We know it seems like a lot when you have diabetes and don’t want to lose a foot or leg to the disease, but perhaps it can help to break everything down into a couple of key areas. You need to protect your feet (with diabetic socks and shoes), inspect them daily, and seek medical care at the earliest possible opportunities.
Those couple of things help put you ahead in the ballgame. Of course, if you want to even be in the ballgame in the first place, you need to take measures to manage your blood glucose levels!
Elevated blood sugar levels can be a huge problem with diabetes. Excessive glucose causes systemic damage throughout the body – especially in your nervous, immune, and circulatory systems. Problems with nerve health, immune function, and blood flow put you at risk for serious complications (like Charcot foot and diabetic foot ulcers).
This can be scary stuff, but there is some good news – managing your glucose levels can reduce your risk of problems.
Today, let’s take a look at some measures you can take to do exactly that, including:
Know your sugar levels. Check your blood sugar levels at least once every day with a blood glucose meter, and keep a record of the readings. Know what’s normal, high, and low. You’ll be able to spot patterns and give your health care team the information they need to craft a treatment plan for when things get off-track.
Portion control. Even when you’re eating healthy food, it’s still possible to have too much of a good thing. A good rule of thumb is to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, and split the other half between a lean protein and a grain.
Consume plenty of fiber. This is a good way to bulk up your meals and, since your body doesn’t actually digest the fiber, high-fiber foods don’t raise your blood sugar. As a target, aim for 50 grams of fiber every day. Some good sources for this are legumes (beans, etc.), whole grains, and eating fruits and veggies with the skin on.
Be carb smart. Carbohydrates turn into glucose after you eat them. This means it’s important for you to eat healthy kinds like the ones mentioned previously – while at the same time easing up on less-healthy options. White rice, white bread, and other heavily-processed carbs should be, at the very least, limited in your diet.
Keep cool. One of the effects of diabetes is that you feel hotter faster than otherwise healthy folks. This is important to know because a hot body doesn’t deal with blood sugar as well as a cooler one. We might be heading into winter soon, but keep in mind you should wear loose-fitting clothes and a hat during warmer temps. Also, make sure you spend plenty of time in air conditioning or the shade during hotter times of the year.
Exercise. Even if you don’t have diabetes, exercise is so incredibly important for the human body. If you are diabetic, though, you should know that regular exercise makes insulin work better in your body. Now, being active is essential for lowering blood sugar, but make sure you choose the right activities to get into your workout groove. Pass on high-impact ones—like court sports (basketball, tennis) or running—and find lower-impact ones you can enjoy. Swimming, walking, stationary cycling, and yoga can all be outstanding options. (Just make sure you check with your primary care physician and our office before starting a workout program!)
Limit alcohol. Now, we aren’t saying you have to completely avoid alcohol altogether – just be smart about it when you do. This means sticking to one 5-ounce glass of wine, 1.5 ounces of liquor, or one 12-ounce beer per day if you are a woman. If you’re a man, you may be able to have twice as much – but no more! Also, if you are going to have a drink, make sure your blood sugar isn’t low and you aren’t drinking on an empty stomach.
Plenty of sleep. Whereas diet and exercise may get all the attention, don’t overlook the importance of getting a full night’s sleep. Insufficient and poor sleep can cause elevated blood sugar levels the next day, so make sleep a priority every day!
Manage weight. If you’re eating healthy, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep, this will come naturally. Weight management is important for glucose management because extra pounds on the body can bump up blood sugar. It only takes a drop of around 10-15 pounds to start making a big difference.
Educate your family. No matter what you’re trying to do in life, you will have a better chance of success if you have a support network – and family can be a built-in support network! When the people who live (and eat) with you know why healthy dietary choices are so important, it makes glucose management that much easier.
Manage stress. As with some of these other tactics, this isn’t something just limited to managing diabetes. Stress causes problems in the human body, especially by releasing a particular hormone called cortisol. Excess cortisol can mess with how effectively your body is able to manage sugar in the blood. If you can remove unneeded stressors from your life, do it. If you can’t remove them, then you need to find better ways to deal with the stress. Not sure how? Meditation, exercise, and talking with someone are all beneficial.
Hey, we want you to be as healthy and safe as possible. If you have diabetes, a big part of that is to manage your glucose levels. These tips can help, but even better is to come see us at Heartland Foot and Ankle Associates. Our team is here for you, so contact our Bloomington, IL office today by calling (309) 661-9975.