To be able to do these types of monitoring, you need to have the necessary equipment and know how to use it. Your doctor or diabetes educator can help you with these tasks and also advise you on the types of records you’ll need to keep to make sense of the information you get from monitoring.
Taking medication. Along with healthy eating and being active, most people with diabetes need some type of medicine to lower their blood glucose levels (and possibly their blood pressure or blood cholesterol). People with Type 1 diabetes always need insulin as a part of their treatment plan. People with Type 2 diabetes may initially treat their diabetes without medicine, but it’s not unusual to need one or more medicines over time.
Knowing how your medicine works, what side effects it may cause, any precautions to keep in mind when taking it, how much to take and when, and what to do if you miss a dose will help you to use your medicine most effectively. You should also know how to store your medicine correctly at home as well as when you travel.
Problem solving. Lots of things can affect a person’s blood glucose level. Food, exercise, and insulin are some obvious ones, but others include stress, illness, certain prescription and over-the-counter medicines (including some taken for reasons other than diabetes control), and, for women, menstrual cycles. The effects of some of these can be predicted — at least to some degree — based on experience, but there is much that cannot be predicted, both in life and in blood glucose control.
Therefore, there will be times when your monitoring results come as a surprise, and you will have to make quick decisions about how to respond. This is an area where keeping careful records and working with a diabetes educator can be particularly helpful. An experienced educator will know what to look for and what questions to ask to figure out what caused the problem in the first place, and will also be able to advise you on how to respond to high or low blood glucose when it occurs.
Reducing risks. Taking action to reduce the risk of developing either short-term or long-term complications is an essential part of diabetes care. Short-term complications include very high blood glucose and too-low blood glucose (hypoglycemia). Long-term complications include retinopathy (eye disease), nephropathy (kidney disease), neuropathy (disease of various nerves in the body) and cardiovascular disease (which includes heart problems and stroke).
Some of the steps you can take to reduce your risks include becoming educated about how diabetes affects the body and how to keep blood glucose levels in a safe range, regularly seeking an array of preventive services such as eye and foot exams, and making any behavior changes, such as stopping smoking, that will lower your risks.
Healthy coping. Diabetes affects more than just physical health. It can cause psychological stress, affect how you feel about yourself, and affect your relationships with others. Coping with the emotional and social effects of diabetes is just as important for your health as taking care of the physical effects.
The good news is that healthy coping strategies can be learned, and goals can be set for learning them just as they can for other changes you’d like to make in your life. Some people find it helpful to learn and use a formal relaxation technique such as meditation or guided imagery. Others find that less formal approaches such as setting aside time for themselves, engaging in more physical activity, or setting aside time specifically for social activities reduces their stress level. Support groups are helpful for some. And for some issues, working with a mental health professional is what’s most effective.