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6 Tips to Get Your Diabetes Under Control

Make these expert suggestions for managing your diabetes top on your list.
By Erin O'Donnell
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Living well with type 2 diabetes means making certain precautions part of your routine, says Amy Campbell, MS, RD, CDE, manager of clinical education programs at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. She offers this advice.

Make a date with a dietitian. "It's a myth that there's a one-size-fits-all diabetes diet," Campbell says. A dietitian can help you develop an eating plan that's right for your age, weight, activity level, and medications, and can also set daily calorie and carbohydrate targets. You'll probably meet several times at first; after that, once a year.

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Check your feet daily. High blood sugar levels can damage nerves in your feet, leaving you unable to feel cuts, blisters, and other injuries. High blood sugar also increases your risk of infection, allowing a simple blister to develop into a grave problem in a matter of days. Amputation is a real danger, Campbell says. Can't reach your feet? Ask a family member or friend to give them a daily once-over, or use a mirror. Call your doctor immediately if you spot redness, cuts, blisters, or swelling.

Keep moving. People with type 2 diabetes are often insulin resistant, meaning their bodies don't use insulin properly and they need extra insulin to allow their cells to take in sugar from their blood. Exercise appears to increase insulin sensitivity, improving glucose uptake to your body's cells. 

Aim to be active 30 minutes a day, at least five days a week. Any activity that raises your heart rate enough to make it slightly difficult to talk (brisk walking, taking the stairs, vacuuming vigorously) counts toward your daily total. The benefits are real: Shed just 5% to 10% of your body weight to dramatically improve glucose control, Campbell says. 

See clearly. Make an annual appointment for a dilated-eye exam with an ophthalmologist or an optometrist experienced in treating people with diabetes. Dilation allows the doctor to look for diseases such as retinopathy, one of the most common complications of diabetes. "'It used to spell blindness for people, but we now have laser surgery and other ways to prevent it," Campbell says.

Take your best shot. Get a flu shot every fall. People with diabetes are prone to complications if they get the flu. "They're more likely to be hospitalized for the flu than people who aren't diabetic," Campbell says. The flu can also cause blood sugar levels to skyrocket, which may trigger severe complications and slow healing. For added protection, Campbell recommends a pneumonia vaccine. Ask your doctor if you should get one.

Quit smoking. Smoking is especially harmful for people with type 2 diabetes. Smoking appears to increase insulin resistance and also causes blood vessels to narrow, limiting circulation to your legs and feet. Your doctor can help you make a plan to quit.

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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