November is National Diabetes Month, and much government and media attention is focused on the need to slow the growing “epidemic” of diabetes and prediabetes in the United States. Efforts to this end include the American Diabetes Association’s Stop Diabetes campaign, which encourages people to take an online risk test to assess their personal risk of developing prediabetes or Type 2 diabetes and to see a doctor if their test results suggest a high risk.
But what if you already have diabetes? Is there anything in National Diabetes Month for you? Of course there is! For people who already have diabetes, it’s as good a time as any to take a look at your diabetes management and ask yourself how things are going. Are there areas that need improvement? Are you interested in connecting with other people who have diabetes? Would you like to participate in a diabetes fund-raiser? Would you like to learn something new? Here are some suggestions for making the most of a month devoted to diabetes.
1. Commit to a new healthy habit for one month.
Many lifestyle habits — not just eating and exercising — can affect your general health and your diabetes management. Some may affect your blood glucose levels directly, and others may have a more indirect effect, enabling or preventing you from carrying out your daily routines, for example. Rather than choose something you feel you “should” do, pick something you feel able and willing to do. Here are some ideas:
Get more sleep. Not getting enough sleep can increase insulin resistance, meaning your body requires more insulin to get glucose into your cells. This can lead to higher blood glucose levels and is believed to have other negative health effects. Inadequate sleep also tends to leave you feeling fatigued during the day, which is likely to make it harder for you to exercise, eat right, think, remember, and cope with stress.
Most adults need between 7 1/2 and 9 hours of sleep a night. Start your efforts to sleep more by setting and sticking to a regular bedtime and making your bedroom as dark and quiet as possible. For more tips on getting more sleep, go to www.helpguide.org/life/sleep_tips.htm.
Drink more water. Dehydration can make you feel tired and headachy, and because thirst is often mistaken for hunger, it can also cause you to eat more. Drinking more water can make you feel better and help your body function better. But even if you’re not dehydrated, drinking more water in place of caloric or alcoholic beverages will likely be good for your health. Calories consumed in liquids don’t tend to satisfy hunger the way calories in food do, so it’s easy to drink a lot of calories without really noticing them. Quench your thirst with water, then eat food if you’re hungry.
Inspect your feet every day. You’ll probably find nothing of great interest on your feet in a month of daily checking, but it’s never too early to familiarize yourself with what your feet normally look like. That way, if something changes, you will notice more quickly. When checking your feet, note how easily you can see the bottoms of your feet. If you find it’s a strain, consider getting a hand mirror (possibly a lighted or magnified one) that allows you to see them with less effort.
Floss once a day. Periodontal, or gum, disease can negatively affect your diabetes control. Practicing good oral hygiene, including daily brushing and flossing, can go a long way toward preventing periodontal disease. Even if you hate flossing, commit to it for a month, then see whether it’s become a less-dreaded, more easily accomplished part of your daily routine.