10 healthy resolutions for diabetics
As Reported On www.health.india.com
The new year is just around the corner, and this is when a number of people start thinking about their resolutions. If you are a diabetic, this is the time you should focus of getting yourself on track — health wise. Here are ten resolutions that every diabetic should take in order to stay healthy in 2014.
Resolution #1: Check blood sugar levels regularly
For a diabetic his/her blood sugar level is an extremely important aspect of staying healthy. It indicates how well you are managing your diabetes and, if you have either high amounts of blood sugar (hyperglycaemia) or low blood sugar levels (hypoglycaemia) in your blood – both of which are extremely dangerous.
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which the blood glucose levels drop below the lower normal limit (80 mg), and it affects the working of the entire body. The common symptoms of the condition are lethargy, decrease in mental function, irritability, shakiness, weakness in the arm and/or leg muscles, sweating and loss of consciousness. In severe cases, one may suffer from brain damage as well.
In the case of hyperglycaemia, one’s blood sugar levels are higher than the normal limit (120 mg). While suppressed appetite is a short-term symptom, long-term symptoms include eye, kidney and nerve damage plus increased risk of heart disease.
What you can do about it: The best way to check your blood sugar levels at regular intervals is to have a glucometer at hand. According to Dr Rajiv Kovil, ‘A type 2 diabetic should measure his/her glucose levels once before a meal and once two hours after a meal. This should be done on different days at different times, also known as scattered checks. In the case of people suffering from type 1 diabetes, they should get a 7 point check, before and after meals, along with a 3 am reading.’ This new year try to invest in a blood glucometer, it will not only cut down all the trouble of going to a hospital to get your blood tested, but will also make the process much more convenient.
Resolution #2: Get your HbA1 checked twice a year
HbA1c (Haemoglobin A1c) is a simple blood test that tells you and your doctor how well your diabetes is managed over time. It is aimed at measuring your average blood sugar levels, and to see if it has stayed within the required range. The test works by measuring the amount of glucose that gets attached to your red blood cells – that are said to be ‘glycated’ when the glucose molecule gets attached to it. This means that the higher the amount of glucose that gets attached to the cells, the lesser the amount of oxygen the cells can transport to your body and tissues. The average percentage of glycoslated cells directly translates to the HbA1c reading. According to Dr Rajiv Kovil, renowned diabetologist, ‘A diabetic should get his/her HbA1c levels tested every six months, and the level should be below 7% to avoid any further complications.’ A normal person’s HbA1c level is usually below 5%, but in a diabetic this level is increased because of the amount of glucose in their blood. An average above 7% is an alarm that you are more susceptible to diabetes related complications. Uncontrolled diabetes can raise the risk of you developing eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy by 76%, Kidney disease by 50% and nerve damage by 60%*.
What you can do: Get this test done either twice a year (every 6 months) or once in three months depending on how well your diabetes is controlled. If you tend to forget, you can ask our doctor to schedule the test for you whenever it has to be done. The test is simple and does not require you to fast totake it, so just take an appointment and get tested.
Resolution #3: Have all you medications on time
Eating the right amount of medication at the right time is one of the most important aspects to controlling your diabetes. It is important for you to understand that you cannot eat two tablets instead of one if you miss your previous medication or if you eat more than you should have. These medicines work on a particular enzyme produced in the body at a particular time, and therefore more is not always better. Missing medication can increase your risk of suffering from the common complications associated with diabetes like kidney disease, diabetic retinopathy, diabetic dyslipidemia and diabetic foot. Constantly fluctuating blood sugar levels wreak havoc in your body, so keeping a close track of your medication is essential.
What you can do: A good way to keep a track of your medication is to have a schedule written down, referring to your prescription might not always be feasible. You could also buy a daily drug dispenser that will help you have your medication on time, every day. Alternatively you could tell your friend or relative about your schedule and ask him/her to remind you.
Resolution #4: Take care of your kidneys
One of the most serious consequences of diabetes mellitus (DM) is renal or kidney disease, also known as diabetic nephropathy. This happens if your diabetes is not well controlled, leading to kidney damage and finally nephropathy. Another common complication is chronic kidney disease (CKD). This is a condition where the kidneys have been damaged to such an extent that they start to malfunction. The final stage of this disease is the complete failure of your kidneys, which inhibits it from performing any of its essential functions like filtering out toxins or eliminating waste from the body. Depending on the amount of damage your kidneys sustain you may require dialysis or a kidney transplant.
What you can do about it: The best thing you can do for your kidneys is to eat right and drink lots of water. A diet rich in fiber, potassium and other minerals can do wonders for you kidney’s health. You can also talk to your doctor about your likely hood of suffering from kidney disease and ask for medication to slow its degradation. Getting specific tests like serum albumin and creatinine once a year is also a good idea.
Resolution #5: Keep your cholesterol levels in check
As a diabetic you are more prone to higher levels of LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, increasing your risk of suffering from heart disease and stroke. High cholesterol also leads to a common complication of diabetes known as diabetic dyslipidemia (where your LDL cholesterol becomes dense and the amount of HDL cholesterol increases). Diabetic dyslipidemia is dangerous since it leads to clogged arteries that make you more susceptible to coronary heart disease due to artherosclerosis, stroke and other vascular problems.
What you can do about it: The best way to keep your cholesterol levels n check is by maintaining a healthy diet and exercising regular. You should ideally stay away from high fat foods like sweets, deep fried foods, foods labeled cholesterol-free and junk food. Instead you could include cholesterol busting foods into your diet like oats, fish, methi, onions, brinjal, green tea and brown rice.
