The treatment of diabetes is highly individualized. It will depend on the type of diabetes, whether you have other active medical problems, as well as your age and general health at time of diagnosis. However, one fact remains constant in treatment: if you have diabetes, you must make healthier lifestyle choices in diet, exercise, and other habits. These will help to improve glycemic (blood sugar) control and prevent or minimize complications of diabetes.
Diet: A healthy diet is key to controlling blood sugar levels and preventing diabetes complications.
- If you are obese and have had difficulty losing weight on your own, talk to your health care provider. He or she can recommend a dietician or a weight modification program to help you reach your goal.
- Eat a consistent, well-balanced diet that is high in fibre, low in saturated fat, and low in concentrated sugars.
- A consistent diet that includes roughly the same number of calories at about the same times of day helps your health care provider prescribe the correct dose of medication or insulin.
- It will also help to keep your blood sugar at a relatively even level and avoid excessively low or high blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous and even life threatening.
Exercise Regular exercise, in any form, can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Activity can also reduce the risk of developing complications of diabetes such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and leg ulcers.
- As little as 20 minutes of walking 3 times a week has a proven beneficial effect. Any exercise is beneficial; no matter how light or how long, some exercise is better than no exercise.
- If you have complications of diabetes (eye, kidney, or nerve problems), you may be limited both in type of exercise and amount of exercise you can safely do without worsening your condition. Consult with your health care provider before starting any exercise program.
Alcohol use: Moderate or eliminate your consumption of alcohol. Try to have no more than 7 alcoholic drinks in a week and never more than 2-3 in an evening. One drink is considered 1.5 ounces of liquor, 6 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. Excessive alcohol use is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Alcohol consumption can cause low or high blood sugar levels, nerve pain called neuritis, and increase in triglycerides, which is a type of fat in our blood.
Smoking: If you have diabetes, and you smoke cigarettes or use any other form of tobacco, you are raising your risks markedly for nearly all of the complications of diabetes. Smoking damages blood vessels and contributes to heart disease, stroke, and poor circulation in the limbs. If you need help quitting, talk to your health care provider.
Self-monitored blood glucose: Check your blood sugar levels frequently, at least before meals and at bedtime, and record the results in a logbook.
- This log should also include your insulin or oral medication doses and times, when and what you ate, when and for how long you exercised, and any significant events of the day such as high or low blood sugar levels and how you treated the problem.
- Better equipment now available makes testing your blood sugar levels less painful and less complicated than ever. Your daily blood sugar diary is invaluable to your health care provider in seeing how you are responding to medications, diet, and exercise in the treatment of your diabetes.
- Medicare now pays for diabetic testing supplies, as do many private insurers and Medicaid.