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Eight Great Tips to Improve Your Diabetes Health

Updated on October 10, 2017
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Stephanie is an enthusiastic amateur photographer who loves sharing tips and favorite images.

Use insulin as prescribed to manage diabetes
Use insulin as prescribed to manage diabetes

You Can Improve Your Health with Diabetes

Are you like many diabetics, struggling to keep their A1Cs in line? Do you wonder why your post-meal values seem to spike, regardless of careful meal planning? What happens when you get up in the morning to high blood sugars, even though you went to bed in range?

Here are a few tips from a Type 1 diabetic, that just may help those numbers improve, and result in better overall health! Diabetes can be an overwhelming diagnosis, but you can get a handle on managing your blood glucose levels for more consistent readings. Trust me, without the severe swings from high to low blood sugar, you will sleep better, perform better in school and at work, and may even experience more stable moods!

Tips 1 and 2 to Improve Your Diabetes Health

1. Not all carbs are created equal. Just because the nutrition information on the side of the package says that there are 18 grams of carbohydrates per serving, does not mean that you should take the same amount of insulin or other medication to counteract the anticipated impact on blood sugar. Protein, combined with carbs, will generally prevent a blood sugar spike. You may find that less insulin is needed at the outset of a meal that includes low-fat protein choices, like turkey. On the other hand, fat content will affect the metabolism of sugars, resulting in a much higher reading hours after a meal. Pizza is a usual culprit. A late night slice or two can result in a hang-over-like morning, even if no beer is involved!

2. Timing is everything. Some diabetics have found that their insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio is lower (that is, more insulin is required) in the morning hours than later in the day. By keeping this in mind, you may need to add medication, or cut back on serving sizes during breakfast to prevent mid-morning highs. Another alternative is to exercise early in the day to boost sluggish metabolism.

To improve your diabetes health, chose your meals wisely
To improve your diabetes health, chose your meals wisely

Tips 3 and 4 to Improve Your Diabetes Health

3. Move it, move it, move it! Yes, there is no getting around this one. Any program in which you hope to achieve better health will invariably include a recommendation of some type of exercise. Depending on your overall health, however, it is critical that you consult your doctor before beginning a new regime. If you already exercise, you are aware of the fact that, overall, a diabetic will have better control of blood sugar readings with regular exercise. Please be aware that a more intensive exercise program may require adjustments in medication to prevent dangerous low blood sugar episodes.

4. The sugar-free myth. Just because its sugar-free does not mean that it is "safe." Always check the nutrition information label before ingesting food. Sugar, by itself, is not the cause of high blood sugar. Carbohydrates, which are found in any food ingredient that ends in -ose (lactose (milk), fructose, sucruose, etc.) require insulin to "unlock" the energy they would provide to cells in the body. Without adequate insulin, the energy (aka sugar) builds up in the blood - to dangerous levels.

Diabetes Health Interview

Regular exercise is a must for good diabetes health
Regular exercise is a must for good diabetes health

Tips 5 through 8 to Improve Your Diabetes Health

5. Don't distract your liver. If you regularly drink alcoholic beverages, there are two points of caution for the diabetic. First, be aware that many drinks (beer and mixers) include sugar and will have an immediate impact on blood sugar levels. Second, if you drink often and more than 2 drinks a day, your liver may be too busy de-toxifying your body to play its important role in regulating overall blood sugar levels. Your liver generally will release stored blood sugar throughout the day to provide energy during the times you are not eating. It may be "distracted" from this role after an alcoholic binge, and the diabetic could then experience dangerous low blood sugar episodes.

6. Dining out dangers. Most Americans know that the average restaurant meal is 2-3 times the size it needs to be. For the diabetic, this means more than just a possibly expanded waistline. A good working knowledge of true serving sizes is a necessity before going out on a date! Many clinics and hospitals have workshops available where you can go for a half day to learn true serving sizes. Take advantage of them! But serving sizes are not the only culprit when it comes to restaurant blood sugar sabotage. Sauces (hidden sugar) and high fat ingredients also have an impact. Its difficult to even order a presumably innocent salad! Best bet may be to test often and adjust medication as necessary when you want to treat yourself to an evening out.

7. Equipment maintenance. If your meter isn't working, then you don't have an accurate read on the true state of your health. Keep an adequate supply of batteries and strips on hand. When the clocks change in spring and fall, make sure you change your meter, as well. The same recommendations apply to insulin pumps, or any other diabetes equipment you may use. Technology is advancing quickly. It may be that the pump you bought 5 years ago is obsolete. Check with your doctor and ask questions. Be proactive! Be sure to wear proper medical identification in case you cannot care for yourself in an emergency.

8. Don't try to "wing it". If you have been diabetic for many years, you may think that you know everything about your body and/or about the disease. You don't. Keep your regular appointments to an endocrinologist, or other specialist. At least 4 times a year, have your A1C tested. Ask about advancements in medications or technology that may improve your personal results. Don't get stuck in a rut. If you find yourself burning out on diabetes care, pick up an inspirational book, or challenge yourself to run a half marathon.

With these simple tips and a good relationship with your doctor, you can be on the road to better health in no time. I'll be right there with you!

Living with Juvenile Diabetes

© 2008 Stephanie Marshall


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