10 Tips For Staying Healthy When You’re Diabetic
Managing diabetes requires a lifelong commitment. It involves complete lifestyle changes to improve diabetes critical metrics like your blood sugar level, weight, and cholesterol level. You'll need to watch what you eat, drink, and do daily, which can be frustrating.
The good news is that these processes can be simplified, so they don’t seem cumbersome. Here are 10 tips you can follow to stay healthy when living with diabetes.
1. Watch What You Eat
Eating a healthy meal is one of the most important aspects of managing diabetes. It's important to watch not only what you eat, but the combination and the nutrients each meal contains. Here are some tips for eating right as a diabetic.
- Watch Your Carb Intake: Carbohydrates have the greatest influence on blood sugar levels. It's important to know the number of carbs in a meal, especially if you use mealtime insulin. Learning about carb counts and portions is an essential aspect of diabetes management.
Use a measuring cup or a scale to calculate the number of carbs as you consume them.
- Eat Balanced Diet: While the word ‘balanced diet' has been thrown around a lot, it still means the same thing; eating a meal that’s composed of healthy food classes from protein, carbs, fruits, and fat. As a diabetic, it's essential to eat more foods that are high in fiber to help stabilize your sugar levels.
- Eat Less Red And Processed Meat: Excessive consumption of red and processed meat like beef, lamb, and bacon raises the risk of heart diseases and cancer. If you have diabetes, you're already at risk of one of those; you don’t want to increase your risk.
- Watch Your Salt Consumption: Eating too much salt can raise your blood pressure level, which raises the risk of heart diseases and stroke. Consider cooking your food from scratch so you can gauge the quantity of salt to use (maximum 1 teaspoon per day).
It’s also recommended to use other substitute herbs and spices in place of salt.
- Avoid Sugar: Stay away from sugary drinks, energy drinks, and fruit juices and replace them with water. These drinks are heavy in calories and low in nutrients and can cause your blood sugar to rise quickly. The only exception is if you have a low blood sugar level, and treat it with sugary drinks.
- Plan Your Meals And Meds Together: Since your diabetic condition is largely influenced by what you eat and the medications you take, it’s essential to plan them together. Speak to your doctor about your medication schedule so you’ll know what to eat at specific times after or before taking your medications.
2. Control Your Alcohol Consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption can be detrimental to your health as a diabetic. Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to spike or plummet. So it’s important to keep your wine, beer, and liquor consumption in check.
The American Diabetes Association recommends that women take one drink a day, while men should take two at most.
If you must drink, ensure to check your blood sugar and take actions to avoid low blood sugar.
Lower alcohol intake can also help you lose weight, lower the risk of heart diseases, and improve insulin's efficacy to get glucose into cells.
3. Quit Smoking
Smoking increases the risk of heart diseases, kidney disease, stroke, cardiovascular disease, blood vessels, glaucoma, and more. As a diabetic you already have so many risks, you don't want to put yourself in more danger.
Speak to your diabetes team about your options to quit smoking.
4. Exercise Regularly
As a diabetic, it’s important to regularly engage in exercises like walking, running, biking, and swimming. It doesn't have to belong if you don't have the time. Devote at least 15 to 30 minutes daily to exercise with a weekly goal of 150 minutes. Regular exercises have the following benefits according to a Harvard study.
- It reduced HbA1c levels in patients with diabetes who were taking various medications and eating a variety of diets. All types of exercises were effective in decreasing HbA1c levels in diabetics.
- Diabetes patients who walked for a minimum of two hours a week had a lower chance of dying from heart disease than those who did not, and those who exercised three to four hours a week had an even lower risk.
- In previously inactive older people with abdominal obesity who were at risk for diabetes, both strength training, and aerobic exercise helped to reduce insulin resistance. It was shown that combining the two types of exercise was more helpful than practicing either one separately.
- Exercising improves insulin sensitivity which allows your cells to use the sugar in your body more effectively.
5. Control Your Stress Level
Stress can have a big impact on your capacity to manage a diabetic condition. When you're stressed, you're more likely to forget to take your medicine, skip meals or eat the wrong food, all of which can impair your blood sugar levels. Here are some ways you can manage stress.
- Meditation: meditating for at least 10 minutes a day can reduce stress and blood glucose level in the process. Join meditation groups or download a meditation app on your smartphone to use at home.
- Anger management: if angry, take a deep breath or many deep breaths. Drink water, lean back, sit down, loosen your arms, try to quiet your mind, and go for a walk to control your anger. It’s also important to understand the source of your anger to resolve it once and for all.
- Don’t Pressure Yourself: Do you have unrealistic expectations of yourself? Expect no more from yourself than you have or can give. It's perfectly acceptable to say "no" to things you don't want or need to do.
- Find Positivity In Everything: Find something positive in each of your major life areas: work, health, family, and friends. Thinking about the positive aspects of life can help you get through difficult times.
