Tips to live well with Type 2 Diabetes

Having diabetes does not mean you have to miss out on the good things in life. Here is how you can live well with diabetes.

Through proper sugar control, many problems such as eye disease, kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage and serious foot problems can be prevented or delayed. Maintain a healthy lifestyle and stick to daily routines of regular exercise, good nutrition, glucose monitoring, and regular visits to your doctor.

  • Eat regular meals. Have at least three meals at about the same time everyday. Eating every four to five hours can help control blood sugar. Always carry with you some type of carbohydrate food or drink that has 10 to 15 grams of carbohydrate which you can use in case of emergency (low glucose level).
  • Eat a variety of foods. Choose foods that fulfill your body's nutritional needs. Eat less fat, less sugar and less salt. Avoid fried foods. Baked, boiled or steamed foods are healthier to eat. Avoid red meat. Have low fat dairy products. Eat more high-fiber foods, like vegetables, fruit and whole grain breads and cereals.
  • Monitor your blood glucose two to four times every day with a blood glucose meter, if your doctor has advised you to. It is an electronic device for measuring the blood glucose at home. The blood glucose test is performed by pricking your finger with a small, sharp needle (lancet), putting a drop of blood on a chemically active disposable test strip and then placing the strip into a digital meter that displays your blood sugar level. Within a few seconds, the blood glucose level will be shown on the digital display.
  • Get an A1C test done once every 3 months. This helps assess your diabetes control for the past few months by basically measuring the amount of glucose that has been sticking to your red blood cells. Each red blood cell is replaced by a new one every 3 to 4 months. Hence, this test tells you how high the glucose levels have been during the life of the cells. Your aim is to keep your A1C around 6-7%. If most of your recent blood glucose readings have been near normal (70 to 140mg/dL), the A1C test will be near normal (about 6-7%). Many readings above normal will make your A1C test read higher.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking. They can cause health problems, especially if you are diabetic. Alcohol adds calories without giving you any nutrition. Drinking alcohol may cross-react with the medicines for diabetes and cause problems. Your blood glucose can also go down drastically if you drink alcohol on an empty stomach.
  • Be active. Physical activity keeps you fit and helps you control your blood glucose and weight. It can help prevent heart and blood flow problems. It helps you lose weight.
  • Keep a check on your blood pressure and cholesterol. Have your blood pressure checked two to four times a year and cholesterol checked (fasting lipid profile) at least once every year. If you have diabetes, you are at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can lead to other serious conditions.
  • Watch out for the nerve damage symptoms. Diabetic neuropathy is damage to nerves in the body that occurs due to high blood sugar levels from diabetes. Symptoms may include numbness and tingling of extremities, diarrhoea, erectile dysfunction, loss of bladder control, vision changes, dizziness, etc. If you have any of these symptoms report to your doctor. During your physical exam, your doctor will check how well you can feel touch, pain, movement, etc. and also your strength and reflexes. If nerve damage is suspected electromyogram (EMG) and nerve conduction studies may be done.
  • Take care of your feet. Nerve damage and poor circulation are common complications of diabetes. This makes foot problems common among diabetics. Check them every day for signs of injury and infection. Avoid walking barefoot to reduce the risk of injury. Trim your toenails straight across to help prevent ingrown nails. Keep your feet warm at all times.
  • Get your eyes examined every year to check your vision. Prolonged and inadequate blood glucose control can damage and weaken the small blood vessels in the retina (innermost layer) of the eye; a condition called diabetic retinopathy. It can cause blurred vision, double vision and a severe, permanent loss of vision. It also increases the risk of developing cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Get your kidneys checked once a year because diabetes can cause damage to the blood vessels in your kidney (diabetic nephropathy) and the risk increases if you have both diabetes and high blood pressure. The first sign of nephropathy is protein in the urine. When damage to the kidneys gets worse, your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels rise. There may be swelling in your body, at first in your feet and legs. In a urinary albumin test your urine is tested for albumin protein. Blood urea nitrogen and urine creatinine are the other tests that may be done to check kidney function. Kidney damage, if caught in early stages, can be slowed with treatment.
  • Get your teeth and gums checked by your dentist twice a year. Diabetes can affect your teeth, gums and oral cavity as well. Increased blood sugar level increases your risk of tooth decay. Gum disease can happen more often, be more severe, and take longer to heal if you have diabetes.

Read more about causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.

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