Some days, taking care of your diabetes can feel like a full-time job. There’s new technology, new medications, and information from lots of sources about how to manage your diabetes. It can be hard to know which way to turn. A long-term condition like diabetes is complex. What works for you may not work for someone else. You need to find the tools that work best for you and fit your life and health goals.
Keeping track of your blood sugar (blood glucose)—by testing on a blood glucose meter or a continuous glucose monitor (CGM)—is a vital first step. But there are other tools you can use to take care of your diabetes. Here are a few for you to explore with your doctor.
Having diabetes puts you at higher risk for conditions like hypertension, heart disease, kidney disease, and eye problems.
Talk to your doctor often, and be sure to have routine tests for your:
- Blood pressure
- Other routine blood work
Most of these can be done in just a few minutes. Getting the tests recommended by the American Diabetes Association® (ADA) is a proven way to take care of your health. Testing can help keep health problems at bay or catch them early, when they are easiest to treat.
Keeping track of your weight with a scale is a step you take right at home. According to a study in the Translational Behavioral Medicine Journal, losing just 5% of one’s body weight can help you manage your blood sugar. It may even help you need less medication or even stop taking certain medications.
When tracking your weight at home, follow these easy steps for the best results:
- Weigh yourself once a week at the same day and time. Weighing yourself more often can cause frustration. Changes in the water in your body can cause the scale to bounce up and down, but doesn’t show true weight loss or gain.
- Weigh in the mornings. This gives your body time to digest all the food from the day before.
- Be consistent. Keep other things the same when you weigh yourself, too. Like what you wear and whether you’ve had a meal or drink.
- Track long-term progress. Use an app or basic spreadsheet to track your weekly progress. This will help you see changes over time, see patterns, and keep you motivated.
The type of food you eat often has the biggest impact on blood sugar levels. Staying consistent with meals, medications, and foods that fit your eating plan can make a huge difference in your health. Limiting foods with simple sugars, which can raise blood sugar quickly and don’t give medications time to kick in, can help. The goal is to take in a steady supply of nutritious food to help keep blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. Keeping large fluctuations in blood sugar from happening can be just as important as tracking blood sugars or A1C.
Finding the right nutrition plan can be tricky. For help finding the best diet for you, ask your doctor about meeting with a dietitian or certified diabetes care and education specialist.
Watching what you eat will likely have the biggest impact on your blood sugar management. But other lifestyle habits can also help. Daily movement, stress, and sleep patterns all contribute to your health.
Being more active, through your daily routine or an exercise program, can help you manage your blood sugar. Your muscles need fuel. By moving more, you raise the amount of glucose used by your muscles. Using muscles also makes you more sensitive to insulin, which can help long-term blood sugar management. There are many other benefits of being more active, like better balance, lower blood pressure, and less stress. Making movement a part of your day can be as easy as taking walks after meals or during phone calls. If you want to start an exercise program, talk to your doctor and think about working with a professional. You can learn more about choosing the right exercise professional from the American College of Sports Medicine.
We all have stress. Sometimes we expect it, and other times it hits us out of the blue. Handling stress means getting rid of sources in our control and learning how to handle our response to stress that we can’t control. And like taking care of diabetes, what works for one person may not work for you. Find ways to lower stress in your life that work for you. This may mean taking some alone time or prioritizing time with friends or family. Write down one to two things that calm you for the next time you are feeling overwhelmed.
Getting enough sleep is vital for health, recovery, and blood sugar control. Sticking to a routine can help prime your body for sleep and help you wake up feeling refreshed. Try to go to bed at the same time each night. Have a bedtime routine that helps tell your body that you are ready to rest. And keep screen time to a minimum before bed.
There are many diabetes medications. Talk with your doctor or pharmacist to find the best medication for you and to help make sure you can stick to it. If you are having a hard time sticking to your medication routine for any reason, talk to your pharmacist. Medications only work if you are able to take them as your doctor prescribed. Don’t be afraid to let your care team know if a medication is not working for you. They will work with you to find the right routine.
There are many other ways you can take care of your diabetes beyond just tracking your blood sugar. When taken together, even small steps can have a big impact.
Contributor: Rich Wood, PhD, is Executive Advisor in Clinical Product Development, Chronic Care Solutions at CVS Health. He has a deep background in clinical research in the areas of nutrition and chronic metabolic disease. He has published dozens of peer-reviewed papers and lectured across the U.S. and abroad discussing nutrition and metabolic health. His unique professional path includes academic, startup, and corporate roles, each of which have focused on using data-driven insights to improve the lives of those living with chronic metabolic disease.
CVS Health has established a new partnership with the American Diabetes Association to support families in helping to prevent and manage diabetes, as well as fund research on the devastating health disparities that fuel the diabetes epidemic. Through a $10 million commitment over three years, CVS Health will support people in their health journey of preventing and managing diabetes with increased awareness, knowledge, and action to improve health through the American Diabetes Association’s Project Power. The Project Power program aims to tear down barriers that limit access to vital resources and empower participants to effectively prevent and manage diabetes.
- Diabetes Care 2021 Jan; 44 (Supplement 1): https://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/44/Supplement_1
- Colberg SR. Key Points from the Updated Guidelines on Exercise and Diabetes. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2017;8:33. Published 2017 Feb 20. doi:10.3389/fendo.2017.00033
- Effects on cardiovascular risk factors of weight losses limited to 5-10. Transl Behav Med. 2016 Sep;6(3):339-46. doi: 10.1007/s13142-015-0353-9: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27528523