Diabetes Management

Diabetes: 10 ways to stay healthy

Diabetes care is a lifelong responsibility, and it’s up to you to take the initiative!  If you adopt healthy habits now, you can help prevent or minimize complications.

1. Check your blood sugar.

Managing your blood sugar (“glucose”) is the most important thing you can do to prevent long-term complications of diabetes.  Keeping your blood sugar within a healthy range is the best way to reduce your risk of eye disease, kidney disease, blood vessel and nerve damage.

You may be able to manage your blood sugar through diet and exercise, or through a combination of diet, exercise and medications.  If your blood sugar is too high or too low, talk to your doctor and dietitian now about how to get it back in control. 

2. Have a yearly physical.

In addition to regular checkups to monitor your diabetes, have a general physical exam once a year.  Since your doctor knows you have diabetes, he or she will check your blood pressure, cholesterol, kidney function, nerve function and other important factors.

3. Get a yearly eye exam.

Going to an eye doctor every year for a dilated eye exam will help you catch diabetes-related vision problems early and when they’re treatable.  If you have poorly controlled diabetes, high blood pressure, kidney disease or elevated cholesterol, you may need to see your eye doctor more than once a year.

4. See your dentist twice a year.

This tip is important for everyone, but especially for people with diabetes.  High blood sugar can damage your immune system, which limits your ability to fight off bacteria and viruses.  Your mouth contains lots of bacteria, so having your teeth and gums cleaned and examined by a professional every six months can help prevent infections.

5. Keep your vaccinations up to date.

Vaccinations aren’t just for kids and pets!  Staying up to date on vital vaccinations can help you avoid serious diabetes complications.  Important vaccinations include:

  • An annual flu shot - No matter how old you are, if you have diabetes you’re more likely to get the flu than people who don’t have diabetes. Additionally, people with diabetes are more likely to develop serious complications from the flu, such as diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and hyperosmolar syndrome.
  • Pneumonia vaccine - Most doctors recommend a one-time pneumonia vaccine for people with diabetes.  If you have complications from your diabetes, you may need a booster. Ask your doctor if you have questions.
  • Tetanus vaccine - Staying up to date with your tetanus shot and boosters can help prevent disease.
  • You should also ask your doctor about vaccinations for hepatitis B and C.  Talk to your doctor to find out about any other important vaccinations.

6. Don’t smoke.

People with diabetes who smoke are more likely to die of heart disease, stroke and other diseases than are nonsmokers with diabetes.  Smoking narrows your arteries, increases your risk of nerve damage and kidney disease, and further impairs your immune system.  If you don’t smoke, don’t start.  If you do smoke, talk to your doctor about quitting or call the Tennessee Tobacco QuitLine at 1-800-QUIT-NOW.

7. Check your blood pressure.

Like diabetes, high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels.  When these two conditions are combined, they can lead to a heart attack, stroke or other life-threatening conditions.

Eating healthier and exercising can help you reduce blood pressure.  Reducing salt (“sodium”) in your diet and limiting your alcohol intake also help keep your blood pressure in check.

8. Take care of your feet.

Diabetes can damage the network of nerves in your feet (“neuropathy”), reducing the feeling of pain.  This means you can develop a sore or blister without even realizing it.  Diabetes can also narrow the arteries, reducing blood flow to your feet.  With less blood to nourish the tissues in your feet, it’s harder for sores to heal.  An unnoticed cut or sore can quickly develop into a larger problem.

Examine your feet visually every day for cuts, blisters, red spots, fungal toenails and swelling.  Make sure your doctor gives you a thorough foot examination during your physical exams, and see your healthcare provider immediately if you have foot problems.

9. Manage stress.

It’s easier said than done, but lowering stress levels can help you stay healthier.  Stress can increase your blood sugar by increasing your body’s production of hormones that block insulin.  If you’re under a lot of stress, you’ll have a harder time taking care of yourself and managing your diabetes.  If you are having trouble managing stress, talk to your doctor.

10. Know your ABC numbers.

ABC stands for A1C, Blood pressure and Cholesterol.  All of these factors can impact your health, and you need to know your numbers to keep them in control.  Talk with your health care provider about your ABC goals.

Take charge of your health!  Make sure you follow your diabetes food plan, including foods that have less salt and fat, be active every day and take your medications as directed by your healthcare provider.  Work closely with your health care team to make sure that you have the tools you need to stay healthy.

Remember, no one has a greater stake in your health than you!