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Manage Your Diabetes With These Essential Tips

Eat the Foods You Like

Having diabetes doesn't mean you can't eat your favorite foods. But you need to know how your choices will affect your blood sugar. A diabetes educator or dietitian can help you learn skills -- such as counting carbs, reading labels, and sizing up portions -- that will let you keep your condition in check while still enjoying your favorite meals.

Define Your Plate

Use a rule of three to build a healthy, satisfying meal. This can help you lose weight and manage your diabetes by eating more non-starchy foods. Divide your plate in half. Fill one side with vegetables like spinach, broccoli, carrots, or green beans. Next, divide the empty side into two halves. Use one for starchy foods such as potatoes, whole grains like brown rice or quinoa, or whole-grain bread or pasta. In the last section, add meat or another protein. On top of that, you can also have an 8-ounce glass of low-fat milk and a half-cup of fruit.

Write It Down

Get in the habit of jotting down your important information. Record your daily blood sugar levels to track how food, exercise, and medicines affect your blood sugar and A1c test results. A written record can show you and your doctor whether your diabetes treatment is working and what about it can be changed. Writing down your goals and feelings in a journal might also help you stay on track and clearly discuss things with your health care providers.

Have a Sick-Day Plan in Place

Common illnesses like colds, flu, and diarrhea can raise your blood sugar. Having diabetes, in turn, might make it harder to fight off infections. Have a plan in case you get sick. Store snacks that are easy on the stomach but can still give you enough fluids and carbs. Check your blood sugar more often. Also, know when to check for ketones and when to call your doctor. Get a flu shot every year.

Manage Your Medicine Cabinet

If you take pills or injections to manage your diabetes, keep 3 days' worth of your medicines and supplies on hand in case of an emergency. Also keep a list of everything you take. Since some of your diabetes drugs might affect other medicines -- even ones that can be bought without a prescription -- make sure to tell your doctor before you take any new medicine. And always take your list to your regular doctor and dental appointments.

Get Active to Fight Everyday Stress

Living with diabetes can make you sad or unhappy at times. Stress not only affects your mood, but it can raise your blood sugar, too. Stress might also cause you to make poor food choices. But an easy way to feel better from everyday stress is to get active. Being active raises the levels of chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. If you don't want to exercise in a gym, join a sports team or take dance lessons to keep moving.

Exercise in Short Sessions

Three 10-minute walks are as good as 30 minutes at once. So don't hold out to exercise when you have a lot of time. Moderate levels of physical activity (both strength building and cardio) done regularly will help you control your blood sugar, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and ease stress.

Try Strength Workouts

You can benefit from all kinds of exercise. But training with weights or other resistance equipment might help you prevent muscle loss. (Lost muscle often leads to more fat.) Several studies suggest that strength training -- lifting weights, for example -- improves how your body uses insulin and sugar. Of course, regular strength training can also improve your muscle mass and help you lose weight, too.

Check Your Feet Every Night

Use a hand mirror or ask someone to help you look for cuts, swelling, or color changes on your feet. Don't forget to look between your toes, too. If you see unhealed cuts or broken skin, call your doctor right away. Make foot care part of your daily routine: Wash and moisturize your feet, and trim your toenails as needed. Talk to your doctor about treating corns or calluses. Have him check your feet during every visit.

Choose a Date to Quit Smoking

If you smoke, pick a date to quit. That gives you the chance to prepare for it. You might need help beating the mental and physical parts of nicotine addiction. Stop-smoking programs, support groups, and wellness centers can offer professional help. Whether you quit cold turkey or use other treatments to help you kick the habit, having time to prepare for it might boost your chances of success.

Drink Alcohol Only With Food

Your doctor might say it's OK for you to have an occasional drink. If you drink, have alcohol only when you can eat something along with it, because alcohol can cause low blood sugar. Also, have some water handy in case you get thirsty. Mixed drinks can raise your blood sugar if you use juice or a regular soda as your mixer. Women should have no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and men no more than two a day.

TOC Ready to Take Control of Diabetes

Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on January 06, 2015

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This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information: Disclaimer

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Essential Tips

Everyday ways to keep your condition in check.