Diabetes affects over 29 million people in the United States, about one-third of whom are unaware they even have it. And if the current trend continues, as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes by 2050.
It’s easy to see why people with diabetes are at a greater risk for depression: On average, medical costs for a person with diabetes are almost 2.5 times more than for those without it. That alone at times can be overwhelming.
But there is good news. Routine visits to your diabetes care team can help you stay focused on maintaining optimal diabetes health. Working with your team to manage your blood glucose levels can help prevent, minimize, or delay any long-term complications.
Perhaps just as importantly, staying positive and being happy can have an enormous effect on your diabetes. So take some time to commit to your personal diabetes health and happiness.
Be in the know about your diabetes. Learn from a diabetes educator who can help you set goals for behavior change, understand the meaning of your blood glucose results, and problem solve to help make your treatment plan work better for you.
If you don’t already have a diabetes educator, ask your diabetes care provider to refer you for diabetes self-management education or training (DSME/T). Medicare Part B and many private health insurance plans cover DSME/T as a benefit. Outpatient programs that provide DSME/T may be in health-care systems, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, and private practices. National standards based on research are developed by national experts who review and revise these guidelines every five years, so your DSME/T program has the best possible up-to-date information to promote optimal diabetes care. It is a good idea for you and your diabetes educator to meet on an ongoing basis. This way you can be updated about any necessary changes in your diabetes care plan.
Read diabetes news based on research findings, but be cautious of information that is too good to be true and promises perfect blood glucose control — perfect doesn’t exist. When you read about promising scientific findings, discuss them with your diabetes care team at your next visit.
Stay in touch
Your health may be enhanced by staying connected with friends, family, and community. Focus on the relationships that make you happy. Data show that when humans fail to thrive emotionally and physically, they become less secure and more prone to illness. You are not alone with your diabetes; millions of people deal with diabetes on a daily basis. Find a friend, family member, or co-worker with diabetes who is successful at managing it. Develop a partnership to help each other live with diabetes — share successes and struggles and learn from each other.
Your diabetes care team may be able to recommend a support group in your area for people with diabetes. The group could provide that extra boost to help you stay on track with your diabetes care. The Internet and social media offer endless diabetes information and communication options. Much of the information is science-based; however, misinformation is out there as well, so be sure you know the source behind the information. Commercial sources may be focused on promoting a medication or product, while credible nonprofit associations might offer a more balanced perspective. Information should be up to date, so check when it was posted. Finally, keep in mind that even seemingly reliable information should never be substituted for the recommendations of your diabetes care team.
Smile and the world smiles with you…isn’t that what the song says? Believe it or not, smiling can produce an immediate positive change in your physical, emotional, and mental state. When you smile, 42 facial muscles contract, and data suggest that even when you fake the smile, the body responds as if the emotion really is being experienced.
Once you’ve mastered smiling on a regular basis, kick it up a notch and laugh.
Have you ever laughed so hard that you cried? How does it feel? You likely experienced a number of positive effects, such as:
• deep breathing in which you exercised your chest to near-full capacity;
• increased blood flow to your heart with a potential reduction in blood pressure; laughing 100 to 200 times during a 24-hour period can have the same effect as using a rowing machine for 10 minutes;
• burning off calories;
• relaxation of tense muscles and flexing of less commonly used ones;
• stress reduction—laughing decreases the release of stress hormones;
• boost of immune system function, perhaps by an interaction between the immune system and the nervous system; and
• release of endorphins, a chemical structure in the body similar to morphine, for a feel-good effect.
Does laughter affect diabetes control? Research suggests that laughter may help. Negative emotions such as fear and anxiety can raise blood glucose levels. In contrast, emotions such as gratitude and behaviors such as smiling and laughing may positively affect blood glucose.
But while laughter often is called the best medicine, don’t use it to replace your daily walk or trip to the gym. Still, you and your body may benefit from a daily dose of chuckles.
Your outlook on life and its everyday challenges influences both how you react to what happens to you and how others react to you. Set a goal to be optimistic. Positive thoughts can lead to positive outcomes. Instead of “I can’t,” think “I can.” Step back and look at the big picture when it comes to managing your diabetes. Give yourself credit for things that are going well — if your blood glucose control has improved from a week ago, you are headed in the right direction. Leverage the learning and continue the positive behavior changes to help you reach your target blood glucose numbers. Give yourself a pat on the back for 15 minutes of physical activity instead of chastising yourself for not getting in 30 minutes. Be realistic and recognize that perfection doesn’t exist.
If, despite your positivity, you are having problems managing your diabetes, check in with your diabetes care team. As you age, your diabetes needs likely will change, and a tune-up of your diabetes treatment plan may be just what you need to get back on track. Do your best to stay optimistic, because while taking care of yourself can be hard work, it’s absolutely worth it in the long run.
As the great Louis Armstrong sang, “When you’re smilin’, keep on smilin’; The whole world smiles with you. And when you’re laughin’, oh when you’re laughin’, The sun comes shinin’ through.”
Stay educated, stay in touch, stay happy and stay positive.
And keep in mind that all of these self-driven behaviors have no cholesterol, no carbohydrate, no calories, and no carcinogens. So cheers to your health and happiness!
Want to learn more about maintaining emotional health with diabetes? Read “Reducing Diabetes Stress: Alternative Treatements” and “Relaxation Techniques for Stressful Times.”