Every November, National Diabetes Month is observed so organizations, health care professionals, individuals and communities all over the nation can bring awareness to diabetes and how it impacts millions of people in the U.S. This year, the theme is Managing Diabetes — It’s Not Easy, But It’s Worth It.
Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of individuals all over the world. In fact, the American Diabetes Association reports that in 2015 alone, nearly 10 percent (or more than 30 million people) of the U.S. population had diabetes and more than 84 million had prediabetes.
When it’s not controlled, it can cause:
- Kidney failure
- Heart disease
- Other serious ailments
The key to proper management of diabetes is keeping your blood sugar under control. Living with diabetes can often feel like your stabilizing your blood sugar every hour — sometimes even by the minute. The medications and recommendations you’ve been given by your healthcare team as part of your treatment plan for your diabetes are intended to assist you in reaching and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels.
Balancing Your High and Low Blood Sugar
No matter how much effort you put into keeping your blood sugar at a healthy range, sometimes it’s still at a range that’s either too low or too high. High blood sugar typically comes on gradually when your body doesn’t have enough insulin. It can occur when you eat too much, miss your diabetes medication or aren’t physically active enough.
In some cases, it may be the other medications you’re taking for another problem that’s causing your high blood sugar. Because of this, be sure to let your physician know about any other medications you’re taking.
If you let your blood sugar get too low, which is typically below 70 milligrams for most people, it can cause hypoglycemia. A low blood sugar reaction can hit you quickly.
In its mild to moderate forms, low blood sugar can leave you feeling:
- Disoriented or confused
- Vision that’s blurry
In severe forms of hypoglycemia, you can:
- Have seizures
- Become unconscious
Low blood sugar reactions can occur when you miss a meal, take too much insulin, drink too much alcohol or exercise too much. Certain medications can also cause your blood sugar to drop.
Ten Ways to Treat and Prevent Diabetes
Fortunately, diabetes is a condition that you can manage. Below are 10 things you can do to help you control the disease or potentially prevent it.
1. Get More Physical Activity
Regular physical activity provides you with many benefits. It can help you:
- Lower your blood sugar.
- Lose weight.
- Keep your blood sugar at a healthy range by boosting your insulin sensitivity.
You’ll benefit most from a fitness program that includes both resistance training and aerobic exercise since they can help control diabetes.
2. Cut Refined Carbs and Sugar From Your Diet
Consuming foods that are loaded with refined carbs and sugar put you at risk of developing diabetes. Your body breaks these foods down quickly into small sugar molecules that your bloodstream absorbs. A rise in your blood sugar results and stimulates your pancreas to make more insulin.
3. Get Sufficient Sleep
4. Avoid Processed Food
Foods like fish, vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts and meat will help you stay clear of refined carbs, trans fats and added sugars, which can increase your risk of diabetes and promote unhealthy weight gain.
5. Lose Weight
When you’re overweight, losing even a few pounds can help stabilize your blood sugar better. For individuals with diabetes, losing up to five to 10 percent of your body weight can make a significant difference in controlling their diabetes or your need for medicine.
6. Drink Mostly Water
Water is the best natural beverage you should be drinking. When you stick with water mostly, it can help you stay away from drinks that are high in preservatives, sugar and other ingredients that are questionable.
7. Quit Smoking
You may already know that smoking contributes to many health problems like cancers of the breast, lungs, digestive tract and prostate, emphysema and heart disease. However, research is now even associating both smoking and second-hand smoke to diabetes.
8. Watch Portion Sizes
Whether you’re following a low-carb diet or not, you still need to cut back on your food portions to reduce your diabetes risk, particularly if you’re overweight. When you eat too much food in one sitting, it can cause higher insulin levels and blood sugar in individuals who are already at a risk of diabetes.
9. Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
This essential vitamin is needed for controlling your blood sugar and when you’re not getting enough or if you have low blood sugar, it increases your risk of diabetes.
10. Enjoy an Occasional Glass of Wine or Beer
The key here is occasional and only one drink for women a day and two for men per day, and only if your physician approves. One study revealed that moderate levels of alcohol consumption in women may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. It’s important to note that among other tips, people with diabetes and who drink should not do so on an empty stomach or when their blood sugar is low. If they decide to drink alcohol, they should choose “light” beverages and avoid mixed drinks and prepared cocktails. They should also sip their drink.
Find a Doctor to Help Manage your Diabetes
Since diabetes affects your blood sugar levels and requires treatment, lifestyle changes and monitoring, you’ll need to know which doctor(s) can help you treat your diabetes and make the process go easier. Below are some types of doctors that could aid you in your diabetes treatment plan.
General Family Practitioner
A general care doctor often assists in the diabetes treatment of people. You should have check-ups once every few months.
Endocrinologists (Diabetes Specialist)
Endocrinologists are the most common specialists in the diabetes field. They specialize in your body’s glands and the hormones that your glands produce. When managing diabetes, your pancreas is a gland that’s of concern. It generates insulin which turns around and helps to regulate your blood sugar. When you have diabetes, this insulin either doesn’t work properly or isn’t produced.
Your mostly under an endocrinologist’s care when you have Type 1 diabetes. With Type 2 diabetes, you’ll also need to be under an endocrinologist’s care if you have fluctuating blood sugar levels.
You’ll need to see this specialist when your diabetes has caused eye damage or blindness. You should have regular eye doctor checkups since diabetes can affect your eyes.
In many cases of diabetes, individuals can develop eye problems like:
The ophthalmologist will check for eye disorder symptoms regularly so they can either prevent them or give you treatment quickly.
A dietitian will help you balance your diet to meet your diabetic nutrition requirements. They’ll teach you the role of fats, proteins and carbohydrates. They’ll also discuss things like:
- Helping children with diabetes
- Ways you can successfully manage your blood sugar
- Best way to manage your portions
- Plan your meals to manage your blood sugar
Additionally, dietitians can help provide you with self-management skills like:
- Administering injections
- Testing your blood glucose
- Managing low or high blood sugar
It will also benefit you to see a podiatrist regularly since diabetes can damage the nerves in your feet and legs if not controlled properly. Damaged feet and leg nerves may cause sensory diabetic neuropathy where you’re unable to feel cold, heat or pain.
Diabetics also have a higher risk of gum disease. You can prevent gum disease with proper dental hygiene. Visiting the dentist regularly will help manage the health of your gums and decide on an improved or new treatment plan.
While your general care physician will do as much as they can to help you treat your diabetes, there will be times where you may have to see another specialist. It’s a good idea to have regular checkups with different specialists and your primary physician can give you a referral to any specialist they feel will help improve your treatment plan.