Choosing 1 Thing to Improve
There are probably many things that each of us would like to change about our life, but thinking about them all at once can be overwhelming. Instead, choose just 1 thing to improve for now. Changing any one of the things below could have a big impact on your life with diabetes – both your physical health, and your emotional well-being.
Make testing matter
For people with diabetes, testing more often is the key to staying in control of your health. Frequent testing provides the data you need to make informed decisions about your medication, diet, and exercise regimens. Your test results show you the effects of your diet and activity on your blood glucose.
Your test results also inform the conversation you’ll have with your health care provider about setting target range goals for yourself, and they show how well you’re achieving them. It also helps you understand how to adjust your own oral medications or insulin dosage if your doctor has taught you how to do this yourself. Over time, as you stay close to your target range, you’ll feel better each day, and you’ll lower your risk for future diabetes complications.1
Learn to count carbs
The amount of carbohydrates (starches and simple sugars) you eat has a significant impact on your blood sugar level. Counting them at every meal lets you match the carbs you eat or drink with the insulin you need to process it. Even if you’re not on insulin, it’s a powerful skill for controlling your blood sugar on an ongoing basis.
Some of the benefits of counting carbs include4
- It singles out the food with the biggest impact on your health.
- It allows you to enjoy any food you like with the proper amount of insulin.
- It puts you in control of your insulin doses.
- Overall, your health and your quality of life improve when you eat the right amount of carbs for your body.
Staying active is one of the cornerstones of managing your diabetes, because the list of benefits for people with diabetes is long. Physical activity can:5
- Improve insulin sensitivity and glucose utilization
- Decrease circulating insulin levels, during activity
- Decrease glucose production from the liver
- Lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and reduce stress
- Improves cardiovascular health, and quality of sleep
- Reduces obesity, joint pain, and coronary artery disease
- Prevents osteoporosis and delays the onset of dementia
- Increases energy, quality of life, and self-esteem
Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about what type of activity is right for you, and get moving at least once a day.
Be patient with yourself
Not every day is going to be perfect. In fact, you can eat and exercise exactly the same for 2 days in a row, and have very different blood sugar test results over the 2 days. Be patient with yourself, adapt any changes in your routine into your life, and keep moving forward if you hit any bumps in the road while managing your diabetes.
It’s also important that you don’t compare your diabetes to other people’s diabetes. Everyone has a unique diagnosis story. People respond differently to exercise. Other issues like gluten sensitivity or a heart condition impact one’s self-management plan. Simply put, it’s illogical to look at someone else’s life with diabetes and compare it to your own. Seek out what works for you and continue to learn.
What Happens When You…
- Test more often? You have more knowledge with which to manage your diabetes.
- Quit smoking? Within a year, your risk of heart disease drops by 50%.
- Count carbs? You have more flexibility for what you eat
- Exercise more? You can actually improve your body’s insulin sensitivity and glucose use.
1 International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes education module 1.2, 2011: Self Management Education. Available at: http://www.idf.org/education/resources/modules-2011/download Accessed June 30, 2015.
2Centers for Disease Control. How to Quit. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit
Accessed June 30, 2015.
3Healthline. What Happens When You Quit Smoking? Available at: http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/quit-smoking-timeline. Accessed June 30, 2015
4 International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes education module 2.2c, 2011: Nutrition Part 3 Education. Available at: http://www.idf.org/education/resources/modules-2011/download Accessed June 30, 2015.
5 International Diabetes Federation. Diabetes education module 2.3, 2011: Physical activity. Available at: http://www.idf.org/education/resources/modules-2011/download Accessed June 30, 2015.