Exploring diabetes: Part three – Managing diabetes

Find out how diet, exercise, medication and working with your healthcare team can help you, or someone you love, live longer and reduce the risks of some of the complications associated with diabetes.

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Photo: Pexels/Artem Podrez.

This is part of an article series on diabetes. Part one can be viewed here, and part two can be viewed here.

Diabetes is a serious disease, affecting over 37 million Americans. Traditionally, people who were diagnosed with Type 1 and 2 diabetes were prescribed medication, instructed not to eat foods containing sugar and sent on their way.

Today, we know that people with this disease can live longer and reduce their risk of some of the complications associated with diabetes, but it often requires lifestyle changes and working closely with the person’s healthcare team because the kind of management used depends on the type of diabetes a person has.

Living a Health Life with Chronic Conditions offers the following recommendations that focus on the management of diabetes:

  • Monitoring blood glucose. One of the first goals in managing diabetes is keeping blood glucose levels within a safe range, and the only way to do this is through monitoring. Monitoring is a tool used to find out where your numbers are and what day-to-day changes are occurring with the combination of a healthier diet, exercise and/or medication.
  • Preventing dehydration. People with diabetes may have issues with dehydration, which is not having enough fluids in the body. Symptoms may include infrequent urination, dry mouth, dizziness when standing and/or nausea. Drinking water and non-sugary fluids throughout the day can help prevent this problem. It’s important to talk with a health provider to make sure you are keeping properly hydrated.   
  • Adopting a healthy eating plan. Eating healthier is essential to diabetes self-management because in addition to helping maintain normal blood glucose levels, it can also improve a person’s blood pressure, cholesterol levels and overall health. The good news is that you do not have to go hungry, eat “special foods” or give up your favorite foods if you have diabetes. Small changes like meal and snack time planning, portion control and watching fat/carbohydrate intake, can help to make a positive impact.
  • Incorporating physical activity. Exercise has many benefits. It can help you lower your blood sugar levels and blood pressure, maintain a healthy weight, improve cholesterol levels, and reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke. Physical activity also helps a person with diabetes use their insulin better. The goal most people should work towards is mild to moderate aerobic exercise 150 minutes a week.
  • Dealing with stress and emotions. Feelings associated with anger, frustration and fear of the unknown are normal for those dealing with diabetes. The American Diabetes Association provides ideas on how to deal with the daily burdens associated with this disease. Make sure to consult with your doctor, or a trained counselor, if negative thoughts and emotions are interfering with your everyday life.
  • Managing sick days, infections and other illnesses: When a person with diabetes gets sick, their blood sugar levels can be affected. Planning for sick days, knowing what to do when you get sick, as well as when you should seek medical attention, are important things to discuss with your healthcare team.
  • Taking medications. It may be necessary for a person to take oral medication or insulin by injection or pump to help keep their blood sugar levels within a normal range. Again, it is very important to work closely with a healthcare professional to monitor how your medication affects your blood glucose levels.
  • Getting the necessary tests, exams and immunizations. People with diabetes are at a higher risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, gum disease and amputation, so regular checkups with your doctor and dentist and keeping up to date on your immunizations are essential to good health.
  • Wearing a medical alert necklace or bracelet. Finally, wearing a medical alert necklace or bracelet and/or carrying an emergency card in your wallet is recommended for those who have diabetes.

MSU Extension offers a variety of resources and programs that focus on diabetes management. For more information, visit MSU Extension’s Diabetes website.

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