If you've just been told you have diabetes, you can still keep up with the things you love. Manage your health the right way, and you'll live a rewarding, active life. Here’s how.
1. Get Informed
Ask questions and learn as much as you can about:
- Changes you can make to take care of yourself
- Medical treatments you need
Start with your doctor. He can put you in touch with experts that can give you answers, like:
- Diabetes educators
- Other specialists
Talk to your friends and family members who have diabetes. You could also join a support group and connect online with other people who are going through the same things you are. Knowing more will help you make choices.
2. Get the Right Care
You and your doctor will work out a treatment plan to fit your needs. It could include:
Medicines. Whether you need them to help treat your diabetes depends on things like your:
- Blood sugar levels
Lifestyle changes. You'll see your condition get better if you:
- Change your diet
- Lose extra weight
- Get more active
Blood sugar. Your doctor can teach you how to keep track of it and show you what to do to avoid highs and lows.
3. Track Your 'ABCs'
Diabetes makes you more likely to get conditions that may affect your eyes, nerves, heart, teeth, and more. So, you want to watch your diabetes ABCs.
"A" stands for A1c. This test measures your average blood sugar over the past 2 or 3 months. Your goal is to keep your score around 7% or less without risking low blood sugar.
"B" stands for blood pressure. If you have diabetes, you're more likely to get high blood pressure. That can lead to other serious conditions. Get your numbers checked 2 to 4 times each year.
"C" stands for cholesterol. Diabetes can also raise your chances of having high cholesterol, which makes heart disease and strokes more likely. Get it tested at least once every year.
4. Take Steps to Manage Your Diabetes
Once you know more about living with the condition, you’ll be ready to put that knowledge into practice. A healthy lifestyle includes:
- Two to four doctor visits each year
- A balanced diet
- At least 30 minutes of exercise most days
- Steps to reach and keep a healthy weight
- At least two dentist visits a year
- No smoking
- Eye and foot exams every year
- Yearly vaccinations
5. Stop Complications Before They Start
You can prevent problems if you control your diabetes with diet, medication, exercise, and regular checkups.
It’s also important to know the warning signs of some common complications:
Nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) can affect your feet and legs. You may get symptoms like:
- Numbness or tingling
- Cuts or sores that heal slowly
- Erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness
Eye problems (diabetic retinopathy) can happen from damage to small blood vessels in the retina. That’s a layer of tissue on the inside of your eyes. Talk to your doctor if you notice signs of trouble, such as:
- Blurry vision
- Eye pain or pressure
- Spots before your eyes
- Sudden loss of sight
Kidney damage (diabetic nephropathy) is a complication that can lead to treatment with dialysis or a kidney transplant. To rule out problems, your doctor will check your blood pressure a few times a year and your urine protein (he may call it microalbumin) at least once a year.
Heart disease and strokes are more likely if you have diabetes. The risks go even higher if you:
- Are overweight
- Have high blood pressure
- Have a family history of heart disease.
Talk to your doctor about your chances of having these conditions and what you can do to lower them.
6. Get Help From Your Health Care Team
If you catch complications early, you'll boost your chances of success. Talk to your doctor whenever you have concerns. You may need something as simple as a lifestyle change or a tweak in your meds.
Your diabetes health care team is there to help. Their goal is the same as yours: let you keep doing the things you love with the people you care about.