
When diet and exercise aren’t enough, a variety of diabetes treatments can help you keep blood sugar at a healthy level so you feel your best. For many people with type 2 diabetes, medication needs change over time. Don’t get discouraged if your doctor suggests you start insulin therapy or try a different kind of medication. Be open to fixes that really work!

Published
April 2013