You've got to take the initiative when it comes to your diabetes care. From monitoring your blood sugar to checking your feet every day, taking an active role in your diabetes care can help prevent or at least minimize diabetes complications.
Here are 10 ways to take an active role in your diabetes care and enjoy a healthier future:
Beyond your regular checkups to monitor your diabetes
treatment, have a physical examination once a year. Because your doctor
knows you have diabetes, he or she will look for emerging problems
caused by the disease, such as eye, kidney and heart disease.
Going to an eye specialist — an ophthalmologist or an
optometrist — annually will help detect diabetes-related vision
problems and catch them early, 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 specialist more than
once a year.
High blood sugar impairs your immune system, limiting
your ability to fight off bacteria and viruses that cause infection.
Because your mouth is loaded with bacteria, your gums provide a common
site of infection.
Staying up-to-date on vital vaccinations can help you avoid serious diabetes complications. This includes getting:
An annual flu shot. No matter what your age, if you have diabetes you're more likely to get the flu (influenza) than are people who don't have diabetes. Because you have diabetes, you're also more likely to develop serious complications from flu, including diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and hyperosmolar syndrome.
Pneumonia vaccine. Most doctors recommend that people with diabetes receive a one-time pneumonia vaccination. If you have complications from your diabetes, such as kidney or heart disease, or you're 65 years of age or older, you may need a five-year booster shot.
Other vaccinations. Stay up-to-date with your tetanus shot and its 10-year boosters. Ask your doctor about getting vaccinated against hepatitis B if you haven't already received the vaccine.
Diabetes is potentially dangerous to your feet in two ways:
Diabetes can damage the network of nerves in your feet (neuropathy), reducing the sensation of pain. This means you can develop a sore or blister without realizing it.
Diabetes can narrow or block off your arteries (atherosclerosis), 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 hidden beneath your shoes and socks can quickly develop into a larger problem.
People with diabetes who smoke are more likely to die
of heart disease, stroke and other diseases than are nonsmokers with
diabetes. This is because:
Smoking narrows your arteries, reducing blood flow to your legs. Narrowed arteries increase your risk of heart attack and stroke, and also make it more difficult for wounds to heal.
Smoking increases your risk of nerve damage and kidney disease.
Smoking further impairs your immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and respiratory infections.
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that
most people with diabetes take an aspirin every day because daily
aspirin use can reduce your risk of heart attack. The recommended dose
is anywhere from 81 milligrams (mg) a day, the amount found in a baby
aspirin, to 325 mg a day, the amount found in an adult tablet. Taking
more than this doesn't increase its benefits. Talk with your doctor to
make sure aspirin is safe for you and, if it is, to find out which
strength aspirin you should take.
Like diabetes, high blood pressure can damage your
blood vessels. When these two conditions team up, they can lead to a
heart attack, stroke or other life-threatening conditions.
For adults with or without diabetes, the healthiest blood pressure is below 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). If you have high blood pressure and diabetes, the ADA recommends that you get treatment aimed at keeping your blood pressure no higher than 130/80 mm Hg. The same healthy habits that can improve blood sugar — a balanced diet and regular exercise — can also help reduce blood pressure. Reducing salt (sodium) in your diet and controlling how much alcohol you consume are important as well.
Managing your blood sugar is the most important thing
you can do to feel your best and prevent long-term complications of
diabetes. By monitoring your blood sugar and keeping it within your
target range, you'll reduce such risks as eye, kidney, blood vessel and
Stress can increase your body's production of those
hormones that block the effect of insulin, causing your blood sugar to
rise. If you're under a lot of stress, you'll have a hard time taking
care of yourself and managing your diabetes. You may not take the time
to eat right, monitor your blood sugar, exercise or take your
medication as prescribed. And prolonged stress can lead to depression.
It's true that members of your diabetes care team —
doctor, diabetes nurse educator and dietitian, for example — will
encourage and help you to live healthy with diabetes. But make sure you
take good care of yourself to prevent and minimize diabetes
complications. After all, no one has a greater stake in your health
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