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Strategies for Managing Type 2 Diabetes

Feb 5, 2009
Here are some common obstacles that you may have encountered and tips for getting beyond them.

When you have diabetes, the daily management of your condition is critical to your health. You may feel discouraged at times and wonder how you'll keep it up. The key to success is maintaining your motivation.

Identifying your specific stumbling blocks can help you get back on track. Here are some common obstacles that you may have encountered and tips for getting beyond them.

Eating plans

Staying on track with the eating plan that you and your health care provider have created is key to controlling your blood glucose levels, says the American Diabetes Association (ADA). It also may help you lose weight and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke:

  • Make it easy to track what you eat. If you're counting carbohydrates, keep a conversion chart with your food diary. Make sure it's small enough to carry with you.

  • Stock your kitchen with fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber foods if you're trying to cut down on fat. You're less likely to indulge if high-fat foods aren't easily within reach.

  • Don't try to overhaul your diet too quickly. Focus on 1 goal at a time. For example, include a small salad and low-calorie dressing with your dinner 2 nights this week. Then, when you make your lunches next week, use whole-grain bread for your sandwiches instead of white bread.

  • Consider speaking with a registered dietitian (RD). An RD will work with you to determine an appropriate meal plan for you, based on your weight-loss goal, the medications you take, and other factors. Look for an RD who has training in and experience with diabetes.

Getting exercise

Regular physical activity helps control your blood glucose levels and reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. Studies have shown that being active improves stamina, flexibility, circulation, and lung capacity. It's also a great way to help control your weight, the ADA says:

  • Schedule activity into your day. Making an appointment may help you stick with it. If devoting 30 minutes to exercise is out of the question, be active for 10 minutes at a time. Three shorter sessions are just as effective for boosting fitness.

  • Pursue a passion. Perhaps you'd be more likely to find time for fitness if you did something you truly enjoy. Go dancing or join a local softball team. Walking the dog is a good excuse for exercise. Remember to talk with your health care provider before getting started on an exercise plan.

Monitoring blood sugar

You can reduce your risk of developing kidney, eye, and nerve problems by keeping your blood glucose as near normal levels as safely possible, the ADA says. Testing your blood sugar regularly is the only way to know what your levels are.

If your testing procedure makes you uncomfortable, ask your doctor about other test kits. Some brands require less blood for testing than others. Others allow you to prick your forearm instead of a finger. Most blood glucose meters today are simple to operate, accurate, and less painful than the earlier models. 

Listening to your team

Even if daily monitoring indicates that your blood glucose levels are fine, it doesn't provide a complete picture of how well you're doing over time. That's why you need to see your health care provider as often as recommended for an A1C blood test. The ADA says that, typically, the A1C test is done twice a year, although you will occasionally need it checked more frequently. It provides you and your doctor with an overall view of how well your blood sugar was controlled in the preceding months.

The A1C goal for most people with diabetes is less than 7%. Talk with your doctor to find out what your A1C test result means.

Because early complications of diabetes might not be apparent to you, it's important that specialists identify these silent problems before they become serious. Seeing an ophthalmologist, an internist, a podiatrist, and dentist regularly can help prevent complications. Wearing the right shoes, inspecting your feet every day, taking care of your eyes, and brushing and flossing your teeth on schedule are good habits.

Learn more about how your health care team can help. Your doctor's office is a good place to start. Ask questions and request written information you can take home with you. You also can ask your doctor to help you find an RD or other specialist.

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