Diabetes Spring Cleaning

Happy spring! The trees are budding, the tulips and daffodils are out, and the weather here in New England is a balmy 80 degrees! Time to put away your winter coats and sweaters, open the windows, and do some spring cleaning. While you’re washing windows and storing away your winter blankets, it’s a great time to think about your “diabetes spring cleaning,” as well.

Clean up your equipment
Meter: If you’re checking your blood sugar, make sure your meter is in tip-top shape. Today’s meters are fast, easy, and streamlined, but that doesn’t mean they don’t need some attention every now and then. A good first step is to check your user’s manual for special instructions for cleaning it. For example, check the test strip holder, making sure it’s free from any dirt, dust, or blood. Use a moistened cotton swap to clear any grime away. Avoid using alcohol, ammonia, or other types of cleaners unless recommended by the manufacturer.

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Test strips: Double-check your test strip container to make sure the strips haven’t expired. Using expired test strips may give you inaccurate glucose readings. If your strips require coding, make sure the code on the meter matches the code on the test strip vial. Finally, keep your strips at room temperature, away from humidity and sunlight. If you’re seeing glucose readings that seem unusual for you, do a control check using a meter control solution, check the strip expiration date, and if need be, open a new batch of test strips.

Ketone strips: If you check for urine ketones, double check your vial or package of strips. Like meter test strips, ketone strips can expire, too.

Supplies: Now’s a good time to take stock of other diabetes supplies that you have, including insulin syringes, pen needles, pump supplies, and batteries. Make note of anything that’s running low, including any batteries that you may need.

Medications: Keep unopened insulin vials or pens in the fridge. Always keep insulin away from the heat and sunlight. Also, take inventory of your medicine cabinet: Have any medications expired? Are you running low on anything? If so, clean out and order more. If you haven’t done so already, write up a list of all of your medications and dietary supplements. Keep this in your wallet. Or use a medication-tracking app, such as CareZone or Pillbox.

Clean out your fridge and cupboards
There’s something very satisfying about cleaning out your fridge and tossing old, stale food from your cupboards. Holiday cookies from December still lying around? Toss. Expired milk or yogurt languishing in the fridge? Toss. Moldy or rotting vegetables in the crisper drawer? Toss. Along with cleaning out, think about some healthy eating goals for the warmer weather. It’s hard to commit to eating more fruits and vegetables if you don’t have any in your fridge. Interested in trying whole grains, fish, or legumes? Start making a list of foods that you want to eat on a regular basis. Take stock of your pantry and make a point to keep staples on hand so that you can easily put together a healthy meal at a moment’s notice. Stock up, too, on healthy snacks: nuts, seeds, yogurt, whole-grain crackers, cheese sticks, and popcorn are great choices. Need help with your shopping list? There’s an app for that — actually, many apps. Try Shopping List, Grocery Gadget, AnyList, or Out of Milk.

Clean up your activity plan
Spring is a great time to spruce up your physical activity plan — or to start something new. If you’re not physically active now, use this time to think about what you might try — walking, swimming, taking a class — the possibilities are endless. Getting outside and enjoying the sunshine is a perfect way to start moving more. If you’re feeling unsure about how to begin, talk with your health-care provider or diabetes educator, or sign up for a few personal training sessions. They’re a great investment in your health.

Clean up your appointment calendar
Having diabetes can mean a lot of appointments — from regular medical visits, to sessions with a dietitian or diabetes educator, to eye exams, to blood work, to trips to the pharmacy…the list can seem endless. First, get your appointments scheduled. Next, use a system to remind you, whether it’s a calendar that you hang on your kitchen door or a phone app (try Cozi or Doctors Appointment Reminder). Then, make a point to keep them! Ask someone to remind you or even to go with you if you’re prone to cancelling.

Gain control
Cleaning up your “diabetes act” can not only give you a sense of accomplishment, it can help you feel in control. And remember: You’re in charge of your diabetes. Staying organized, just as you might in other areas of your life, will help you to succeed. Know what’s happening with your diabetes as much as possible. You’re in the driver’s seat in terms of what you eat, what you do for physical activity, how often you check your blood sugars, and what you take for medication. Whatever your treatment plan is, make sure it’s running like a well-oiled machine.

A Taking Control of Your Diabetes (TCOYD) conference will change the life of anyone who has the condition. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn more.

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