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Keys To Daily Diabetes Control

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Web MD -- If you have been recently diagnosed with diabetes, you're not alone. Nearly 26 million Americans are living with diabetes. In 2010, nearly 2 million new diagnoses were made in Americans ages 20 and up.

Though managing diabetes requires effort, you can still enjoy doing the things you love while taking care of yourself. Here are six strategies that you can use to manage your diabetes and live a long and active life.

1. Get informed about Diabetes

Diabetes is serious. If left unmanaged it can lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness, even death. So your first step after being diagnosed is to ask questions and learn as much as you can about:

  • How diabetes is treated
  • How diabetes is managed day to day
  • How diabetes can affect your diet, lifestyle, and body

Talk to your health care providers -- doctors, nurses, endocrinologists, dietitians -- and get answers to the questions that concern you most.

Talk to your friends and family who may be living with diabetes. Join a support group, get online, and start reading. The more you know about diabetes, the more control you'll have.

2. Get Care for Your Diabetes

Your health care team or doctor is your primary resource for getting the care you need to live well with diabetes. Your treatment may include:

  • Medication. Whether or not you need medication to help treat your diabetes depends on your symptoms, complications, blood sugar, and other issues.
  • Lifestyle changes. There is no "diabetes diet" to follow. But if you have diabetes, consult a dietitian to learn how food affects your blood sugar. Talk with your doctor about weight loss if you're overweight and how to safely incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
  • Monitoring your diabetes. Your health care team can teach you how to monitor your blood sugar and show you what to do to avoid highs and lows.

3. Track your Diabetes ABCs

Diabetes raises your risk for conditions that may affect your eyes, nerves, heart, teeth, and more. This is why you want to keep track of your diabetes ABCs.

  • A1c. This test measures your average blood sugar over the last two or three months. Your aim is to keep your A1c around 7 without risking low blood sugar. Your doctor can help.
  • Blood pressure. If you have diabetes, you are at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure, which can lead to other serious conditions. To be certain that your blood pressure is at a healthy rate, have it checked two to four times a year.
  • Cholesterol. Having diabetes can also put you at risk for high cholesterol -- a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Be sure to have your cholesterol checked (fasting lipid profile) at least once every year.

4. Learn how to Manage Your Diabetes

Once you know more about living with diabetes, it's important to put that knowledge into practice. A healthy lifestyle with diabetes includes:

  • Seeing your doctor two to four times a year
  • Eating a balanced diet
  • Getting 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Seeing your dentist at least twice a year
  • Not smoking
  • Getting eye and foot exams every year

5. Stop Diabetes Complications before they start

Complications don't have to be part of living with diabetes. You can help prevent problems by controlling your diabetes with diet, medication, exercise, and regular checkups. It's important to also know the signs of some common diabetes complications, which include:

  • Nerve damage (diabetic neuropathy) often affects the feet and legs of people with diabetes. Symptoms can include numbness, tingling, burning, cuts or sores that heal very slowly, and erectile dysfunction or vaginal dryness.
  • Eye problems (diabetic retinopathy) can be the result of damage to the small blood vessels in the retina. Signs may include sudden vision loss, blurry vision, eye pain or pressure, and spots before the eyes.
  • Kidney damage (diabetic nephropathy) is a diabetes complication that can lead to the need for dialysis or a kidney transplant. To rule out kidney damage, have your doctor check your blood pressure two to four times a year and your urine protein (microalbumin) at least once a year.
  • Heart disease and stroke risks are greater for people living with diabetes. The risks go up even higher if you smoke, are overweight, have high blood pressure, or have a family history of heart disease. Talk to your doctor to understand your risks for heart disease or stroke. 

6. Get Help from Your Diabetes Health Care Team

Catching diabetes complications early can dramatically boost your chances of successful treatment. So if you're worried about your health, don't wait for things to get worse. Talk to your doctor. Treatment may be as simple as a lifestyle change or an adjustment in medication.

Whether you have questions about diabetes or think you're experiencing diabetes complications, your diabetes health care team is there to help you continue to do the things you love with the people you care about.

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