Living with Diabetes

There is no cure for diabetes as yet. But on the plus side, it can be managed successfully with a few lifestyle changes. Here are some of them:

Food

If you are diabetic or have a family history of the disease, it is vital that you know how different foods affect your blood sugar levels. This doesn't only relate to the types of food you consume, but also the quantity and the combinations of foods you have.

Carbohydrates have the biggest effect on blood sugar levels. Find out the correct portion size for each type of food, and then plan your meals by writing down portions for the foods you eat often. The best way to do this is to use measuring cups or a scale to measure the portion sizes of your meals.

Ensure every meal you have has a good mix of starches, fruits, vegetables, proteins and fats. Talk to your doctor, nurse or dietitian about the best meal plan for you.

Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages like colas, artificial fruit juices and sweetened drinks with high fructose corn syrup or sucrose. They are very high in calories and cause blood sugar to rise quickly.

Exercise

Physical activity is also a fundamental part of your diabetes management strategy, because when a person exercises, the muscles in the body consume sugar for energy. Thus, regular exercise helps the body to use insulin more efficiently and results in effectively lowering the blood sugar level.

Consult your doctor about an exercise plan, as he/she will guide you on the kind of exercise, which is best for your body. Generally, adults should exercise at least 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, minimum.

Talk to your doctor about an exercise schedule as well. This will help you decide the best time of day to workout, in combination with your meal and medication timings.

Also, check with your doctor the correct blood sugar levels you should maintain before you begin to exercise. This is important because strenuous physical activity can lower your blood sugar levels drastically. So, monitor your blood sugar before, during and after exercise - especially if you’re taking insulin or medications, which control blood sugar.

Remember to keep drinking water while exercising, as dehydration can impact blood sugar levels.

Always check for warning symptoms of low blood sugar. These include a shaky feeling, tiredness, unusual hunger, lightheadedness and irritability.

Medication

When diet and exercise aren't enough to manage your diabetes, insulin and other diabetes medications are added to control and maintain your blood sugar levels.

Remember, when insulin is not stored properly or if its expiration date has passed, it may not be effective.

Speak to your doctor immediately if you find that your diabetes medications are causing your blood sugar level to drop drastically or if it's still too high. The dosage or timing may need to be changed.

If you are being treated for something else, even the flu, always inform the doctor that you are taking diabetic medication/insulin.

Menstruation & Menopause

Changes in hormone levels the week before and during your cycle could fluctuate your blood sugar levels. Or, if you are in the menopause stage of your life, the hormone changes could cause erratic variations in blood sugar levels as well. Unfortunately, this impacts your diabetes management plan. Consult a doctor about handling this, as he/she may recommend alterations to your meal plan, exercise schedule or medications to tackle the blood sugar fluctuations.

Monitor your blood sugar readings from month to month. This will help you to calculate variations linked to your menstrual cycle.

If you're approaching menopause age or facing menopause, check with your doctor about monitoring your blood sugar levels more frequently.

Stress

If you're constantly stressed, the hormones your body produces in response could cause your blood sugar to rise. A good way to monitor this is to track your stress level (on a scale of 1 – 10) every time you check your blood sugar. You may soon see a pattern form.

If you feel that stress is impacting your blood sugar levels, counter it by maybe doing some relaxation techniques. Prioritizing your tasks and setting limits will also help. Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and lower your blood sugar level. So take a walk the next time you feel too stressed!

If you’re finding it too difficult to cope with your stress, ask for help. Working with a psychologist or a clinical social worker can help you identify and resolve the issues stressing you out. He/she will also teach you how to cope with stress.