1. Health

Living Well With Type 1 Diabetes

Adapting to Life With Diabetes

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Updated December 23, 2011

To live well with type 1 diabetes you must take it seriously. A casual approach to managing your blood glucose is not going to help you remain healthy and strong. The good news is that you can learn to manage your diabetes and in turn reduce the risk of long-term health complications.

How do you do this? Here are seven important ways to take care of yourself and stay motivated to live well with diabetes:

1. Become a Student of Diabetes

At the time of diagnosis, most people experience a steep learning curve as they try to digest all they can about managing their diabetes. But unfortunately, many stop learning after the first few months and assume they know enough. Don’t make that mistake. The more informed you are about diabetes the more confident you will be in managing it. Many excellent resources are available within this site to help you increase your knowledge of diabetes.

2. Manage Your Diabetes Every Day

The four pillars of diabetes management are insulin, food, exercise and glucose testing. Balancing your glucose levels with the first three is your daily challenge. Testing your blood regularly is the only sure way of knowing how you are doing. It’s important to remember that perfection is not the goal. No person with type 1 keeps their blood glucose levels in the normal range all the time. When you have a bad day, try to understand what went wrong, give yourself some slack and make an honest attempt to improve the next day.

3. Work Closely With Your Healthcare Team

Management of type 1 diabetes requires you to think of yourself as a member of a healthcare team. You are the most important person on that team because you will be doing most of the work. But you also need the expertise and guidance of others. These team members include a/an:

  • Endocrinologist
    In addition to your primary care provider, you should also work closely with an endocrinologist (pediatric endocrinologist for children) who is a specialist in diabetes.

  • Diabetes Educator
    A Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) is trained to help you learn about diabetes and make the necessary adjustments for your diabetes care.

  • Dietician
    A dietitian can help you develop and stick to a healthy meal plan that is customized to your personal needs. You should consult a dietitian at least once a year. This annual visit is especially important for children to ensure their nutritional needs are being met as they grow.

  • Pharmacist
    Your pharmacist can help you choose diabetes supplies and answer any questions about medications that may cause a rise in your glucose levels.

4. Learn about Vital Tests

Monitor the results of these three important measures of your health:

  • A1c Test
    Also known as hemoglobin A1c, this quarterly test measures an approximate average of your blood sugar over the past three months. The standard goal is to have your A1c below 7, which indicates a fairly well-controlled glucose during that period. The lower the number, the better.
  • Blood Pressure
    The goal for most people with diabetes is to keep blood pressure under 130/80. High blood pressure can lead to a number of serious health problems such as heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.
  • Cholesterol
    For total cholesterol, your goal should be under 200. For LDL (bad cholesterol), it is optimal to be under 100. And for HDL (good cholesterol), you want your reading to be above 40.

5. Learn to Handle Stress

When you are under stress, your body reacts as if it is under attack, releasing hormones and stored sugar into your bloodstream. This can raise your blood glucose. Learn to listen to your body for early signs of stress (tight muscles, difficulty concentrating, difficulty falling or staying asleep) and try practicing various forms of relaxation (deep breathing, exercise, meditation) to combat stress and remain calm.

6. Get Support

Many people with type 1 diabetes have found great comfort and inspiration by participating in a diabetes support group. There are hundreds of support groups around the country that are designed for adults, parents, families and children living with type 1.

7. Ask For Help

To live well with diabetes you will need the help of others. Don’t be afraid to ask family members, friends, co-workers and employers for assistance. Having diabetes is not something you should be ashamed of telling others about. Nearly one in every 12 people in the U.S. has either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. So, by asking for what you need, you may be not only be taking care of yourself, but also showing others that they can do the same.

Sources:

Four Steps To Control Your Diabetes. For Life. National Diabetes Education Program. Accessed: August 15, 2008.http://ndep.nih.gov/diabetes/control/4Steps.htm

National Diabetes Statistics, 2007. National Diabetes Information Clearninghouse. Accessed: August 15, 2008. http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/dm/pubs/statistics/index.htm#allages .

Stress. American Diabetes Association. Accessed: August 16, 2008. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/stress.html

Your Diabetes Care Team. American Diabetes Association. Accessed: August 15, 2008. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/who-is-on-your-healthcare-team/your-health-care-team.html

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