Manage Your Diabetes
Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Controlling blood glucose, or blood sugar, as well as blood pressure and cholesterol is the best defense against the serious complications of diabetes.
People with type 1 diabetes control their blood sugar with insulin -- either with shots or an insulin pen. Many people with type 2 diabetes can control blood glucose levels with diet and exercise alone. Others require oral medications or insulin, and some may need both.
Check Your Blood Glucose
One of the best ways to find out how well you are taking care of your diabetes is to check your blood to see how much glucose is in it. If your blood has too much or too little glucose, you may need a change in your meal plan, exercise plan, or medicine.
Ask your doctor how often you should check your blood glucose. Some people check their blood glucose once a day. Others do it three a day or even more. You may be told to check before eating, before bed, and sometimes in the middle of the night.
Your doctor or diabetes educator will show you how to check your blood using a blood glucose meter. Your health insurance or Medicare may pay for some of the supplies and equipment you need to check your glucose levels.
Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose)
Hypoglycemia happens if your blood glucose drops too low. It can come on fast. It is caused by taking too much diabetes medicine, missing a meal, delaying a meal, exercising more than usual or drinking alcoholic beverages. Sometime, medicines you take for other health problems can cause blood glucose to drop. Hypoglycemia can make you feel weak, confused, irritable, hungry or tired. You may sweat a lot or get a headache or feel shaky. If your blood glucose drops too low, you could pass out or have a seizure.
If you have any of these symptoms, check your blood glucose.
If Glucose Drops Too Low
If your glucose level is too low (usually 70 or below), take one of the following:
- 3 or 4 glucose tablets
- a half cup of fruit juice
- 6 ounces of regular soda
- 5 or 6 pieces of hard candy
- 1 tube of glucose gel.
Tell your doctor if you have hypoglycemia often, especially if it is at the same time of the day or night several days in a row. You can prevent hypoglycemia by eating regularly schedule meals, taking your diabetes medicines according to your doctor’s instructions, and checking your blood glucose levels. Checking your blood glucose levels will tell you whether your glucose level is getting too low or too high.
Hyperglycemia (High Blood Glucose)
A person can also become ill if blood glucose levels rise too high. Blood glucose levels that are too high is a condition called hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia can happen if you miss taking your diabetes medications, eat too much or do not get enough exercise. Having an infection being sick or under stress can also make your blood sugar too high, If you are very thirsty and tired, have blurry vision, and have to go to the bathroom often, your blood glucose may be too high.
If Glucoses Rises Too High
Too high blood glucose levels can make you feel very sick. If your blood glucose is high much of the time or if you have symptoms of high blood glucose, call your doctor. You may need a change in your insulin or diabetes pills, or a change in your meal plan.
Monitor Your Diabetes ABCs
Heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death for people with diabetes. If you have diabetes, heart disease is more likely to strike you -- and at an earlier age -- than someone without diabetes. Therefore, people with diabetes need to control their "ABCs."
- A is for the A1C test
- B is for Blood pressure
- C is for Cholesterol
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The A1C Test
The A1C test (A-one-C), also called the hemoglobin A1C test, shows overall blood glucose for the past 3 months. Your health care provider does this test to see what your blood glucose level is most of the time. This test should be done at least twice a year for all people with diabetes and for some people more often as needed. For many people with diabetes, an A1C test result of under 7 percent usually means that their diabetes treatment is working well and their blood glucose is under control.
If your A1C is above your target goal, take action. You may need a change in your meal plan, how often you exercise, or the medications you take to lower your chance of getting diabetes problems like heart disease or kidney damage. Talk with your health care provider about your A1C goal and how to reach it.
Check Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure makes your heart work too hard. This can lead to a stroke and other problems such as kidney disease. Your blood pressure should be checked at every doctor visit. The target blood pressure for most people with diabetes is less than 130/80. Talk with your health care provider about your blood pressure goal.
Have Your LDL Cholesterol Checked
Low density lipoprotein, or LDL cholesterol, is the bad cholesterol that builds up in your blood vessels. It causes the vessels to narrow and harden, which can lead to a heart attack. Your doctor should check your LDL at least once a year. The target LDL cholesterol for most people with diabetes is less than 100. Talk with your health care provider about your cholesterol goal.
Check Your Feet Every Day
Foot care is very important for people with diabetes. High blood glucose levels and a reduced blood supply to the limbs cause nerve damage that reduces feeling in the feet. Someone with nerve damage may not feel a pebble inside his sock that is causing a sore. Or a blister caused by poorly fitting shoes may go unnoticed. Foot injuries such as these can cause ulcers, which may, if not cared for, ultimately lead to the need for amputation.
If you have diabetes:
- Check your feet every day and watch for any cuts, sores, red spots, swelling, and infected toenails.
- Report sores, blisters, breaks in the skin, infections, or buildup of calluses to a podiatrist or a family doctor.
- Never walk barefoot.
- Have your feet checked at every doctor visit.
- Take your shoes and socks off when you go into the examining room. This will remind the doctor to check your feet.
Protect Your Skin
Skin care is very important, too. Because people with diabetes may have more injuries and infections, they should protect their skin by keeping it clean, using skin softeners to treat dryness, and taking care of minor cuts and bruises.
Take Care of Your Teeth and Gums
People with diabetes can have tooth and gum problems more often if their blood glucose stays high. High blood glucose also can make tooth and gum problems worse. You can even lose your teeth.
Here are ways to protect your teeth and gums.
- Keep your blood glucose as close to normal as possible.
- Use dental floss at least once a day. Flossing helps prevent the buildup of plaque on your teeth. Plaque can harden and grow under your gums and cause problems. Using a sawing motion, gently bring the floss between the teeth, scraping from bottom to top several times.
- Brush your teeth after each meal and snack. Use a soft toothbrush. Turn the bristles against the gum line and brush gently. Use small, circular motions. Brush the front, back, and top of each tooth.
- If you wear false teeth, keep them clean.
- Call your dentist right away if you have problems with your teeth and gums.
Take Care of Your EyesTake Care of Your Eyes High blood glucose and high blood pressure from diabetes can hurt your eyes. It can even cause blindness, or other painful eye problems.
Here are ways to prevent diabetes eye problems.
- Keep your blood glucose and blood pressure as close to normal as you can.
- Have an eye care professional examine your eyes once a year. Have this exam even if your vision is OK.
Protect Your Kidneys
High blood glucose and high blood pressure may damage the kidneys. Damaged kidneys do not do a good job of filtering out wastes and extra fluid.
Here are ways to prevent diabetes kidney problems.
- Keep your blood glucose and blood pressure as close to your target goal as you can.
- Get tested at least once a year for kidney disease. Ask your doctor if you should be tested.
- Follow the healthy eating plan you work out with your doctor or dietitian. If you already have kidney problems, your dietitian may suggest you cut back on protein.
Other Areas to Manage
Here are other things to help you manage your diabetes.
- Ask for help if you feel down. A mental health counselor, support group, member of the clergy, family member or friend who will listen to you can help you manage your diabetes.
- Learn how to cope with stress. Stress can make your blood glucose too high. Ask your health care team how to manage it.
- Quit smoking. If you need help, call 1-800-QUIT-NOW.
- Ask your doctor if you need to take aspirin every day to prevent a heart attack or stroke.