November is American Diabetes Month. Almost 26million people in the United States have diabetes. At a health care cost of $174billion annually, keeping our diabetes population healthy is of utmost importance. Here are 10 tips to help you or a loved one with diabetes stay on track.
1. Eat sensibly. Spread food throughout the day into small meals and snacks to help keep blood glucose stable. Focus on whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins.
2. Exercise regularly. Exercise can lower blood glucose for up to 24 hours. Start with adding more steps to your day and gradually increase activity until it reaches 30 minutes on most days.
3. Check blood glucose daily. This can reveal what affects blood glucose: food, exercise, stress, illness, etc. The American Diabetes Association suggests blood glucose be less than 140 fasting and less than 180 two hours after meals. If your blood glucose is frequently running over these targets, contact your physician to discuss treatment options.
4. Take diabetes medications as prescribed. Missing a dose can greatly affect diabetes control. If you have trouble remembering to take your medications, consider using a weekly pill box.
5. Do a daily foot exam. Foot problems are a frequent reason for hospital admits and likely the most preventable complication. Get in the habit of looking at your feet every day after bathing. What are you looking for? Anything that wasn’t there the day before, or signs of infection. If it doesn’t improve within three days, see a doctor.
6. Visit your physician regularly. The ADA recommends having a diabetes office visit every three months. Take your blood glucose log with you to appointments and have your physician do a foot exam at every visit.
7. Take good care of your teeth. Inflammation and infection are more common with diabetes. It is important to brush and floss daily, and visit the dentist twice a year for a cleaning and exam.
8. Visit your eye doctor annually for a dilated eye exam. Diabetes increases the risk of glaucoma, cataracts and retinopathy (bleeding). Having a dilated eye exam every year can spot any problems before they become serious.
9. Stay current on vaccinations. The ADA recommends these vaccines be considered: flu, pneumonia and hepatitis B. Talk to your doctor about these vaccines at your next visit.
10. Learn, learn and learn! Stay up to date on diabetes recommendations by attending diabetes classes, meeting with a local certified diabetes educator or visiting the American Diabetes Association website at www.diabetes.org.
Marla McGregor is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at Sutter Gould Medical Foundation.