Resolution #6: Eat right
Monitoring your diet is highly vital as the food you eat directly affects your blood sugar levels and weight. In order to make sure you are eating healthy, follow these tips:
- Eat every 2-3 hours in small quantities rather than eating 3 large meals.
- Include complex carbs in every meal – whole wheat, ragi, jowar, brown rice, oats, etc.
- Avoid refined cereal products like bread, noodles, polished rice, etc. as they can raise blood sugar levels.
- Choose fibre-rich foods like vegetables, whole grains, etc. You should aim for 25-25g of fibre/day through diet to maintain blood glucose levels.
- Low-fat milk products like curd, paneer and egg whites, lean chicken and fish are great protein sources which can prove helpful in diabetes management.
- If you are a vegetarian, whole pulses and dals can provide little protein and good amounts of fibre.
- You can enjoy all vegetables especially green, leafy ones. Limit your intake of potatoes.
- Depending on your blood sugar, don’t have more than 2 fruits/day and if you are fond of mango/banana, opt for these early in the morning.
- Reduce butter, ghee or oil intake. Also, avoid processed foods like cakes, biscuits, ready-to-eat foods as they are loaded with fats. Salt and sugar and can aggravate complications like blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Sugary foods are a complete no-no. You can use artificial sweeteners occasionally, but avoid over-dependence on them.
- Always carry a snack with you when travelling to avoid hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and dizziness.
What you can do about it: Eating healthy is as simple as making wise choices. Just because you have diabetes, it does not mean that you have to give up everything you love eating. It is as simple as making small changes in the foods you choose.
Resolution #7: Exercise regularly
Only monitoring your diet won’t work, physical exercise is also an important aspect to maintain normal blood sugar levels. It not only gets the ‘happy hormones’ flowing making you happier, it increases your lung capacity, helps in better blood circulation, reduces cholesterol levels and improves the overall working of your body. But before you hit the gym, here are a few guidelines you should follow:
- Make sure you check your blood sugar levels at home before and after exercise and avoid exercising if your blood sugar levels are too high or too low. If you are on insulin, modify your carb intake depending on your sugar levels
- Eat a complex carb snack like sandwich, wrap, oats an hour before you do any activity.
- Eat immediately after exercise to avoid fall in blood sugar.
- Carry sugar tablets or glucose water with you in case of an emergency hypoglycemia situation.
- Avoid exercise in case of severe complications like kidney problems, nerve problems or wounds.
What you can do about it: Make sure you exercise at least 4-5 times/week to help you get your blood sugar in control. If you are just starting off, choose moderate exercises like aerobics, brisk walking, weight training, swimming, dancing, etc.
Resolution #8: Lose weight
If you are obese, it is best that you decide to lose weight – immediately. Obesity is one of the most crucial mitigating factors of diabetes. It not only throws your hormones out of sync, it also causes a decrease in the amount of insulin sensitivity (the main reason why a person suffers from diabetes). The fat present around your stomach is also another reason for this. It exerts pressure on the stomach and the organs within, leading to the malfunctioning of the pancreas (the organ that is responsible for the production of insulin), increases blood pressure and reduces the amount of space you have to inhale (by compressing your lungs). Obesity also causes your cholesterol levels to skyrocket, increasing the chances of heart disease. All this put together can be a death knell for a diabetic.
What you can do about it: The best way to lose weight is to exercise and control your diet. Doctors say that a mere 10% of weight loss can show drastic improvements on one’s health. If you are morbidly obese, start with simply walking for about 30 minutes in a day. Once you feel up to it, you can increase the intensity of your workouts. Apart from that cut down of high fat foods and those that can add to your waistline like junk food, sweets and fried foods. If you find it difficult to give up everything at one time, try quitting one favorite fatty food at a time. Soon you will be eating healthy.
Resolution #9: Take care of your feet
Diabetics are highly prone to a condition called diabetic foot. When diabetes is not well controlled, damage to the organs and impairment of the immune system is likely. With damage to the nervous system, a person with diabetes may not be able to feel his or her feet properly and the normal sweat secretion and oil production ( that lubricates the skin of the foot) is impaired. These factors together can lead to abnormal pressure on the skin, bones, and joints of the foot and can lead to injuries of the foot. Once injured, the healing process is extremely slow due to the lack of proper blood supply and a strong enough immune system. Apart from this bacterial infection of the skin, connective tissues, muscles, and bones can also occur. These infections if left untreated can lead to gangrene, which can be life threatening and often doctors are left no other choice that to amputate the foot. Several factors lead to diabetic foot like improper footwear, nerve damage, poor circulation, injuries to the feet and infections.
What you can do about it: Examine your feet every day, especially after an injury. Do visit your doctor if you see formation of pus, soreness around the wound, swelling or greenish/blackish layer forming in and around the wound. As a diabetic you should use a water-based moisturizer every day (but not between your toes) to prevent dry skin and cracking. Wear cotton or wool socks and avoid elastic socks and hosiery since they may impair circulation.
Resolution #10:Quit smoking
You must have heard about all the ill effects of smoking, and if you are a diabetic, this one habit can make more prone to the complications that arise of the diabetes. Smoking contributes to the clogging of the arteries, contributes to raising your blood pressure and increases your LDL and triglyceride levels and lowers your HDL levels.
What you can do about it: Take a step and quit today. There are various ways you can do it, either quit cold turkey, use nicotine patches to help wean you off your cravings or use electronic cigarettes to help speed up the process.