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.

Diabetes is a serious disease, affecting nearly 26 million Americans. Traditionally, people who were diagnosed with type 1 and 2 diabetes were prescribed medication, instructed to not 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 takes hard work and cooperation by the person affected. It’s also important for a person to work closely with their healthcare team because the kind of management used depends on the type of diabetes a person has.

Living a Healthy 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 one’s blood glucose levels within a safe range, and the only way to do this is through monitoring. Monitoring should not be considered a treatment but rather a tool that can be used to find out how a person is doing and make the needed day-to-day changes in diet and exercise as well as changes with medication to keep their blood glucose levels at a safe level.

Adopting a healthy eating plan: Eating right is essential to diabetes self-management because in addition to helping maintain normal blood glucose levels, it also can help 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. The main focus should be on meal and snack time planning, portion control and the types of food that is eaten.

Incorporating physical activity: Exercise has many benefits. It can help with lowering blood sugar levels and blood pressure, maintaining a healthy weight, improving cholesterol levels and reducing the 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. Learning various breathing and relaxation techniques may be the first step to dealing with diabetes-related stress. The American Diabetes Association suggests joining a support group where a person can learn from others hints for coping with problems. It’s very important to enlist the help of a doctor and/or therapist if a person’s stress is so severe they are feeling overwhelmed.

Taking medications: It may be necessary for a person to take oral medication or insulin by injection/pump to help keep their blood sugar levels within a normal range. Again, it’s very important to work closely with a healthcare professional to monitor how your medication affects your blood glucose levels.

Michigan State University Extension offers Disease Prevention and Management programs that focus on ways to manage diabetes. For more information, check out MSU Extension’s website on Diabetes

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