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Whether you’ve just been diagnosed or have been struggling with diabetes for years, it’s not always easy to stay on top of your disease management. After all, diabetes is not a simple condition: there is no cure, and without the right approach at the right time, the symptoms can lead to bigger problems.
It doesn’t help that there’s a good deal of conflicting and confusing information floating around, and sometimes all of the obligations and uncertainties can be overwhelming. Luckily, there are also some straightforward steps you can take to better diabetes management, which will help you keep symptoms at bay, protect against long-term damage, and even improve your treatment outlook.
1. Find a Doctor You Trust
Your doctor will be your closest ally, so you must be able to communicate openly and honestly. Diabetes symptoms can complicate day-to-day management, and in many cases, patients will need to visit a neurologist, ophthalmologist, and nutritionist as well as their general practitioner at least a few times each year.
These are your resources for information about your disease and techniques on how to handle the medical challenges that come your way; if you feel that your current doctor may not be taking your interests and concerns as seriously as you had hoped, it may be time to get a second opinion.
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2. Join a Support Group
Whether you attend a gathering in your local community center or clinic, or simply tap into the virtual community of diabetics online, staying in tune and in touch with other people is a major advantage. For one, you’ll have access to moral support and confidence-boosting conversation whenever you need it, and when you live with a chronic disease, these moments are bound to pop up.
Secondly, you can learn helpful tips and important lessons from people who have lived and struggled with diabetes for a long time, which can be just as valuable as any other resource that offers diabetes facts and figures.
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3. Track Your “ABCs”
A few simple tests can indicate just how well you’re managing your disease, so plan to have your A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels checked regularly.
An A1c test will measure your average blood sugar level over the past few months, and as long as the results are around 7% or less, you’re in good shape. Blood pressure has a big impact on your heart disease risk, so you should monitor it regularly and do what you can to keep it down.
Cholesterol is another important aspect of cardiovascular risk – high levels of bad cholesterol will make heart attacks and strokes much more likely – so have it checked at least once a year, and take measures to cut out high-cholesterol foods once and for all.
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4. Keep an Eye out for Early Warning Signs
Like many diseases, diabetes can bring a host of complications, but they may build up so slowly that you don’t realize there’s a problem for quite a while. The danger here is that your diabetes could cause permanent damage before you recognize the severity of the situation, so it’s best to keep an eye on your most potentially problematic sites – the eyes, teeth, feet, and skin – and report any changes to your doctor.
Since diabetes can harm blood vessels around all your organs, you should also consider your heart, brain, and kidney health: take extra care to keep your blood pressure down and your blood sugar in a healthy range, which is the best way to ward off serious organ malfunction.
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5. Stick With Lifestyle Changes
It’s fairly easy to make initial changes to your habits and routine, especially when you’re motivated to take control over your condition, but it can be more difficult to keep them up. Cravings can interfere with your new super-healthy menu, and laziness or discomfort can quickly overturn your desire to stay active.
Cutting out bad habits is often even more challenging than starting new ones, and many people will relapse a few times, especially when it comes to smoking or junk food. Remember that a healthy habit takes about 30 days to craft, so do your body a favor and stick with your goals for the month – you’ll find that things get a lot easier after you’ve passed that mark.
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6. Have an Action Plan
Even with careful monitoring, you could run into trouble with blood sugar peaks and drops. The better you know how to manage these episodes, the less discomfort you’ll experience, so get to know the warning signs: low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) often brings dizziness, hunger, mood swings, trembling and difficulty concentrating, but while high blood sugar (hyperglycemia) typically causes thirst, increased urination, feelings of weakness and blurry vision.
If you suspect a problem, test your blood sugar right away, and then take steps to fix it. Not sure how to bring your blood glucose back to normal quickly? Work with your doctor to create a clear and concise plan of action, and write it down so you can refer to it when needed.
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7. Keep Reading
Diabetes is not a new disease by any means, but there’s a lot of ongoing research into treatment, symptoms, and other related conditions and complications that could help you manage your own set of challenges more effectively. Keep up on diabetes advancements by checking out journal articles, blog posts, and news-worthy reports. Consider investing in one or two good reference books on diabetes that can help you understand your condition more clearly.
Even if you’re not experiencing any trouble with your disease at the moment, the more knowledge you can gain, the better equipped you’ll be for future hurdles or new treatment options that may suit you better.
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8. Take Notes
The better you are at recording your symptoms, concerns, and daily diabetes habits, the better your doctor will be able to form a good treatment plan. Buy yourself a journal (or use a “notepad” on your computer or phone), and start to write down something every day. You may not have much to say about your diabetes each and every day, but if you get used to jotting something down daily, you’re much more likely to include info that may be important down the road. Record things like your blood sugar levels, dietary choices (and how they make you feel), what activities you did, and how well you’ve been sleeping.
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9. Improve Your Personal Hygiene
The circulation problems and nerve damage that can come with diabetes will make infections and uncomfortable outbreaks much more likely, so diabetics need to be careful about keeping their skin clean and dry. Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to shower more often. Instead, get better at spot cleaning regularly and inspecting your danger zones – the places that trap moisture and set the stage for fungal or bacterial infection.
Your feet are also more vulnerable to problems, especially if you have any nerve damage that decreases sensation, so get into the habit of cleaning them at least once a day, looking closely for any cuts and blisters, and drying them very thoroughly.
For many diabetics, medication plays a major role in good diabetes management, but there are several reasons why you shouldn’t rely exclusively on pharmaceuticals to keep your disease in check. Self-care, lifestyle changes, and education are just as important for your body, but also for your mind: taking a stronger role in your diabetes management is empowering, and the added sense of control can be a big confidence boost.
Read more about diabetes treatment over at NewLifeOutlook.