By Melinda Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDCES
The main thing that every person with diabetes should know is that it’s possible to live a long, healthy life with diabetes—the key is being proactive, knowing your numbers and taking action where needed. In addition to usual numbers like A1c, cholesterol and blood pressure that you need to keep an eye on with your doctor, we’re going to talk about a few additional things you can do to maintain good health with diabetes and prevent future problems.
The first is if you are a smoker, talk to your doctor about getting help to quit. Smoking increases your risk of diabetes complications, even if everything else is going well. The second thing is an eye exam—every person with diabetes should get a dilated eye exam every year. The good news is that by getting a yearly exam, the eye specialist will be able to detect any potential damage early which means that your risk of eye problems goes down to almost zero.
The third thing that you want to make sure to keep an eye on is your feet. