Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed. Managing blood glucose (blood sugar) as well as blood pressure and cholesterol is the best defense against the serious complications of diabetes.
To manage your diabetes, here are things to do every day.
(Watch the video to learn more about what one woman does to manage her diabetes every day. To enlarge the video, click the brackets in the lower right-hand corner. To reduce the video, press the Escape (Esc) button on your keyboard.)
People with type 1 diabetes control their blood sugar with insulin -- delivered either by injection or with a pump. Many people with type 2 diabetes can control blood glucose levels with diet and exercise alone. Others require oral medications or insulin, and some may need both, as well as lifestyle modification.
Ask your doctor if you need to take aspirin every day to prevent a heart attack or stroke.
One of the best ways to find out how well you are taking care of your diabetes is to check your blood to see how much glucose is in it. If your blood has too much or too little glucose, you may need a change in your meal plan, exercise plan, or medication.
Ask your doctor how often you should check your blood glucose. Some people check their blood glucose once a day. Others do it three a day or even more. You may be told to check before eating, before bed, and sometimes in the middle of the night.
Your doctor or diabetes educator will show you how to check your blood using a blood glucose meter. Your health insurance or Medicare may pay for some of the supplies and equipment you need to check your glucose levels. See what diabetes supplies and services Medicare covers.
Check your blood pressure if your doctor advises and keep a record of it. You can check your pressure at home with a home blood pressure measurement device or monitor. Blood pressure monitors can be bought at discount chain stores and drug stores. When you are taking your blood pressure at home, sit with your back supported and your feet flat on the floor. Rest your arm on a table at the level of your heart. Check with your health care provider to make sure you are using the monitor correctly.
Foot care is very important for people with diabetes. High blood glucose levels and a reduced blood supply to the limbs cause nerve damage that reduces feeling in the feet. Someone with nerve damage may not feel a pebble inside his or her sock that is causing a sore. Or a blister caused by poorly fitting shoes may go unnoticed. Foot injuries such as these can cause ulcers, which may, if not cared for, ultimately lead to the need for amputation.
If you have diabetes,
People with diabetes can have tooth and gum problems more often if their blood glucose stays high. High blood glucose also can make tooth and gum problems worse. You can even lose your teeth.
Here are ways to protect your teeth and gums.
If you smoke, stop. Smoking raises your risk for many diabetes problems, including heart attack and stroke. Ask for help to quit. Call 1-800 QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669). For more information on smoking and older adults, see Quitting Smoking for Older Adults.
People with diabetes don't need to buy or prepare special foods. The foods that are best for someone with diabetes are excellent choices for everyone: foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar, and high in fiber, such as beans, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods help you reach and stay at a weight that's good for your body, keep your blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol in a desirable range, and prevent or delay heart and blood vessel disease.
For more on healthy eating, see Small Steps for Eating Healthy Foods.
Try to exercise almost every day for a total of about 30 to 60 minutes. If you haven't exercised lately, begin slowly. Start with 5 to 10 minutes, and then add more time. Or exercise for 10 minutes, three times a day. (Tip: you don’t need to get your exercise in all at one time.)
For more information on exercise and older adults, see Exercise: How to Get Started or visit Go4Life®, the exercise and physical activity campaign for older adults from the National Institute on Aging.
Be sure to check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.
Here are other areas to manage if you have diabetes.
High blood glucose and high blood pressure from diabetes can hurt your eyes. It can even cause blindness, or other painful eye problems.
Here are ways to prevent diabetes eye problems.
High blood glucose and high blood pressure may damage the kidneys. Damaged kidneys do not do a good job of filtering out wastes and extra fluid.
Here are ways to prevent diabetes kidney problems.
Skin care is very important, too. Because people with diabetes may have more injuries and infections, they should protect their skin by keeping it clean and taking care of minor cuts and bruises.
Stress can raise your blood glucose (blood sugar). While it is hard to remove stress from your life, you can learn to handle it. Try deep breathing, gardening, taking a walk, meditating, working on your hobby, or listening to your favorite music.