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Self-care checklist: healthy diabetes routines

A full look at diabetes care from head-to-toe. Diabetes can effect every part of your body so know what to look for, what your healthcare provider should know, and treatments that can help

Chrystle Fiedler

Provided by HealthMonitor

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Need a plan to help manage your diabetes? According to Arlan L. Rosenbloom, MD, University of Florida College of Medicine, a checklist is the best—and easiest—way to keep your glucose (blood sugar) levels under control. We offer five tips to help you establish a self-care checklist. Check them off each day as you go along—and share your progress with your doctor.

1 Check your numbers. Monitoring your glucose levels is one of the most important aspects of diabetes self-care. Why? Blood sugar levels can change minute to minute, but regular monitoring gives you an overall snapshot of your glucose levels throughout your day. This can help you understand what makes your blood sugar levels spike and dip. It will help you anticipate difficulties when numbers are high (take extra insulin) or low (eat something substantial). Share your numbers with your healthcare team so they can help you fine-tune your diabetes-management plan.

2 Take your meds. Insulin and other diabetes medications are designed to keep your blood sugar under control. But you have to take them at the right time and in the right way. “The only way your physician can help you make healthy changes is if you are following the regimen prescribed,” says Dr. Rosenbloom. Once you’re on a regular schedule, you can report any problems to your healthcare team. For example, if your blood sugar drops too low, you may need to adjust how much medication you take or when to take it.

3 Eat six small meals daily—instead of three larger meals. Doing so has less impact on blood sugar because you aren’t eating as much at one sitting. But eat enough to keep your medication working properly. Too little food can result in hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and too much can bring on hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). Insulin pumps that help you keep blood glucose levels within your target range now also calculate the number of calories that you take in.

4 Check your feet. If you have diabetes, you may also have vascular disease. This means you are unable to feel ordinary foot problems and injuries like calluses, blisters, sores and cuts. If you don’t catch these problems early, they can cause an infection. To prevent this, wash your feet daily in lukewarm water, dry them (especially between the toes) and moisturize them. Next, check each foot over from toe to heel. If you find a sore or cut that doesn’t heal, see your doctor.

5 Balance your diet. A heart-healthy diet is best. Focus on fruits and vegetables, fish (oily fish are best), fiber-rich whole grains, and nuts, legumes and seeds. Avoid processed meats, and limit saturated fat. Choose foods that are low on the glycemic index (a scale that measures how certain foods affect blood glucose). For example, eat brown rice instead of white, and whole-wheat bread instead of white bread. Also, cut back on added sugars. If you want something sweet, eat it after a meal. “The same amount of sugar eaten during a balanced meal,” says Dr. Rosenbloom, “will not affect your blood sugar the way it would if you eat it separately.”
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