A Diabetes Game Plan: Your Guide to Living With DiabetesJune 2, 2020
Coronavirus update: According to the CDC, people with diabetes may have a higher risk of developing severe illness. If you have diabetes, learn more about the extra precautions you should take during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although there's no cure for diabetes, it can be successfully managed. Consider yourself captain of your health care team, and learn the things you need to know to manage your diabetes.
"Working with your diabetes care team helps you effectively manage the disease, prevent serious complications and keep up with advances in treatment," says Jennifer Litaker, diabetes educator at Houston Methodist.
Litaker recommends using the schedule below as a model for your self-care diabetes program, adding any other guidelines you and your care team have agreed you should follow.
Day-to-day management of your diabetes
Every day, Litaker recommends the following:
- Self-monitoring and logging your blood glucose. There's no "right" number of times to test. At certain times, such as when you're first diagnosed, you'll benefit from testing several times a day to help get blood glucose in your healthy range.
- Keeping track of your medications. Understand your care team's recommendations for dosages and timing.
- Exercising. Frequent activity is important for weight control and general health.
- Examining your feet. "Because you're prone to numbness, infections and poor circulation, your feet are vulnerable to health problems that should be caught early," Litaker says.
Recommit to your diabetes self-care choices weekly or monthly
Every week to every month, make it a point to keep tabs on the healthy choices you're making to manage your diabetes by:
- Weighing yourself. Maintaining a normal weight makes it easier to achieve good blood glucose control.
- Building and following a healthy meal plan. Planning menus and shopping ahead will save you from eating last-minute meals that may not fit into a healthy diet.
- Finding a diabetes support group. Getting support from other people going through the same challenges as you can be an important step in staying consistent with how you manage your diabetes.
Check-in with your diabetes care team a few times a year
Every three to six months, you should consider scheduling a doctor's visit to monitor your diabetes and routine.
At this visit, your doctor should:
- Perform a hemoglobin A1C blood test, which measures the past three-month average of glucose in your blood
- Record your weight
- Take your blood pressure, since people with diabetes are susceptible to heart disease
You should also be sure to schedule a dental exam. People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop gum disease and infection
Follow up on your overall health at the end of the year
Every year, schedule an annual checkup and eye exam.
At your annual checkup with your primary care physician, be sure your doctor:
- Tests your urine for any sign of kidney disease
- Conducts a medical foot exam
- Screens your blood for cholesterol and triglyceride levels
- Gives you a flu shot and updates pneumonia, tetanus and hepatitis B vaccinations.
"Getting vaccinated is important since diabetes can weaken your ability to fight illness and infection," Litaker says.
You should also schedule an eye exam annually, as diabetes puts you at risk for vision complications.