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Diabetes is a serious disease in which your blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high. Diabetes affects almost every part of your body. Diabetes can lead to heart attack; stroke; eye problems that can lead to trouble seeing or going blind; nerve damage that can cause your hands and feet to hurt, tingle, or feel numb – some people may even lose a foot or a leg; kidney problems that can cause your kidneys to stop working; and gum disease and loss of teeth.
These are the different types of diabetes:
- Type 1 Diabetes. The body does not make insulin. Insulin helps the body use glucose from food for energy. People with type 1 need to take insulin every day.
- Type 2 Diabetes. The body does not make or use insulin well. People with type 2 often need to take pills or insulin. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes.
- Gestational Diabetes. This may occur when a woman is pregnant. It raises her risk of getting another type of diabetes, mostly type 2, for the rest of her life. It also raises her child's risk of being overweight and getting diabetes.
It is important to take good care of yourself and your diabetes so that you can feel better and help avoid other health problems caused by diabetes. When you manage your blood glucose levels, you are likely to have more energy, be less tired and thirsty, and urinate less frequently. Other advantages to managing your health are that you may have fewer problems with your eyesight, feet and gums, heal better, and have fewer skin or bladder infections.
Involve the help of others to help you take care of your diabetes. Seek help from a large network of people who are experts on you and/or your health, including doctors, diabetes educators, eye doctors, mental health counselors, nurse practitioners, social workers, dentists, dietitians, foot doctors, pharmacists, friends and family members.
Things you can do to help you manage your diabetes
There are a number of things you can do to help manage your diabetes, including:
Routine care and lab screenings
- Make healthy food choices.
- Eat healthy food such as fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meats, chicken or turkey without the skin, dry peas or beans, whole grains, and low-fat or skim milk and cheese.
- Keep fish and lean meat and poultry cooked portions to about 3 ounces – or the size of a deck of cards). Bake, broil or grill them.
- Eat foods that have less fat and salt.
- Eat foods with more fiber, such as whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice and pasta.
- Stay at a healthy weight by using your meal plan and moving more.
- Be physically active every day. Get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Brisk walking is a great way to move more.
- Get regular check-ups with your physician and have regular blood screenings done for Hemoglobin A1C and LDL-C levels. Talk to your physician about how to manage your Hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
- Ask for help if you feel down. A mental health counselor, support group, member of the clergy, friend or family member who will listen to your concerns may help you feel better.
- Learn to cope with stress. Stress can raise your blood glucose. While it is hard to remove stress from your life, you can learn to handle it.
- Stop smoking. Ask for help to quit.
- Take medicines even when you feel good. Ask your doctor if you need aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke. Tell your doctor if you cannot afford your medicines or if you have any side affects.
- Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, read spots and swelling. Call your physician right away about any sores that do not go away.
- Brush your teeth and floss every day to avoid problems with your mouth, teeth and gums.
- Check your blood glucose. You may want to test it one or more times a day. Keep a record of your blood glucose numbers. Be sure to take this record to your doctor visits.
- Check you blood pressure if your doctor advises.
- Report any changes in your eyesight to your doctor.
Talk with your physician about how to manage your Hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol. These screenings are an important way to help lower your chances of having a heart attack, stroke or other diabetes problems. Here is what the ABCs of Diabetes stand for:
- A for the A1C test (A-one-C). It shows you what your blood glucose has been over the last three months. The A1C goal for most people is below 7. High blood glucose levels can harm your heart and blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and eyes.
- B for blood pressure. The goal for most people with diabetes is below 130/80. High blood pressure makes your heart work too hard. It can lead to heart attacks, strokes and kidney disease.
- C for cholesterol (ko-LES-ter-ol). The LDL goal for most people is below 100. The HDL goal for most people is above 40. LDL, or "bad" cholesterol, can build up and clog your blood vessels. It can cause a heart attack or a stroke. HDL, or "good" cholesterol, helps remove cholesterol from your blood vessels.
When you have your screenings, ask the following:
- What your A1C, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers are.
- What your ABC numbers should be.
- What you can do to reach your targets.
Be sure to always write down and keep track of all of your numbers.
Take care of yourself with routine care
You can take an active role in improving your health by ensuring that each of the following happen:
Source: National Diabetes Education Program
- At each visit, be sure you have a blood pressure check, foot check, weight check and a review of your self-health management care plan.
- Be sure you receive an A1C test twice a year. It may be checked more often if it is more than 7.
- Once each year, be sure you have a cholesterol test, a triglyceride test (a type of blood fat), a complete foot exam, a dental exam to check teeth and gums (be sure to tell your dentist you have diabetes).
- a dilated eye exam to check for eye problems;
- a flu shot;
- a urine and blood test to check for kidney problems; and
- a pneumonia shot at least once during your lifetime.