November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, a month in which individuals and healthcare professionals raise awareness about diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that there are a total of 37.3 million people living with diabetes in the U.S. Many people must navigate their day-to-day lives while also managing their diabetes. While the most common ways to manage blood sugar levels are eating a healthy diet, exercising, and taking medications, there are other skills people can use to help. These are more commonly known as self-care behaviors.
Here are the Top 7 Ways to Help Manage Blood Sugar:
Follow a meal pattern that has lean sources of protein (beans, fish, chicken), colorful fruits and vegetables, incorporating whole grains and low-fat dairy. It is also helpful to be mindful of salt, added sugars and saturated fats. People often wonder if they need to cut out traditional foods and dishes that are commonly higher in carbohydrates (for example, rice-based dishes). No! Instead, aim to add more nutrition to your meals like a new chunky vegetable salsa or stir-fry vegetables. Build a healthy plate with ½ plate filled with vegetables, ¼ plate filled with protein and ¼ plate filled with carbohydrate or starch.
Your physical movement routine can incorporate formal or structured exercises like going for walks, attending group exercise classes or swimming. It can also incorporate informal or unstructured movement like standing up during long workdays or parking further away to get in more steps. People find it most successful to incorporate movement when it is something that they enjoy and something that fits into their daily lives. The recommendation for physical activity for adults is 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That breaks down to approximately 30 minutes, 5 days a week. If you are not there, do not worry. Start where you feel most comfortable and build upon that!
If you have been prescribed medication to help with your blood sugar levels, it is important to take it as prescribed. Medication can be helpful in conjunction with healthy eating and physical movement to bring down daily blood sugars and A1c levels. If you have any questions or concerns about medications, you should speak with your healthcare provider. Always keep track of any side effects that you experience, if the medicine is affecting your daily life or if you have stopped taking any medications. These things will help your provider find a treatment that fits you best.
Monitoring allows you to see how your body is doing. While people may feel symptoms of high or low blood sugars, they will not know the actual number unless they check. Monitoring can happen daily with glucose checks at home and on a schedule with medical appointments. Monitoring is not limited to blood sugars. Providers will also check blood pressure, cholesterol levels and kidney function. More often people are using small sensors called Continuous Glucose Monitors that are helpful in getting more information to help diabetes educators and healthcare providers make recommendations for blood sugar management. You can speak with your provider about types of monitors available to use.
One of the top goals of diabetes management is preventing complications. High blood sugar levels over a long period of time can raise the risk of developing complications. These high levels can affect eyes, kidneys, and nerves. While these complications can happen, they are not an automatic outcome of living with diabetes. Making positive lifestyle changes, regular medical visits and health screenings can all help lower your risk for developing complications.
Everybody faces problems at some point in their life. There are some problems that you can proactively prepare for while others that you must navigate as they come up. There are three steps that you can follow can be helpful in solving problems: Identifying the problem, brainstorming solutions, and taking action. Breaking down the problem in smaller points can make it easier to find a solution.
Example: A person is not taking their medication. They realize that the problem is due to forgetting to take it. Solutions to remember to take their medication include setting an alarm, moving the medication to a visible place, working with their medical provider to see if medication can be taken at different point in the day. To take action, the person chooses to move the medication to a visible location.
Living with diabetes can sometimes be overwhelming for people. Practicing healthy coping strategies is key in diabetes management. Examples of unhealthy coping strategies include smoking, over- or undereating, avoiding people and social situations and drinking alcohol. These strategies can make blood sugar levels worse. Aim for healthy strategies like being physically active, finding a hobby, taking part in faith-based activities or meditation, and joining a support group. Healthy coping helps to decrease levels of diabetes distress making it easier to practice self-care. Consider reaching out to family, friends, medical providers and even diabetes educators to start the conversation around healthy coping.
The Avance Care Nutrition Services department offers Diabetes Education Group Classes and a Diabetes Support Group, which can be an integral part of your diabetes self-care. To learn more about Nutrition Services visit avancenutrition.com.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report website. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/data/statistics-report/index.html. Accessed October 14, 2022.