Diabetes care is a lifelong responsibility. Consider these 10 strategies to avoid complications with diabetes. Diabetes is a serious disease. Following your diabetes treatment plan leads to a permanent commitment. However, your effort is worth it. Careful diabetes care can lower your risk of serious, even fatal, complications.
Here are ways to take an active role in diabetes care and enjoy a healthy future.
Members of your diabetes care team, such as a doctor or primary health care provider, an educator member of diabetes nurses and a dietitian, can help you learn the basics of diabetes and support you in the process. However, your condition is dependent on you.
Learn as much as you can about diabetes. Make healthy eating and physical activity part of your daily routine. Maintain a healthy weight.
Check your blood sugar level and follow your doctor’s instructions to monitor it. Take your medicines as directed by your doctor. Ask your diabetes treatment team for help when you need it.
Smoking increases your risk of type 2 diabetes and a variety of diabetes-related complications, including:
Decreased blood flow in the legs and feet, which can lead to infections, ulcers and possible removal of a part of the body through surgery (amputation)
Eye disease, which can cause blindness
Talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking or stop using other types of tobacco.
Like diabetes, high blood pressure can damage blood vessels. High cholesterol is also worrisome, as the damage is often more severe and faster if you have diabetes. When these conditions add up, they can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or other serious, life-threatening illnesses.
Eating healthy, low-fat foods and exercising regularly can greatly contribute to the control of high blood pressure and cholesterol. Your doctor may also recommend that you take prescription medications, if needed.
Get two to four diabetes checks per year, plus routine physical and eye exams.
During the physical exam, your doctor will ask about your diet and physical activity and check you for diabetes-related complications, such as signs of kidney damage, nerve damage and heart disease, as well as other medical problems.
The eye care specialist will check for signs of cataracts, glaucoma and retinal damage.
Diabetes makes you more likely to get certain diseases. Routine vaccinations can help prevent them. Ask your doctor about the following vaccines:
Flu vaccine. An annual flu shot can help you stay healthy during flu season and prevent serious complications of the flu vaccine.
Pneumonia vaccine. Sometimes, only one application of the pneumonia vaccine is required. However, if you have diabetes complications or are 65 or older, you may need a booster.
Hepatitis B vaccine. The hepatitis B vaccine is recommended for adults with diabetes who have not been vaccinated before and are under 60 years of age. If you’re 60 or older and have never had this vaccine, talk to your doctor if you should.
Other vaccines. Keep the tetanus vaccine up to date (usually applied every 10 years). Your doctor may also recommend other vaccines.
Diabetes can increase your chances of getting gum infections. Brush your teeth at least twice a day with fluoride toothpaste, floss once a day, and schedule dental exams at least twice a year. Call your dentist if you have bleeding, redness, or swelling in your gums.
High blood sugar levels can decrease blood flow and damage nerves in your feet. Left untreated, wounds and blisters can lead to serious infections. Diabetes can cause pain, tingling or loss of sensation in your feet.
To prevent foot problems, do the following:
Wash your feet daily with warm water. Avoid dipping your feet, as this can dry the skin.
Dry your feet gently, especially between your toes.
Moisturize your feet and ankles with a lotion or petroleum jelly. Don’t put oils or creams between your fingers, as extra moisture can lead to infections.
Check your feet daily for calluses, blisters, sores, redness or swelling.
Ask your doctor if you have a sore or other foot problem that doesn’t start to heal within a few days. If you have a foot ulcer, an open sore, see your doctor right away.
Do not walk barefoot indoors or outdoors.
If you have diabetes or other cardiovascular risk factors, such as smoking or high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend that you take a low-dose aspirin every day to help reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes. If you don’t have additional cardiovascular risk factors, your risk of bleeding that causes aspirin use is likely to be greater than the benefits it can offer. Ask your doctor if daily aspirin treatment is right for you, and if so, what the ideal dose would be.
Alcohol can cause high or low blood sugar, depending on how much you drink and whether you eat it at the same time. If you decide to drink, do so in moderation; that is, no more than one drink per day for women of all ages and for men over 65, and two drinks per day for men under 65.
Whenever you drink, do so during a meal or snack, and remember to add the calories of any alcoholic beverage you eat to your daily calorie count. Also, keep in mind that alcohol can cause low blood sugar later on, especially in people who use insulin.
If you’re stressed, you’re likely to neglect your usual diabetes care routine. Set limits for managing stress. Prioritize your tasks. Learn relaxation techniques.
Sleeps a lot. And, first and foremost, maintain a positive attitude. Diabetes care is under your control. If you’re willing to do your part, diabetes won’t stop you from leading an active, healthy life.