Managing your diabetes is a full-time commitment, but it’s well worth the effort. By staying on top of your condition, you can reduce the chances of developing serious — even life-threatening — complications like damage to the blood vessels, eyes, nerves and kidneys.
Taking Control of Your Diabetes
Scheduling regular provider visits (at least once a year) for routine care and tests are a key part of diabetes management. Make the most of your visits by learning as much about your disease as you can — follow your doctor’s recommendations for monitoring and managing your blood sugar and be sure to ask about:
- Blood pressure screenings: Over time, diabetes can damage your blood vessels, leading to high blood pressure. This can increase your risk for a heart attack or stroke. A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80.
- Complete foot exam: High blood sugar can cause poor blood flow in your feet and nerve damage. You might experience tingling, pain or loss of feeling (which could be dangerous if a blister or cut were to go unnoticed and turn into a serious infection).
- A1C blood testing: One of the most common tests for diabetes, the A1C test measures your average blood sugar level over the past three months.
- Kidney function testing: If blood flow to the kidneys is reduced, they may become unable to properly filter waste and toxins, which can lead to kidney disease.
- Dilated eye exam: Diabetes can put you at risk for eye problems like diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma. Regular eye exams help you catch any problems early on before they could become serious.
- Diabetes medications: Your medication needs may change over time. Make sure to discuss your medications and how to take them.
Committing to a Healthy Lifestyle
While your providers are here to support you in managing your diabetes, it’s ultimately up to you to make smart lifestyle choices that will set you up for success:
- Don’t smoke: Besides increasing your risk for type 2 diabetes, smoking can lead to serious conditions, like kidney disease, stroke, nerve damage and eye disease.
- Oral health: Diabetes can make you prone to gum infections. At a minimum, brush your teeth twice a day, floss once a day and see your dentist regularly at least every six months.
- Eat a low-sodium diet: Limiting your salt intake can help keep blood pressure and blood sugar levels under control.
- Foot care: Take extra steps to protect your feet from diabetes complications:
- Wash and dry your feet daily, especially between your toes. (Avoid soaking, which can cause dryness.)
- Moisturize your feet with lotion or petroleum jelly. Don’t apply it between your toes (unless you are using a medicated cream) — too much moisture could lead to an infection.
- Check your feet regularly for sores, blisters, calluses or unusual changes to the skin.
- Always wear shoes, even indoors.
- Manage your stress: Stress can make it harder to maintain your diabetes routine. Try relaxation techniques, like yoga, meditation or listening to soothing music. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help — a diabetes support group is a great way to meet others going through the same thing as you who can offer encouragement and guidance.
Make a daily habit of managing your diabetes. By taking an active approach to your care and adopting smart lifestyle habits, you can keep your diabetes under control and live a full, healthy life.