If you have diabetes or prediabetes, you may feel at times that your life revolves around the disease. And it’s true that diabetes isn’t something you can just ignore and hope it will go away. But the good news is there are preventive measures you can take to reduce your risk of either developing diabetes or developing complications from diabetes. Through education, screenings, and proper care, you can successfully manage your diabetes and live life to its fullest.
The Power of Prevention
Are you at risk for type 2 diabetes? Although there are more than 30 million adults with diabetes in the United States, more than 7 million people don’t even know they have it. Being aware of your risk for diabetes or prediabetes is crucial because if you are at risk, you can take steps to help prevent further complications.
The fact is diabetes is a growing problem as more and more people are being diagnosed with the disease every year.1 The good news is that there are things people with prediabetes can do to reduce their risk of developing diabetes, most significantly:
- Lose weight
If you have prediabetes or diabetes, one of the most important things you can do to improve your health is to lose just ten pounds. Losing even a small amount of weight has one of two benefits: it either reduces your risk of developing diabetes, or it improves your control of diabetes. While it’s great to lose more weight, ten pounds should be your first goal. Don’t be intimidated by the thought that you have to lose 40 to 60 pounds to make improvements.
Take Ownership of Your Diabetes
If you have diabetes, take control of your disease instead of letting it take control of you. It’s easier to live with diabetes if you manage it properly. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking, “Well, I’m not on insulin, so I am not sick. I only have mild diabetes.” Whether you’re on insulin or not, you still need to pay close attention to the following recommendations in order to lead a healthier life.
- Know your ABCs (A1C value, blood pressure, and cholesterol). Be aware of your hemoglobin A1C — in other words, how your blood sugar has been doing over the past three months. If your hemoglobin A1C is out of control, and you are on multiple medications, you should ask your doctor if you need insulin. Don’t be content with hearing, “You’re okay! Your blood sugar looks good,” from your doctor. You should know what your actual numbers are and what they need to be. The same is true of your cholesterol and blood pressure. People with diabetes are at an increased risk for heart disease. If your cholesterol or blood pressure is elevated, you should ask your doctor if you need to be on medication to lower your numbers. Knowledge is power, and you should take an active role in managing your numbers.
- Get an annual eye exam. Since diabetes can cause eye complications, including vision loss or blindness, The American Diabetes Association recommends that you visit an eye care professional at least once a year for an eye exam. If you have type 2 diabetes and it’s controlled by medication, you should still get an eye exam.
- Get screened for kidney disease. Ask your doctor about a simple urine test that can determine if you’re at risk for kidney disease. The earlier kidney disease is discovered, the more easily it can be treated.
- Check your feet every day. Those with diabetes are at risk for losing feeling in their feet. Because of this, it’s important to pay close attention to your feet and have an annual foot exam. If you do get a cut or injury on your foot, make sure you see a doctor right away.
- Stop smoking. Since diabetes increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, smoking is especially dangerous for those with diabetes because it adds even more risk for heart disease and stroke.
Enjoy the Holidays (While Keeping Your Diabetes in Check)
The holidays can be an especially difficult time for people with diabetes because the temptation of sweets and cocktails is always looming. In addition, the cold temperatures require extra vigilance in regards to winter wardrobe and activities. But the holidays don’t have to derail your diabetes management. Just keep in mind a few helpful tips, and, as always, remember you can still enjoy the season in moderation.
- There are ways to be social without dramatically increasing your calorie intake. Choose seltzer and lemon as opposed to alcoholic drinks. Another option is to enjoy one alcoholic drink and then switch to seltzer.
- Enjoy small bites of sweets and treats instead of opting for full portions.
- Choose low-calorie and low-sugar food and drink options.
- Be mindful of your shoes/boots. Make sure there is no lining or irregularities in the shoe that could rub against your feet and toes.
- Steer clear of strenuous activities, such as snow shoveling, if you haven’t been cleared by your doctor to do them.
Get Help Managing Your Diabetes
Since diabetes affects your whole body, it’s important that you get the support you need to manage this complex condition. If you’re an IBX member, in addition to your health care provider team, you can also count on our registered nurse Health Coaches, who are available 24/7 to help you manage your diabetes or prediabetes in a way that works with your lifestyle.