How to Manage Diabetes
Diabetes management requires self-awareness in knowing what makes your blood sugar rise and fall – and how to control these factors day-to-day. The key comes down to balancing your food with your activity, lifestyle and diabetes medicines.
Self-blood glucose monitors (available in most pharmacies) allow you to take control and check your blood glucose levels as often as you need to, or as recommended by your doctor.
Diabetes is a progressive condition. Taking care of yourself and your diabetes can help you feel good today and better in the future. When your blood sugar (glucose) is close to normal, you are likely to have more energy, need to pass urine less often, heal more quickly and also be less at risk of developing serious complications such as heart disease or stroke.
How to manage Type 1 diabetes
In Type 1 diabetes, the pancreas produces little or no insulin which is vital for converting glucose into energy. People with Type 1 diabetes need to do the job of the pancreas and replace the production of the hormone insulin via insulin injections or an insulin pump. The insulin acts to reduce the level of glucose in the blood.
Type 1 diabetes is managed with:
- Insulin replacement through lifelong insulin injections (up to 6 every day) or use of an insulin pump
- Monitoring of blood glucose levels regularly (up to 6 times every day or as directed by a doctor or Credentialed Diabetes Educator)
- Following a healthy diet and eating plan
- Regular exercise
How to manage pre-diabetes
Individuals with pre-diabetes have the opportunity to manage their blood glucose levels in order to delay or even prevent developing Type 2 Diabetes. Lifestyle changes alone such as improved diet and physical activity can have long-lasting effects. For more prevention tips, see here.
How to manage Type 2 diabetes
If left undiagnosed or managed poorly, Type 2 diabetes can lead to coronary artery disease (CAD), stroke, kidney failure, limb amputations and blindness. As such, the early identification and optimal management of people with Type 2 diabetes is critical.
The best place to start in managing Type 2 diabetes is by improving your lifestyle:
Even losing just a few kilos can lower your blood glucose levels and help keep Type 2 diabetes under control.
Improve your diet
Ensure you are eating adequate levels of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, and low-fat dairy. Be especially careful about loading up on foods high on the glycaemic index (GI), for example white bread and pasta, alcohol, and starchy vegetables.
Stress can make blood sugar levels harder to control. Get sufficient sleep and take time to relax through activities like yoga or meditation.
Sometimes, healthy eating and exercise might not be enough to keep glucose levels down. As time progresses, the insulin becomes more resistant and the body is less effective in converting glucose into energy. To help this process, people with Type 2 diabetes are often prescribed tablets to control their blood glucose levels.
In some cases it may also be necessary to also start taking insulin if your body is no longer producing enough insulin on its own.
If you require medication as treatment, it is important to note that tablets or injections are intended to be used together with healthy eating and regular physical activity, not as a substitute.
Tips for everyday management of diabetes:
- Take your medicines for diabetes and any other health problems even when you feel good. Tell your doctor if you cannot afford your medicines or if you have any side effects.
- Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots, and swelling. Inform your health care team immediately about any sores that do not go away.
- Brush your teeth and floss every day to keep your mouth, teeth, and gums healthy.
- Stop smoking. Ask your doctor for assistance if you need help to quit.
- Keep track of your blood sugar. You may want to check it one or more times a day.
- Check your blood pressure if your doctor advises and keep a record of it.
Learn more about how to take a holistic approach to diabetes management here.