Diabetes is quickly becoming an epidemic in the United States. According to the American Diabetes Association and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 30 million Americans, or approximately 10 percent of the nation’s population, have diabetes. Left unmanaged, diabetes can lead to blindness, kidney disease, heart disease and amputations. It also claims the lives of almost 200,000 Americans each year.
The good news is that you can easily manage diabetes and live a healthy and fulfilling lifestyle.
“Many of the behaviors that can help control diabetes are ones we all should follow,” said Dr. Andrea Gelzer, chief medical officer for AmeriHealth Caritas, a national leader in health care solutions for those in need. “Some basic lifestyle changes can both control diabetes and improve your health in other ways.”
Here are some common tips for managing diabetes:
Watch your numbers
It is important to watch your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol numbers, but the most important metrics in diabetes are your blood sugar and A1C levels — A1C is a measure of your blood sugar level over the past three months. Ask your primary care provider (PCP) and/or endocrinologist (a doctor who specializes in diabetes and other diseases of the endocrine system) about how to check your blood sugar and how often to do so. They can also work with your health insurance plan to help you obtain the needed supplies.
You should develop a healthy meal plan that includes:
- Foods lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar and salt.
- Foods with more fiber, such as whole grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Low-fat or skim milk and water instead of juice and soda.
Increasing your physical activity can help you get to and maintain a healthy weight. You should set a goal to be more active most days of the week. One possible approach is to start slowly by taking a 10-minute walk three times a day.
Take care of your eyes, mouth and feet
It may surprise you that your vision, mouth and feet can be indicators of uncontrolled diabetes. Make sure you brush and floss every day to keep your teeth and gums healthy. Check your feet for cuts, blisters, red spots and swelling. And contact your PCP if you experience blurred or otherwise impaired vision.
Obtain routine health care
Keep scheduled visits with your PCP and other physicians to help find and treat any problems early. At each visit, be sure you have a:
- Blood pressure check
- Foot check
- Weight check
- Review of your self-care plan