Strategies for managing Type 2 diabetes

By Pure Matters

If you've had diabetes for awhile, you know that the day-to-day management of your condition is critical to your health. You also know that it can be challenging. Sometimes, you may feel discouraged and wonder how you'll keep it up. The key to success is maintaining your motivation.

"It may help to think of diabetes management as a journey," says Anna Simos, M.P.H., C.D.E., a clinical diabetes education specialist. "If you have patience, you'll get better at caring for yourself. Just take it one day at a time. When you get off track, forgive yourself and keep moving forward."

Identifying your specific stumbling blocks can help you get back on track. Here are some common obstacles that you may have encountered and tips for getting beyond them.

Eating plans

Staying on track with the eating plan that you and your health care provider have created is key to controlling your blood glucose levels, says the American Diabetes Association (ADA). It also may help you lose weight and lower your risk of heart disease.

  • Make it easy to track what you eat. If you're counting carbohydrates, keep a conversion chart with your food diary. Make sure it's small enough to carry with you.
  • Stock your kitchen with fruits, vegetables and high-fiber foods if you're trying to cut down on fat. You're less likely to indulge if high-fat foods aren't easily within reach.
  • Don't try to overhaul your diet too quickly. Focus on one goal at a time. For example, include a small salad and low-calorie dressing with your dinner two nights this week. Then, when you make your lunches next week, use whole-grain bread for your sandwiches instead of white bread.
  • Consider speaking with a registered dietitian. A recent study found that this helped people with type 2 diabetes lose more weight, take fewer medications and feel better than those who didn't seek help.

Getting exercise

Regular physical activity helps control your blood glucose levels and reduces your risk of heart disease. Studies have shown that being active improves stamina, flexibility, circulation and lung capacity. It's also a great way to help control your weight, the ADA says.

  • Schedule activity into your day. Making an appointment may help you stick with it. If devoting 30 minutes to exercise is out of the question, be active for 10 minutes at a time. Three shorter sessions are just as effective for boosting fitness.
  • Pursue a passion. Perhaps you'd be more likely to find time for fitness if you did something you truly enjoy. Go dancing or join a local softball team. Walking the dog is a good excuse for exercise. Remember to talk with your health care provider before getting started on an exercise plan.

Monitoring blood sugar

You can reduce your risk for developing kidney, eye and nerve problems by keeping your blood glucose near normal levels, the ADA says. Testing it regularly is the only way to know what your levels are.

If your testing procedure makes you uncomfortable, ask your provider about other test kits. Some brands need less blood. Others allow you to prick your forearm instead of a finger. Most blood glucose meters today are simple to operate, accurate and virtually painless.

Listening to your team

Even if daily monitoring indicates that your blood glucose levels are fine, it doesn't provide a complete picture of how well you're doing over time. That's why you need to see your provider as often as recommended for an A1C blood test. Typically, the A1C test is done every three to four months. It provides the patient and provider with an overall view of how well blood sugar was controlled in the preceding months. A result of 7 or less indicates good control; values greater than 7 suggest that more attention is needed on diet, exercise and, possibly, medications.

Seeing an ophthalmologist, an internist, a podiatrist and dentist regularly can help prevent complications, too. Wearing the right footwear, inspecting your feet every day, taking care of your eyes and brushing and flossing your teeth on schedule are good habits. Because early complications of diabetes may not be apparent to you, it's important that specialists identify these silent problems before they become serious.

Learn more about how your health care team can help. Your provider's office is a good place to start. Ask questions and request written information you can take home with you. You also can ask your provider to help you find a registered dietitian or other specialist.



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