Living With Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is a common disease among seniors, especially those who may be overweight and a bit inactive. If you have diabetes–along with 14 million other Americans–it is more important than ever to pay attention to certain lifestyle factors, in order to keep yourself in the best of health.
The secret to living well with diabetes is to maintain your blood sugar level within the range your doctor has suggested. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases , there are four main ways you can do this:
- Eat healthy food. Try to eat foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar, and high in fiber, such as beans, fruits, vegetables, and grains. This will help you stay at a desirable weight, keep your blood sugar in a good range, and prevent cardiovascular disease. You should, however, have a dietary plan that has been individualized for you by a dietician (whom your physician can refer you to). If you don’t use insulin, be sure to follow your meal plan and don’t skip meals. If you use insulin, give yourself a shot before you eat, eat about the same time of day and the same amount of food daily, and don’t skip meals.
- Get regular exercise. Most exercises are beneficial, even house-cleaning and gardening! Exercise will help you keep your weight down, help insulin work better, give you energy, and protect your heart and lungs. Try to exercise at least three times a week for 30 – 45 minutes. If you haven’t eaten for over an hour or if your blood sugar is less than 100 -120, have a small snack before exercising. If you use insulin, exercise after eating (not before), test your blood sugar before and after exercise, and don’t exercise before you go to sleep (it may cause low blood sugar during the night). If you take diabetes pills, test your blood sugar before exercising.
- Take your diabetes medicine every day: When diet alone doesn’t lower your blood sugar, you will be prescribed insulin (if your body doesn’t make enough), pills, or both. Never change the amount or type of insulin or your schedule of injections before talking with your doctor. Always use your own needles and keep extra insulin on hand in the refrigerator. If you take pills, remember they do not lower blood sugar by themselves; you still need to follow your diet and to exercise. Inform your doctor if you notice any side effects from the pills.
- Test your blood sugar every day: This will help you determine how well you are managing your diabetes. You can test your blood sugar in several ways, which your doctor will explain. If your blood has too much or too little sugar in it, your doctor may change your diet, exercise plan, or medication. Keep daily records of your blood sugar, the times of your injections, the amount of insulin, and the results of urine tests (which look for harmful substances called ketones). It is also helpful to enter the foods you eat and whether you feel sick or very tired on a given day. This will help the doctor determine if changes are needed in your treatment. Your diary is also a good place to enter the results of other special tests the doctor will occasionally order.
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