Diabetes self-management: Guidelines for success
Living with diabetes (also known as diabetes mellitus) is an adjustment – no doubt about it. You need to spend time and energy managing your condition. According to a study in the Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders, these seven self-care practices help people living with diabetes avoid serious health complications and hospital visits:
- Monitoring your blood sugar
- Taking medication as directed
- Eating right
- Being physically active
- Developing healthy coping skills
- Using problem-solving skills
- Practicing risk-reduction behaviors
These are all big steps and they’re not easy! Each one requires major effort – but they are doable if you get all the help you can. The Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists has an extensive list of resources to help people living with diabetes with self-management. The CDC also offers information about Diabetes Self-Management Programs.
Diabetes self-care from head to toe
Here are some more ideas for diabetes self-management and for how you can take care of your body.
Get your eyes checked yearly
Diabetic retinopathy is a condition that affects the tiny blood vessels at the back of the eye. It can cause vision loss and blindness in people living with diabetes, especially if you’ve had diabetes for a long time and if your sugars aren’t well controlled. Take good care of your eyes and see your ophthalmologist regularly.
Take care of your teeth
Having diabetes makes you more at risk of developing gingivitis (gum inflammation) and periodontitis (gum disease). This is because high blood sugars can result in too much sugar in your saliva, which is the perfect environment for bacteria. And having gum disease can also increase your blood sugar levels which can lead to other complications like heart disease. Practice good dental health by brushing and flossing after eating. Visit your dentist twice a year in order to catch early symptoms.
Keep an eye on your hair and skin
Diabetes is associated with a number of skin conditions including dry skin. If you see anything unusual, speak to your doctor. If you experience hair loss on your head, arms, or legs, get it checked, as it could be a sign of high blood sugar levels.
Stay on top of your kidneys
Around 1 in 3 adults with diabetes has chronic kidney disease (CKD). If you are living with diabetes, you need to stay on top of the health of your kidneys by keeping your blood sugars and blood pressure within your target range. If left untreated, CKD can lead to serious complications. The only way to know if you have CKD is to get checked annually or as directed by your physician.
Put your feet first
If you’re living with diabetes, you have to take extra care of your feet. Here’s why: Too much sugar can injure the walls of the tiny blood vessels that nourish your nerves, most often in your legs and feet. This condition, known as diabetic neuropathy, can cause foot problems such as sores, ulcers, and, in extreme cases, the need for amputation. It may affect as many as 50% of people living with diabetes.
Here’s what to do to keep your feet healthy:
- Check your feet every day. Look for any swelling, blisters, redness, cuts, or peeling skin.
- Make sure they’re clean and dry. Wash your feet daily with mild soap and warm water. Dry them well!
- Keep moving. If you’re sitting for a long time, elevate your feet, and wiggle your toes every now and then throughout the day.
- Never go bare. Always keep your feet covered, even when you’re inside.
- Choose the right socks.Stay away from thick seams and tight bands. You want socks made of moisture-wicking fibers or cotton.
- Wear shoes that fit properly. Your shoes matter! Make sure they’re the right size and that your toes have room to move.
Self-management of diabetes: More steps you can take
Try these tips for diabetes self-help – take control!
Record your numbers in a logbook
You want to see how often you are in range, your A1C, your blood pressure, and more. Use paper, your computer, an app – whatever you find convenient. If you want, you can use the Dario smart glucometer and app to track your trends.
Easier said than done, of course. Life can be difficult even without the added complication of a chronic condition. What helps you relax? Try meditating, journaling, or yoga, to name a few ideas. Just make sure that whatever you do, you do it consistently. Don’t overlook this very important aspect of your self-care!
Learn as much as you can
The more you know, the more you can manage your own care effectively. Read what you can, ask questions, and stay informed – you are your own best advocate!
Share your journey with your family and friends so they’ll understand what you’re going through and how they can help. Let your healthcare know if you’re struggling. You may find it helpful to speak to other people who are living with diabetes. The ADA’s list of communities and events is a good place to start.
Put yourself first
With so many competing daily responsibilities, it can be challenging to make time for diabetes self-care. It’s important to prioritize your health. Every day won’t be perfect. Just stay committed to doing as much as you can when you can.
The articles provided on this website are for informational purposes only. In addition, it is written for a generic audience and not a specific case; therefore, this information should not be used for diagnostic or medical treatment. This site does not attempt to replace the patient-physician relationship and fully recommends the reader to seek out the best care from his/her physician and/or diabetes educator.