Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with diabetes? You and your home health care team can work together to monitor and manage your condition, ensuring diabetes isn’t controlling your life, rather, you are controlling diabetes and enjoying your life.
Whether you or someone in your family has been diagnosed with Type 1 (the body’s inability to produce insulin), Type 2 (the body’s inability to make or use insulin well) or Gestational (related to pregnancy) Diabetes, this condition can usually be managed at home. But diabetes should be taken seriously.
As the National Diabetes Education Program (NDEP) writes, “You may have heard people say they have ‘a touch of diabetes’ or that their ‘sugar is a little high.’ These words suggest that diabetes is not a serious disease. That is not correct. Diabetes is serious, but you can learn to manage it.”
In addition to symptoms including reduced energy, feeling thirsty, needing to use the bathroom frequently, having difficulty healing and being more likely to experience infections, diabetics can also experience other very serious health problems. Nerve damage, poor teeth and gum health, kidney failure, vision problems that can lead to blindness, heart attack and stroke can occur, but the chances of these are reduced with proper health management.
What action can you and your home health care team take?
Know Whom To Consult
- Identify critical members of your health care team and consult them in developing your action plan.
- Guidance Resource, such as a social worker, counselor or diabetes educator
Track Your Condition
- Establish a schedule of appointments with the members of your care team. Know when you need:
- A1C Tests, which is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar level over three months. (This is needed in addition to daily blood sugar level checks you perform.)
- Cholesterol checks to monitor your current levels, establish goals with your doctor and discuss how to achieve those goals.
- Dental exam.
- Complete foot exam.
- Kidney check.
- Dilated eye exam.
- Vaccinations, such as flu, pneumonia and Hepatitis B.
- Know what you and your home health care team can test for together.
- Daily blood sugar tests.
- Monitor blood pressure.
- Monitor weight.
- Check feet, gums and monitor any wounds.
Have a Healthy Living Plan
- Develop a routine including all of the recommendations from your team.
- Establish and maintain a daily schedule of medications to take.
- Maintain a healthy meal plan established with a dietician and/or doctor.
- Follow a healthy exercise routine established with a doctor and/or counselor.
While your pharmacist and doctor can discuss the latest in diabetes medications with you, these are part of an overall plan that must include attention to healthy living. You or your loved one can work with your home health care team to eat right and exercise.
AARP The Magazine reports, “To keep diabetes at bay, physicians recommend 150 minutes of exercise a week. Just don’t do this all at once.” The key is to spread out your exercise routine throughout the week, rather than remaining sedentary for long periods and then tackling exercise for long periods at once.
They explain that exercise helps the body be more sensitive to insulin, but “the effects of this insulin sensitivity last just 36 hours.” To truly experience the benefits, daily exercise, or exercising every-other-day is ideal.
The American Diabetes Association recommends aerobic exercise, strength training and exercises that improve flexibility and balance. In addition to walking, cycling, rowing and hiking, they also recommend water aerobics. Simple daily tasks like walking the dog, doing housework such as vacuuming, taking the stairs, and gardening/doing yard work can be beneficial. Discuss with your home health care team enrolling in a local water aerobics class and trying home exercises like gardening with care.
As The American Diabetes Association notes, “Remember – the more you move, the more calories you burn and the easier it is to keep your blood glucose levels on target! More and more research is finding that sitting too much for long periods of time is harmful to our health.”
What’s On the Menu?
The Mayo Clinic notes that a medical nutrition therapy (MNT) for diabetes is a healthy-eating plan, rather than a restrictive diet. Food choices should be rich in nutrients and lean on fat and calories. The diet, which they add is good for everyone, does avoid trans and saturated fats, sodium and cholesterol.
Healthy choices include foods that contain healthy carbohydrates and are fiber-rich. Fruits like avocado also contain “good fats” or monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats that can help lower cholesterol. Fiber can decrease the risk of heart disease and help control blood sugar levels.
Be sure your diet includes:
- Whole grains (whole wheat and wheat bran)
- Legumes (beans, peas, lentils)
- Food rich in Omega-3 like Tempeh, nuts (like walnuts), flax and lean fish. (Be sure to avoid frying fish and consuming fish known for their mercury levels like swordfish, tilefish and king mackerel.)
- Foods with monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats such as avocados, almonds, pecans, walnuts, olives and olive oil.
The Mayo Clinic also points out that it’s not only about making the right food choices with your home health care team, dietitian and doctor, but making sure you monitor your portions. “Healthy foods, portion control and scheduling are necessary to manage your blood glucose level. If you stray from your prescribed diet, you run the risk of fluctuating blood sugar levels and more-serious complications.”