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Tips for Managing Diabetes

Keeping diabetes under control

Managing diabetesWhile diabetes is a serious health problem, the good news is that it is manageable — especially if diagnosed early.

Steven K. Rothschild, MD, a family medicine physician at Rush, offers the following lifestyle tips to help keep diabetes under control and avoid the often debilitating complications related to the disease:

  • Eat a balanced diet. Seeing a dietitian every one to two years can be helpful if you have diabetes. “They, along with your diabetes health care team, will help you plan a diet that is right for you,” Rothschild says.
  • Exercise at least three to four times a week for 20 to 40 minutes each session. A regular exercise program can improve blood sugars, decrease the risk of heart disease, and help you lose weight.

Talk to your health care provider before starting any exercise program. He or she may want to do a few tests first. If you have complications related to your diabetes like neuropathy or retinopathy there are certain types of exercise that you should avoid.

Tell your doctor what kind of exercise you want to do so adjustments can be made to your medicine schedule or meal plan. Remember, it is important to check your sugars prior to vigorous exercise.

  • Get plenty of sleep. Keeping a regular schedule and getting enough sleep will help you keep your blood sugar levels in good control.
  • If you smoke, quit. While smoking is bad for your health, it is especially harmful for people with diabetes, Rothschild cautions. “Nicotine in cigarette smoke causes large and small blood vessels to harden and narrow, resulting in reduced blood flow to the rest of your body.”

Because people with diabetes already have a greater risk of developing health problems like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, foot problems and more, smoking makes the risks that much greater.

  • Manage stress as best you can. Stress, both physical and mental, can send your blood sugar levels out of whack. Consider a stress management workshop to help you learn better coping methods.
  • Practice good foot and skin care. Check your feet daily for calluses, cracks, or skin breakdown. If you notice any of the following, notify your doctor right away:
    • Redness
    • Ulcerations
    • Pus or a foul smelling drainage from your feet
    • Any of your toes have turned black and cold
    • Swelling in your ankles or feet
  • Report signs of infection to your doctor. If you have any signs of infection — redness in areas of the skin, fevers, vomiting, etc. — call your doctor or health care provider immediately.
  • Discuss sexual problems with your doctor. Diabetes can cause a variety of sexual and urologic problems for both men and women.
  • Stay knowledgeable about diabetes. Continue learning about diabetes to maintain and improve your health. Rothschild suggests attending a diabetes class or scheduling visits with your diabetes educator at least once a year.