Diabetes Self-Management Articles

These articles cover a wide range of subjects, from the most basic aspects of diabetes care to the nitty-gritty specifics.

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Taking Diabetes to Heart

by Laura Hieronymus, MSEd, APRN, BC-ADM, CDE, and Kristina Humphries, MD

Smoking. Smoking doubles your risk of developing heart disease. Smoking causes narrowing of the blood vessels and deprives them of oxygen, an important nutrient to the circulatory system.

Diabetes ABCs
In an effort to draw public attention to the connection between diabetes and heart disease and stroke, the American Diabetes Association and the American College of Cardiology have joined together in an educational initiative that focuses on the acronym “ABC.” The letters stand for “A1C,” “Blood Pressure,” and “Cholesterol.”

People with diabetes are encouraged to be aware of their A1C (also called HbA1c or glycosylated hemoglobin) level, blood pressure level, and cholesterol levels. It is hoped that increased awareness of these numbers, what they mean to a person’s health, and what a person’s target numbers are for good health will lead to more discussion with health-care providers and more action taken to bring levels into target range.

To read more about the ABCs, how often they should be measured, and recommended goals for most people with diabetes, see “ABCs of Diabetes.”

Modifying your lifestyle
The benefits of the healthy lifestyle habits that are recommended for the management of diabetes extend to your heart health, as well. A healthy lifestyle includes healthy eating, getting regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, and stopping smoking if you smoke.

Healthy eating. Good nutrition is vital for anyone, and for people with diabetes it is an important part of their treatment plan. If you haven’t already worked with a dietitian to design an individualized meal plan, ask your diabetes care team for a referral to a registered dietitian. It is best to work with a dietitian who specializes in diabetes.

The good news is that you can tackle blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood lipid levels head-on with the right nutrition intake. Common recommendations include increasing the amount of fiber in your meal plan, which may help lower blood cholesterol. Foods such as oat bran, oatmeal, whole-grain breads and cereals, dried beans and peas (such as kidney beans, pinto beans, and black-eyed peas), fruits, and vegetables are all good sources of fiber.

Monitoring your fat intake can also be important for cholesterol control. Fat should make up no more than 30% of your total energy intake, and most of that fat should be monounsaturated or polyunsaturated. Limiting the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol you eat can help to lower your blood cholesterol levels.

Efforts to control your blood pressure may include reducing your sodium (or salt) intake.

Physical activity. Performing regular physical activity or exercise can improve blood glucose control, help control weight, improve your overall well-being, and reduce your risk for heart disease. To achieve these results, performing at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week and/or at least 90 minutes of vigorous aerobic exercise a week is recommended. The activity should be distributed over at least three days of the week, with no more than two consecutive days without physical activity. People with Type 2 diabetes are additionally encouraged to do resistance exercises targeting all major muscle groups three times weekly, as long as they have no contraindications, or medical reasons not to perform resistance exercise.

Before increasing your level of physical activity or starting a formal exercise plan, discuss your plans with your diabetes care team. Your health-care providers may want to conduct certain medical tests prior to exercise, especially if you have been sedentary. In addition, you and your diabetes care team should talk about how to control your blood glucose levels during exercise and when to make adjustments to your usual diabetes regimen. (For more about physical activity, see “Staying Active.”)

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Statements and opinions expressed on this Web site are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the publishers or advertisers. The information provided on this Web site should not be construed as medical instruction. Consult appropriate health-care professionals before taking action based on this information.



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