When you have type 2 diabetes, it's often a juggling act to remember all of your daily tasks. Nora Saul, RD, CDE, a diabetes educator and manager for nutrition services at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, offers this "healthy habits" checklist to guide you through the day.
Check your blood sugar levels.
Most people with type 2 diabetes need to check their blood sugar, also called glucose, at least once a day. "That's the minimum," Saul says. But the frequency depends on your treatment plan. For instance, people who take insulin four times a day will need to test blood glucose more often, including before each meal.
Brush and floss your teeth twice a day.
"You might not think of this one, but it's really important for people with diabetes," Saul says. If you have dental disease or infection, such as inflamed gums, the problem may cause your blood glucose to rise. "When the blood sugar's high, it's also high in the saliva and mouth and can lead to an environment where bacteria can grow." That can cause more cavities and gum disease if you don't brush and floss regularly.
Look at your feet.
Diabetes can cause your feet to have less sensation of pain. If you don't notice a cut or blister on your foot, it can turn into a sore that's hard to treat. Check both feet carefully for blisters, cuts, scrapes, bruises, redness, or swelling. If you spot any troubles, see your doctor.
Take stock of your diabetes supplies.
If your doctor tells you to, always carry a carbohydrate source to treat low blood sugar. Make sure you have it within easy reach, whether it's glucose tablets, jelly beans, gummy bears, jam or jelly, a juice box, or regular (not diet) soda. Check daily, too, to make sure you carry needed backup supplies if you use an insulin pump.
Work in some exercise.
Ideally, people with diabetes should get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic exercise per week. "It's best to do something that raises your heart rate," Saul says. Even housework and gardening helps to get you moving.
Aim for at least two servings of non-starchy vegetables each day, especially leafy greens. "There's spinach, kale, Swiss chard, bok choy," Saul says. "They're very low in calories, and have wonderful vitamins and minerals and antioxidants." Enjoy fresh fruit every day, too. It's a better choice than dried fruit or juice, which can make blood sugars rise too high.
Practice mindfulness with food.
Ask yourself: Why are you eating? Are you hungry, nervous, anxious, or bored? Or are you eating that treat for the sheer pleasure of it? "A lot of times, if people stop and become aware of what they're doing, that's half the battle," Saul says. A splurge is OK once in a while.
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