Slowing Down Your Diabetes

After a diagnosis of diabetes, people have a variety of reactions.  Some want to give up, some get very active in their health and others just go along for the ride.
Regardless of which reaction you have had, one thing is for certain, diabetes doesn’t get better without you!  While there is no known cure for diabetes, by taking an active role in controlling your blood sugar level, you may be able to slow down your diabetes. You may even improve your overall health along the way.
Diabetes is a group of diseases marked by high levels of blood glucose resulting from problems in how insulin is produced, how insulin works, or both. People with diabetes may develop serious complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and premature death. 
More than 724,300 adults over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with diabetes in Texas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates 29.1 million people or 9.3 percent of the U.S. population have diabetes, however, 27.8 percent of people with diabetes are undiagnosed.
Dr. Jay Morris, Regional Medical Director for Humana’s Medicare Advantage products in Texas, urges seniors to take basic diabetes-treatment steps to help manage their diabetes. The more you can stick to them, the better off you’re likely to be, he said.
• Reframe how you think about your self-care. There’s no doubt that dealing with diabetes can be a lot of work. And it can be depressing. And you can feel deprived. However, you may find the whole situation easier if you change the way you look at caring for yourself. You’re not being deprived. You’re giving yourself the healthiest you possible. Diabetes isn’t a punishment for unhealthy past behavior. It’s a motivator for healthy future behavior. And the better you treat yourself, the better you’re likely to feel. That’s a gift.
• Your Treatment Goal – Your doctor likely has told you about monitoring your sugar levels with a blood test called a hemoglobin A1c every three to six months. This test establishes your average blood sugar level for the past several months and provides you and your physician a measure of how your diabetes treatment plan is working.  A measure of less than 7 percent is ideal but you and your doctor will establish the right level for you.  Know that number and work with your doctor to adjust your treatment to achieve it!
• Work closely with your doctor. It is very important to take all of your medications as directed by your doctor. Diabetes affects many other systems in the body so keep your routine doctor appointments.  Get regular blood pressure tests, cholesterol screenings, eye exams, and an annual kidney-function test. Talk to your doctor about vaccinations for influenza and pneumonia to help you stay healthy. Be sure to practice healthy foot care habits and address any foot problems or changes immediately.  Sores can quickly lead to big problems for the feet of people with diabetes.  Don’t let that happen to you!
• Escalating Medication Therapy – Sometimes diabetes can be controlled through lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise, however, most everyone will need to take medication. Remember how important your Goal A1c number is? If you are not achieving it with one medication it may be important to add another drug and sometimes insulin is really the best next step, even early in treatment. If your physician says you need insulin therapy, take the recommendation seriously. Insulin therapy can prevent diabetes complications by helping keep your blood sugar within your goal range. Insulin therapy can be demanding, but it is a key component to maintain your health.  Newer versions may allow you to only require one shot a day too!
• Get support. Make your family and friends part of your support team to help you take control of diabetes. Join a diabetes support group online or in person. Find a buddy with diabetes. If you’re always the only person who’s watching your sugars or going home to get enough sleep, you may lose your motivation. But if you have other people in your life who share these same experiences, they can help you and you can learn from them. 
• Lose weight. You hear this over and over again, but losing weight – if you can – really is incredibly helpful. Losing as little as 5 percent of your weight can improve your health. (And then lose another 5 percent ...) The ultimate ideal is to achieve the appropriate weight for your height.  Think of it as another treatment for your diabetes.  
Weight loss is best achieved by combining both changes to your diet while also increasing your exercise.
• Stick to your eating plan as much as you possibly can.
 The good news here is that the more you stick to it, the more your body and taste buds will adjust. And the healthier you’ll be.
• Be physically active.
 A common goal for physical activity is 30 to 60 minutes five or six days a week. Try to hit the 60 minutes workout as many days as possible.
Chances are you will feel better and actually become healthier. (Of course, check with your doctor to make sure that physical activity is right for you.)
• Don’t smoke. Really. Just don’t. If you’re having trouble stopping, reach out for help. Stopping can be tough, but it can be done. And it can save your life.
Reaching your goals with diabetes may seem like a lot of work, but finding ways to incorporate these healthy tips into your everyday routine will quickly make it feel normal for you.  (Don’t forget a health coach through your health plan or local area may be available to help you as well.)  Stay healthy, you’re worth the effort!
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. National Diabetes Statistics Report: Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States, 2014. Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; 2014.

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