Diabetes Self-Management Articles

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Setting Goals for Healthy Living

by Laura Hieronymus, MSEd, APRN, BC-ADM, CDE, Bradley Eilerman, MD, and Leonard Bennett, PharmD

The value of a goal lies in the goal itself; and therefore the goal cannot be attained unless it is pursued for its own sake.
—Arnold J. Toynbee

Staying healthy with diabetes requires efforts on a variety of fronts. These include eating healthfully, being physically active, taking prescribed medicines at the right times in the right doses, scheduling and keeping numerous medical appointments every year, and being aware of not just blood glucose levels, but also blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, the state of one’s feet, and the sources and level of stress in one’s life.

Most people feel more confident about their efforts in some of these areas than in others. So what do you do when the areas you feel less confident about need attending to, such as when your doctor tells you that you need to “tighten up” your control to prevent diabetes complications?

For starters, ask your doctor what action or actions on your part would be most beneficial to your health. Then talk about specific goals and the steps you would need to take to reach them. Ask yourself whether those steps sound like actions you are willing and able to take. And keep in mind that you are more likely to be willing to make the effort required to reach a goal that feels important and meaningful to you. If you don’t see the point to what your doctor or another health-care provider is recommending, ask for a more detailed explanation of how a particular change or action will improve your health.

Diabetes care areas
A tool that can be helpful in determining which actions may be most effective at improving your health with diabetes is the AADE7. This trademarked list of seven self-care behaviors was developed by the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) to help people with diabetes achieve optimal health. The seven behaviors are healthy eating, being active, monitoring, taking medication, problem solving, reducing risks, and healthy coping. Here’s why each is important and some of the skills you may need to put each into practice:

Healthy eating. Making healthy food choices and understanding the importance of portion sizes and appropriate timing of food are key strategies for keeping blood glucose, blood cholesterol, and blood pressure in healthy ranges. Food choices also have an effect on weight, and weight control can be an important part of blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol control. Some of the skills needed to make good food choices include learning how various nutrients in food affect blood glucose and learning to read food labels, estimate portion sizes, and use healthful meal-preparation techniques.

Being active. Regular exercise and physical activity can also help keep blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol levels — as well as weight — at healthy levels. Identifying appropriate types and amounts of physical activity for your current fitness level is a necessary step toward becoming more active.

Monitoring. Regularly monitoring your blood glucose level provides you with the information you need to make decisions about your diabetes treatment, both in the short and the long term. It allows you (and your diabetes care team) to determine if what you are doing is working to keep your blood glucose levels in a safe, healthy range. Other types of monitoring that may be recommended include home blood pressure monitoring and checking for ketones at certain times, such as when you are sick.

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