The thought of getting complications from diabetes is scary and difficult to think about. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to avoid them and to protect yourself. Listed below are some actions that you can take to be sure that you are doing your part to avoid development of diabetes complications:
- Keep your blood sugar numbers in the target range as much of the time as possible
Studies have shown that the closer to normal you can keep your blood sugar level will help lower your risk of developing diabetes complications. The American Diabetes Association recommends that your fasting blood sugar is best if it is between 80-130 mg/dl and no higher than 180 mg/dl one to two hours after eating. The target A1C level is <7.0% for most people. Your healthcare provider may have different target numbers for you so be sure to ask at your next appointment what numbers you should be aiming for. Make sure to bring your blood sugar records to all appointments with your healthcare provider so they can review them with you.
- Eat healthy and nutritiously
It is important to eat a variety of foods from all of the food groups. One example of healthy eating is the use of “The Diabetes Plate Method”. When you look at your plate, one half should contain the non-starchy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, green beans, carrots, etc. One fourth of your plate should contain the lean protein such as chicken, fish or pork chop. One fourth of your plate should contain the carbohydrate foods such as whole grain pasta, bread, rice, corn or potatoes.
- Be active on most days
The American Diabetes Association recommends most adults try to get at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week. That works out to about 30 minutes most days of the week. Find activities that you enjoy and will stick with. If it has been awhile since you have been physically active, be sure to check with your health care provider first for recommendations about getting started.
- Take your diabetes medications as prescribed
It is important to keep taking your diabetes medications as instructed. The medications will work together with diet and exercise to help you manage your blood sugar levels. Be sure to speak with your healthcare provider if you are having any difficulties with taking your medications, such as cost, side effects, etc., so they can assist you with other options.
- Check your feet every day
Monitor your feet for blisters, sores or calluses. Seek medical care as needed. Never go barefoot. Wear shoes that fit properly.
- Monitor and control blood pressure and cholesterol
Regular exercise, weight loss if needed, and following a low-fat diet are important for controlling blood pressure and cholesterol. If you have been prescribed medications for these conditions, it is very important that you continue to take the medications.
- Stay on schedule with immunizations
Make sure to get your influenza vaccination yearly. The tetanus vaccination is recommended to be given every ten years. Check with your healthcare provider about the pneumonia vaccine, shingles vaccine and any other that may be appropriate for you.
- Get an annual eye examination
An annual dilated eye examination is an important action you can take to help prevent and identify early eye complications. The eye doctor is able to identify changes in your eyes, often before you notice any symptoms.
- Don’t smoke
Smoking leads to many of the complications of diabetes. If you currently smoke, talk with your healthcare provider about quitting. There are many good tools to help you with this.
- Take care of your teeth
Diabetes may make you more likely to develop gum disease. Visit the dentist at least twice a year for teeth cleaning and examination. Brush your teeth at least twice a day. Floss your teeth daily.
These are some of the most important actions you can take to live healthy and to avoid diabetes complications.