Diabetes self-care: seven steps for the New Year!
For many of us, the start of a new year brings the opportunity to make changes to improve our health, whether it’s eating better, exercising more, quitting smoking or reducing stress. It’s also a great time to review your diabetes management and to determine the habits you could build that will make living with diabetes easier and which could help to prevent future health problems.
Here are the seven diabetes self-care behaviours, developed by the American Association of Diabetes Educators, which can help you in better managing your diabetes in 2019:
1. Healthy Eating
Eating well is an important part of managing diabetes. The right eating plan can help you to manage your blood glucose levels, your blood fats and blood pressure and to maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight if you need to. This doesn’t mean giving up all of your favourite foods but it may mean eating less of certain foods and more of others. An Accredited Practicing Dietitian (APD) can help you to develop an eating plan to suit your individual needs.
2. Problem Solving
Diabetes is a balancing act – you need to constantly balance food, activity levels and medication to keep your blood glucose levels in target.
This isn’t always easy as there are many different things that can affect your diabetes management, some which are difficult to plan for. The key is becoming a good problem solver and learning from experience, so if something happens that gets you off track, you can learn from this experience and take it into account the next time you face a similar situation.
It’s also important to know what to do in different situations such as sick days, when you are travelling and on special occasions. Knowing how to adjust your diabetes management in these situations will help you to avoid running into problems. Make a list to discuss with your diabetes educator, dietitian or doctor at your next appointment.
3. Being Active
Exercise doesn’t just help to manage blood glucose levels, it also reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke, helps to manage weight, reduces stress and depression and improves sleep.
You also feel better when you exercise regularly and everyday activities get easier so you can do more of the things you enjoy. The good news is that exercise doesn’t mean you have to go to the gym – there are plenty of options from walking and swimming to having a hit of tennis, joining a dance class or playing a round of golf. Sitting less and moving more throughout the day is also important.
Monitoring your blood glucose levels is an important tool in managing your diabetes. By checking your blood glucose levels regularly you can:
- determine whether your levels are in your target range or if they are above or below this range;
- learn how different foods, exercise, stress and illness affect your blood glucose levels;
- know when you need to see your health care team to adjust your diabetes management plan.
5. Healthy Coping
Living with a chronic condition like diabetes can affect you emotionally, as well as physically. And unfortunately, both stress and depression can affect blood glucose levels and make it harder to manage your diabetes.
Consider things you can do to improve your coping skills, such as exercising regularly, getting enough sleep and rest, making time for activities you enjoy and enlisting the support of family and friends.
And remember that while it’s normal for all of us to sometimes feel stressed, anxious or depressed, if your symptoms don’t go away it’s important to seek help.
6. Taking Medication
There are many types of medication that your doctor may recommend you take when you have diabetes. These medications can help to lower your blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of complications.
However, many people don’t take the medication their doctor prescribes. This may be because they think it doesn’t work, they experience side effects, they have trouble affording the cost of them or they just forget. If there is a reason you haven’t been taking your medication, discuss this with your doctor or diabetes educator who can answer your questions and address any concerns about your medications and how they work, and help you with strategies to overcome any barriers.
7. Reducing Risks
Having diabetes puts you at higher risk of developing a number of other health problems. The good news is that the risk of these complications can be significantly reduced. The key is having regular health checks which can help to detect any problems early. Diabetes Australian recommends a Diabetes Annual Cycle of Care which is completed by your general practitioner to help you and your health professionals in managing your diabetes and to reduce your risk of diabetes-related complications.
You can find out more about the AADE7 Self-Care Behaviours here.
Remember to always seek advice from your medical practitioner before changing anything about your diabetes management. The above information is NOT medical advice.