A diagnosis of type 1 diabetes can make life feel very different and add substantial amounts of extra stress. However, there are plenty of things you can do to reduce your chances of suffering complications or feeling unwell. Follow these seven tips for living with the disease if you want to take the best care of your health.
1. Follow your instructions
Make sure you use your insulin pens, syringes or insulin pump and monitor your own blood sugar levels as instructed by your care team. If you are struggling with any aspect of your medication or monitoring process, make sure you contact an appropriate expert as soon as possible.
2. Organize review meetings
You should regularly see doctors and nurses who are equipped to monitor your diabetes and give advice on your condition. In particular, your eyes and feet should be examined at each appointment, as nerve damage often shows up in these places and causes problems like blurred vision or foot ulcers. These meetings with your care team will also give you a chance to air any worries or discuss any new symptoms that you worry might be connected with diabetes.
3. Monitor your diet
Although you don’t need to follow a highly restricted diet when you have type 1 diabetes, you do need to be a bit more careful about what you eat. To reduce your risk of developing complications, you should aim to have a high intake of fiber, whole grains, fruit and vegetables. Meanwhile, cutting back on fat, salt and sugar while help to protect you from cardiovascular problems and help to keep blood sugar levels under control. When it comes to carbohydrates, the trick is to make sure the amount of carbohydrates you ingest fits with your insulin dosage.
4. Have annual HbA1c tests
A yearly HbA1c will provide valuable information about whether your diabetes is being appropriately controlled by your lifestyle and medication regime. This test requires a simple blood sample, but it can provide your care team with data about your blood glucose levels over the last several months. These readings will be used to judge whether you are currently at risk of nerve complications, heart problems and kidney disease.
5. Try to stay fit
Studies show that people who follow a regular exercise plan are lowering their blood glucose levels. As a result, people with type 1 diabetes stand to benefit from staying fit. Ideally, you should spend around 3 hours a week on cardiovascular exercise like walking, swimming or cycling. However, make sure to inform your doctor of your exercise schedule, as changes in physical fitness can mean necessary insulin adjustment and dietary amendments designed to keep blood glucose level under control.
6. Accept the annual flu vaccine
Diabetics are more susceptible to potentially dangerous complications of the flu, so an annual flu vaccination is a good precautionary measure. You may also want to consider asking for the vaccination against pneumococcal pneumonia.
7. Be smart about smoking and drinking
There are good reasons for any smoker to quit their habit, but it is vital for diabetics to quit smoking. Your disease already makes you more likely to suffer from strokes, heart attacks and heart disease, so the extra risks attached to smoking are clearly significant. Meanwhile, you don’t need to stop drinking alcohol altogether if it’s something you enjoy, but you should be careful to avoid drinking to excess and you should always eat before having any alcohol. Your blood sugar levels can spike or dip dramatically depending on your alcohol intake.