- Exercise: Exercise improves your mental health by lowering anxiety, depression, and bad moods while also releasing endorphins, feel-good chemicals in your body.
- Talk to Someone About Your Stressors: Don't keep your emotions pent up. If you don't want to talk to a family member or close friend, consult a psychologist or counselor. Ask your doctor for referrals.
6. Keep An Eye On Your Feet.
Diabetes can limit blood flow to your feet, resulting in peripheral neuropathy, or a lack of feeling. This can lead to poor healing of foot injuries, which if left untreated can lead to dangerous injuries.
Follow these steps to avoid diabetic-related foot troubles.
- Examine your feet daily. Look for cuts, redness, blisters, swelling, or problems with your nails. Use a mirror to look at the bottom of your feet. If you notice anything, contact your doctor.
- Wash your feet with lukewarm water daily.
- Moisturize your feet daily to prevent your dry skin from itching or cracking. However, avoid moisturizing in between toes to prevent a fungal infection.
- Never go about barefoot, indoors or out.
- If you have a sore or any other foot condition that does not heal within a few days, see your doctor.
- Carefully trim your nails. File the edges after cutting them straight across.
- Always inspect your shoes before slipping them on as your feet may not notice a rock or other foreign item, which could result in a fungal infection.
- Your socks should be kept clean and dry, and you should change them daily.
- Consider putting antiperspirant on your feet' soles, especially if you have excessive foot sweating.
7. Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep is important for a diabetic just like for everyone else. When you get adequate sleep, you'll be more alert during the day and have a more positive attitude towards diabetes management.
People who receive less than six hours of sleep every night had a considerably increased risk of mortality from stroke and heart disease, according to a Penn State University study. Here’s what you can do to get better sleep.
- Take fewer naps, especially in the afternoon.
- Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. This will train your body to fall asleep at the appropriate moment over time.
- If you can't fall asleep after around 10 minutes in bed, get out of bed and do something peaceful that doesn't involve using a screen like your TV or phone.
- Create a sleeping environment that includes a comfortable bed, a dark room, and quiet.
- Take a bedtime snack to stop yourself from getting hungry so you can sleep effortlessly.
- Consider taking proven sleep supplements like magnesium and valerian in consultation with your healthcare provider.
- Seek help if you're having problems with anxiety, stress, or depression.
8. Keep To Your Medication
As a diabetic, it’s essential to take your medication at the right time as prescribed by your doctor. Diabetic drugs like insulin can help you lower blood sugar levels when diet and exercise aren't enough to keep diabetes under control. However, the success of these drugs is dependent on the dose, amount, and time. Here’s what you can do to keep to your medications.
- Ask questions: If you have any questions regarding your medicine prescription, ensure to quickly ask your primary care practitioner or pharmacist for clarification to avoid any sort of confusion.
- Be consistent. Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can occur if you're on insulin but aren't taking it regularly, even if your doctor has upped your amount. Taking your prescription insulin regularly can help with more consistent blood sugar readings and monitoring, which can help your doctor manage your meds more safely.
- Create a schedule and stick to it: It can become second nature if you take your prescriptions at the very same time every day. You can combine it with another activity like feeding the dog.
- Make use of a pillbox. Experts believe that using a pillbox is one of the most effective strategies to ensure proper drug administration. Not only does it remind you to take your pills, but it can also alert you when you're missing them and prevent re-dosing.
9. Test Regularly
Checking your blood glucose levels regularly to ensure you're in the safe zone is an important part of living with diabetes. It may be important to test your blood sugar when you first get up, before a meal, two hours after a meal, and right before bedtime, depending on the kind of diabetes you have.
More regular testing may be required in some circumstances. You can raise your blood sugar level by drinking fruit juice, hard candy, or taking glucose pills if yours isn't where it should be.
To keep your blood sugar levels low, you may need to take medication. Your doctor will be able to take you through the best alternatives for your health and recommend dosage quantities.
10. Maintain A Healthy Weight.
People with diabetes or prediabetes should strive to reach and maintain a healthy weight. According to research, modest, consistent weight loss can help in the management of type 2 diabetes and reduce the progression of prediabetes to diabetes.
- If you’re overweight, then you need to lose weight. Here are some tips for a successful weight-loss plan.
- Set realistic goals: aim to lose half a pound to two pounds every week.
- Have nutritious snacks on hand: When snack cravings arise, satisfy them with healthy snacks. Fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole-grain snacks, are healthier snacking.
- Watch what you eat: Remove any harmful food from your diet and replace them with meals that are higher in nutritional worth.
- Keep track of your portions: many people don't know how much they're eating until they weigh it. Keep track of the size of your portions and compare them to the recommended serving size for each food.
- Exercise: Get at least 30 minutes of exercise daily when you can.
Diabetic management is a continuous process, and you may not always get it right. But diligently keeping to the above-listed steps can make a huge difference. Remember to always be kind to yourself and seek help when you need it.
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