Diabetes is a chronic disease that involves lifestyle modification, adequate nutrition, physical exercise and the use of drugs. For its treatment, it is essential that people learn to manage it correctly with the aim of having a good quality of life and avoiding possible complications.
Mercedes Galindo, the advisor to the Diabetes Foundation, offers us a series of recommendations to maintain optimal control with diabetes:
1. Learning to live with diabetes
It is important to know what diabetes is, the main cares and to make the necessary changes for good control. The person with diabetes and their family members should receive diabetes education and emotional support. Stressing the importance of the role of the diabetes educator and the commitment to the education of the person as an indispensable tool to facilitate self-care, adherence to treatment and metabolic control.
2. Adapting the diet
Diet is an essential part of diabetes management and helps to delay or prevent complications. The diet of the person with diabetes is similar to that of any other person: food should be distributed throughout the day, i.e. 3 to 5 meals according to personal characteristics and treatment guidelines (breakfast, mid-morning, lunch, snack and dinner), avoiding foods with a high amount of carbohydrates or that are quickly absorbed, as they raise glucose considerably. Taking care of your diet is part of your treatment, therefore, you can not talk about types of food and quantities without also talking about the physical activity you do, the medicines you take or whether or not you suffer from other diseases such as cholesterol or hypertension. In short, it is a set of factors that must be considered globally and that make each person with diabetes have a unique and personalized diet, which must be made with the support of the healthcare team.
3. Maintain adequate hydration
People with diabetes have an increased risk of dehydration because an elevated blood glucose level causes the kidneys to try to eliminate it in the form of urine. For this reason, people with diabetes tend to be more thirsty when hyperglycemia occurs. Water should be the basis of hydration for a person with diabetes. There are other drinks that help to improve hydration such as natural juices or without added sugars, “light” or “zero” soft drinks that contain sweeteners instead of sugar and therefore do not increase blood sugar, sports drinks or infusions, but always on an occasional basis.
4. Regular exercise
Exercise is one of the cornerstones of diabetes management and prevents associated complications. Its benefits occur at many other levels: it improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels and cardiovascular function. The type of exercise and intensity should be adapted to the age and physical condition of each person with diabetes.
5. Frequent and structured glucose testing
The analysis of blood glucose levels carried out by the person or a relative makes it possible to know the blood glucose figures at any time and to detect possible acute complications, hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) or hyperglycemia (high blood glucose). It is recommended to carry out between 5 and 6 controls a day, before each meal and before going to bed in order to have information and to adjust the insulin pattern or the treatment in general, if necessary. If exercise is practiced, it is recommended to perform an analysis before the beginning of the activity, some extra measurement while practicing exercise of long duration, as well as once finished.
6. Act quickly when faced with hypoglycemia
It is common during hypoglycemia to eat uncontrollably and voraciously. This leads to a total intake of carbohydrates greater than the grams indicated, which is usually the cause of a rebound or hyperglycemia in the hours after.
7. Avoid the complications of diabetes
It is important to keep your blood glucose numbers at the optimal level before and after meals. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels also need to be controlled.
8. Have ophthalmological check-ups
It is essential that people with diabetes have regular check-ups, especially of the state of the retina, to prevent, detect and successfully treat any type of complication.
9. Taking care of your feet
People with diabetes may have impaired sensation and circulation. It is important to carry out a daily inspection of the feet checking the absence of injuries and to visit the podiatrist regularly.
10. Better adherence to medications
Medication is a part of the treatment which, together with diet and exercise, are fundamental pillars. For this reason, it is necessary to agree and follow the recommendations that are prescribed together with health professionals. Insulin is the pharmacological basis in the treatment of type 1 diabetes, and different oral drugs and/or insulin in type 2 diabetes.