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Diabetes (Mellitus, Type 1 and Type 2) (cont.)

Diabetes Self-Care at Home (Diet, Exercise, and Glucose Monitoring)

If a person has diabetes, healthful lifestyle choices in diet, exercise, and other health habits will help to improve glycemic (blood sugar) control and prevent or minimize complications of diabetes.

Diabetes Diet: A healthy diet is key to controlling blood sugar levels and preventing diabetes complications.

  • If the patient is obese and has had difficulty losing weight on their own, talk to a health care professional. He or she can recommend a dietitian or a weight modification program to help the patient reach a goal.
  • Eat a consistent, well-balanced diet that is high in fiber, low in saturated fat, and low in concentrated sweets.
  • A consistent diet that includes roughly the same number of calories at about the same times of day helps the health care professional prescribe the correct dose of medication or insulin.
  • A healthy diet also helps to keep blood sugar at a relatively even level and avoids excessively low or high blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous and even life-threatening.

Exercise: Regular exercise, in any form, can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Activity can also reduce the risk of developing complications of diabetes such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and leg ulcers.

  • As little as 20 minutes of walking three times a week has a proven beneficial effect. Any exercise is beneficial; no matter how easy or how long, some exercise is better than no exercise.
  • If the patient has complications of diabetes (such as eye, kidney, or nerve problems), they may be limited both in type of exercise, and amount of exercise they can safely do without worsening their condition. Consult with your health care professional before starting any exercise program.

Alcohol use: Moderate or eliminate consumption of alcohol. Try to have no more than seven alcoholic drinks in a week, and never more than one or two drinks in an evening. One drink is considered 1.5 ounces of liquor, 6 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. Excessive alcohol use is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes. Alcohol consumption can cause low or high blood sugar levels, nerve pain (neuritis), and an increase in triglycerides.

Smoking: If the patient has diabetes, and smokes cigarettes or use any other form of tobacco, they are raising the risks markedly for nearly all of the complications of diabetes. Smoking damages blood vessels and contributes to heart disease, stroke, and poor circulation in the limbs. If a person needs help to quit tobacco use, talk to a health care professional.

Self-monitored blood glucose: Check blood sugar levels frequently, at least before meals and at bedtime, then record the results in a logbook.

  • This log should also include insulin or oral medication doses and times, when and what the patient ate, when and for how long they exercised, and any significant events of the day such as high or low blood sugar levels and how they treated the problem.
  • Better equipment now available makes testing blood sugar levels less painful and less complicated than ever. A daily blood sugar diary is invaluable to the health care professional in evaluating how the patient is responding to medications, diet, and exercise in the treatment of diabetes.
  • Medicare now pays for diabetic testing supplies, as do many private insurers and Medicaid.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/3/2014

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