November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, an opportunity to spread awareness of a disease that affects 37 million Americans, with millions more at risk of developing the chronic condition. This week President Biden delivered a proclamation on National Diabetes Month, acknowledging our history with the disease, the advancements we’ve made, and how we plan to eradicate it in the future. To recognize National Diabetes Awareness Month 2022, Pain Resource is highlighting diabetes management to encourage you to take charge of the disease so you can thrive in the years ahead.
Diabetes is a long-lasting disease that affects how the body turns food into energy. And while the body naturally produces the hormone insulin to convert glucose (sugar) from the food we eat into energy, those with diabetes can’t sufficiently produce insulin, causing blood sugar levels to rise and build in the bloodstream.
There are several types of diabetes, and although the exact cause is unknown, it’s thought that the disease is acquired through a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Forms of diabetes include:
- Type 1 Diabetes – Usually diagnosed in children and young adults, those with type 1 have to take insulin daily as the immune system attacks and destroys the cells in the pancreas that make insulin, causing little to no insulin production.
- Type 2 Diabetes – The most common form of diabetes, those with type 2 don’t make enough insulin or the body doesn’t respond well to insulin. Type 2 diabetes can develop at any age but usually occurs in middle-aged and older people.
- Gestational Diabetes – Occurring in pregnant people, this type of diabetes usually goes away after pregnancy, however, those who’ve had gestational diabetes are at a greater risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.
- Prediabetes – A precursor to diabetes, prediabetes occurs when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be considered type 2.
What Happens With Poor Diabetes Management
Contrary to popular belief, diabetes is more than just abnormal blood glucose control in response to a lack of the hormone insulin. It’s a serious, chronic disease with life-threatening effects throughout the body. When diabetes management is not done properly, it can damage several bodily systems such as the heart and kidneys and can lead to serious health complications like heart attack and stroke, blindness, neuropathy, and even amputation.
Despite the progress made in diabetes care and the availability of more effective medications and digital health technologies that track blood glucose levels, a study published by Jama Internal Medicine revealed that only one in four Americans take steps to manage their diabetes and prevent the damage it can cause. Moreover, more than three-fourths of participants failed to meet all treatment goals established by the American Diabetes Association, demonstrating the importance of diabetes management and education across the United States.
Diabetes Management Guidelines
November may be National Diabetes Awareness Month, but it’s important to raise awareness year-round and educate those affected by the disease on the importance of diabetes management for long-term health and well-being.
Whether you have type 1, type 2, or pre-diabetes, life with diabetes doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. In fact, those with diabetes can thrive with the disease, and the guidelines below are designed to help you do just.
Know Your Diabetes ABCs
According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, knowing your diabetes ABCs ensures proper diabetes management, and will help keep your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol in check.
To learn more about what your personal diabetes numbers and goals should be, talk with your primary care physician about the following:
- A1C test – This shows the average blood glucose level over the past three months. The A1C goal for many with diabetes is below seven percent.
- Blood pressure – The blood glucose goal for many people with diabetes is below 140/90 mm Hg.
- Cholesterol – There is LDL cholesterol, i.e., the “bad” cholesterol that clogs arteries, and HDL cholesterol, i.e., the “good” cholesterol that helps remove LDL.
Follow a Diabetes Meal Plan
Being conscious of the foods you eat plays a significant role in diabetes management, and it starts with following a diabetes meal plan. This includes filling your plate with fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein such as chicken and fish, and nonfat or low-fat dairy products. It’s also important to drink plenty of water and avoid sugary beverages as they will cause a dramatic rise and fall in your blood glucose.
Prioritize Daily Physical Activity
Physical activity helps your body use insulin efficiently, keeps your blood sugar level stable, and helps you manage your weight. You should aim for 30 minutes of daily exercise, says the CDC. Walking, cycling, and swimming are great activities to implement into your daily schedule, especially if you’re not used to being active.
Both diabetes and smoking narrow blood vessels, making it especially important for those with diabetes to stop smoking and avoid it altogether. The benefits of quitting include:
- Improved blood circulation, blood pressure, and cholesterol
- Lowers the risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and other serious health complications
- Makes physical activity easier
Check Your Blood Glucose Levels
Checking your blood glucose level is an important part of diabetes management, especially if you take insulin, as it can help you make decisions about food, medicines, and exercise. A common way to check your blood glucose level at home is with a blood glucose meter. This device will show you how much glucose is in your blood in real-time.
Monitor Your Medications
Diabetes medications like insulin are designed to stabilize your blood glucose when other preventative measures aren’t enough. To ensure your medications are effective, it’s important to monitor the size and timing of the dose.
Practice Healthy Coping Mechanisms
Stress, anxiety, anger, and depression are common among those who live with chronic illnesses like diabetes. And because these feelings can get in the way of your diabetes management, it’s important to practice healthy coping mechanisms that will keep your blood pressure low and instill a feeling of calm. Try activities like meditation, walking, and deep breathing, or consider participating in a diabetes program or support group to connect with others who share the same condition as you.
How Are You Practicing Diabetes Management?
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