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Health Management and Education

Diabetes self-care: 7 survival skills

Managing your diabetes is an everyday job and YOU are in charge!  Developing care skills will help you control blood sugar and achieve health goals.  The American Association of Diabetes Educators identified 7 key skills that will help you take charge.  Choose small steps to manage your diabetes and try to incorporate each of these self-care behaviors into your life.


1. Healthy Eating

BBQThe good news is there is no such thing as a “diabetic diet”. Healthy eating for diabetes involves having a balance of carbohydrates, lean proteins, and heart healthy fats. Understanding carbohydrates is a good starting point. As your confidence grows, you can learn more about reading food labels and portion sizes. Fiber content and the timing of meals are also important in diabetes management. Through healthy eating you may be able to achieve and maintain a healthy body weight which is a key factor in optimal blood sugar control throughout your life.

2. Being Active

People walking

Regular activity is important for overall fitness, weight management and blood sugar control. With exercise, those with diabetes can improve control, and those at risk for Type 2 diabetes can reduce that risk. Being active can also help enhance weight loss, help control blood fat levels (cholesterol and triglycerides) and blood pressure, as well as reduce stress. If you are already active, you can increase the intensity or frequency. If you are not currently active, discuss with your provider a safe activity plan. Start by taking small steps: walk the dog, take the kids to the park, ride a bicycle to the post office. Everything counts!

3. Monitoring

Daily self-monitoring of blood sugar with a blood glucose meter provides the feedback on how food, physical activity and medications affect blood sugar. Talk to your health care team if you have any questions about how to use your meter or when to check your blood sugar. There is no wrong time to check – different times give you different kinds of information. Monitoring, however, doesn’t stop there. People with diabetes may also want to regularly check their blood pressure and weight.

4. Taking Medication

prescriptionSome people need medication no matter how carefully they eat and exercise. Understanding how the medication works, when to take it, how much to take and potential side effects is important. Effective drug therapy in combination with healthy lifestyle choices lowers blood sugar levels, reduces the risk for diabetes complications and makes you feel better.

5. Problem solving

Keeping your problem-solving skills sharp is important because on any given day, a high or low blood sugar will require rapid, informed decisions about food, activity and medications. Even after decades of living with diabetes, stability can still be a challenge. The disease is progressive and life situations change. Learn to identify problem areas and find possible solutions.

6. Reducing risks

Blood pressure checkBeing proactive and changing unhealthy habits will help reduce the risks of complications from diabetes, as well as improve your health and quality of life. Actions such as stopping smoking and having regular eye, foot, and dental examinations have a major impact.

7. Healthy coping

Health status and quality of life are affected by mental and social factors such as depression, financial struggles or job loss. Mental stress impacts health and motivation to keep diabetes in control. When motivation is low, the commitment required to perform your day in day out self care tasks can be difficult to maintain. When problems seem impossible to overcome, coping becomes difficult and your daily self care becomes more challenging. Learning to manage stress and life situations is an important piece for controlling blood sugar. A strong support system, and contact with your provider when needed, can help you mange. Begin building your support team today!