Being active. Engaging in regular physical activity can help you with blood glucose and weight control. Physical activity and exercise can directly lower your blood glucose level and, when performed on a routine basis, help to lower high blood pressure and high triglycerides and raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol. Physical activity can also help lower stress levels, which can also help with blood glucose control.
Monitoring. Self-monitoring of blood glucose is an important part of your diabetes care because your results will help you see the effects of the foods you eat, the activities you perform, and the diabetes medicines you take. A diabetes educator can teach you how to use your blood glucose meter, record your results, and respond to out-of-range results. Other types of monitoring, such as periodic weight and blood pressure measurements, may also be recommended as part of your diabetes care, and your diabetes educator may be able to provide instruction on these types of monitoring as well.
Taking medicines. Many people with diabetes need one or more medicines for optimal blood glucose control. Part of your diabetes education includes learning about how and when the medicine works, what time and how often to take it, how to administer it, what to do if you forget a dose, and how to store it safely. You should also be aware of potential side effects, and which should be brought to your health-care provider’s attention sooner rather than later. If you take a drug that can cause hypoglycemia, or low blood glucose, you need an action plan for treating it.
Problem solving. There will always be problems and challenges that arise when living with diabetes, so it’s important to develop problem-solving skills to deal with them. Among the most important of those skills is being able to recognize and respond to high or low blood glucose levels. Another is learning to manage your diabetes when you’re ill. Traveling and eating out are some other situations that can disrupt your usual routine and make it necessary to employ problem-solving skills.
Reducing risks. An essential part of diabetes self care is learning to prevent long-term complications through effective daily care. It’s also important to schedule regular medical checkups, dental visits, eye exams, and any other specialist care you may need.
Healthy coping. Coping skills are what get you through life’s tough times, including those related to your diabetes. Healthy coping methods include activities such as exercise, meditation, and participating in a support group or seeking support from a partner, friend, or therapist. Diabetes education classes are a good place to talk about what works and to learn from others who may employ skills you could use.
Over time, your diabetes needs will likely change, and you will need to modify some of the things you are doing to stay healthy and keep your blood glucose under control. You can keep your self-care regimen up to date by staying in regular touch with your diabetes care team (all the people who help you care for your diabetes). Check to see if you have insurance coverage for annual visits to a diabetes educator. If something in your diabetes self-care routine is not working quite right or your treatment plan changes, ask your physician to refer you for additional diabetes education.
You may find that printed and electronic resources are great supplements to in-person diabetes education and training. A magazine subscription can keep you informed. Most major diabetes organizations and institutions (and some well-known general medical institutions) publish books on diabetes self-care and update them from time to time. A wealth of knowledge exists on the Internet, as well, and in recent years a number of diabetes-related apps have become available that can help you keep track of your blood glucose levels, food intake, exercise, and other things related to your diabetes. When getting information off the Internet, pay attention to its source: Who is publishing or sponsoring the site? Is their main intent to sell a product or service, or is it to provide information? If you question any of the information you read online or in print, or it is different from what you believe to be true, ask the members of your diabetes care team for clarification.