|When newly diagnosed as a diabetic, the prospect of getting your diabetes under control can seem overwhelming. Good control is a product of managing all aspects of your life, including your medication, food, exercise, health and stress. If you focus on one aspect at a time, the changes seem less intimidating. Once you have mastered one area, you are able to move on to the next. Before you know it, you will be in control of your diabetes!|
1. Make your medication and blood glucose testing a part of your daily routine. Whether you take oral pills or insulin, medication will make the most noticeable and immediate difference in your blood glucose readings. Consult your doctor for how often and when to check your blood glucose, and stick to this schedule. To gain the most from this change, it is important to keep detailed records. Record in a notebook when you take your medication and what your blood glucose readings are throughout the day. Start recording when and what you eat, as well, as this will be helpful when you begin to make changes in your diet. Tackling this change first helps motivate you to make the other changes, because you can already see a difference in your blood glucose readings.
2. Make an appointment with a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) or Dietician to create a meal plan. Once you are consistently taking your medication and checking your blood glucose, you can focus on altering your eating habits. No foods are off limits. Good diabetes control is about limiting total carbohydrates in a day, and sugar is just another form of carbohydrate. So if you absolutely cannot live without a cookie after dinner, this can be incorporated into your meal plan. To minimize swings in blood sugar, your goal should be to limit simple carbohydrates (cookies, chips, white bread) and increase your intake of complex carbohydrates (whole fruit, beans, whole grains). One easy change to make is to substitute whole-wheat foods in your meals, such as whole wheat bread (3 grams of fiber or more per slice) and whole-wheat pasta. Another easy change is to stop purchasing whole bags of snack food and start buying individually bagged snacks. This makes carbohydrate counting and portion control much simpler. Start reading labels, and with the help of your CDE or dietician you will soon have control over this part of your diabetes plan.
3. Begin scheduling time for exercise each day. Exercise should become a habit just like brushing your teeth or getting the mail. The goal is to workout for thirty minutes a day, ideally four to six days a week. The importance of exercise for a diabetic is two-fold. It is a natural and very effective way to lower blood glucose, helping one maintain tight control. It also is necessary for a healthy heart, which is significant because diabetes and heart disease are closely linked. So regardless of whether you need to lose weight, exercise should become as essential to you as any other aspect of your diabetes care. Try doing the treadmill or stationary bike during a half hour of television each day, and youíll be amazed how quickly it becomes a part of your daily routine.
4. Schedule your annual health check-ups and stay healthy. Illnesses cause blood glucose to rise and often it takes longer for a diabetic to get well. You should discuss with your doctor the need for an influenza or pneumonia vaccination and a tetanus shot. Also, in an effort to keep healthy, it is good practice to wash your hands frequently and avoid people who are very ill. There are a lot of doctor appointments necessary for a diabetic, and each is crucial to keep complications at bay. You should see your podiatrist to have your feet checked annually, you should have an eye-exam once a year, and twice a year you should have a dental check-up and cleaning. Your doctor will advise you how often to have your A1c, blood pressure and cholesterol checked.
5. Develop skills for minimizing and managing stress. Stress is the one factor that can destroy all of your best efforts to maintain control of your diabetes. You can take your medication, eat well, exercise daily, take care of your overall health and still have blood glucose readings that are too high. The culprit most likely is stress. Life will always present us with stressful situations, from family traumas to rush-hour traffic. You cannot completely avoid these occurrences, but you donít have to let them raise your blood glucose. You can help to minimize the impact of stress by listening to relaxation tapes in the car, scheduling a half hour of quiet time each day, attending a weekly yoga class, or practicing another form of stress management. You control your stress levelÖdonít let stress control you.
It may seem overwhelming to master these five lifestyle changes, but if you focus on one step at a time you can accomplish them all. Change wonít happen overnight, so donít put too much pressure on yourself. Realize that these adjustments take time and celebrate each goal that you achieve. If you are motivated and committed you can control your diabetes, and the greatest reward for all of your effort will be your lower A1c!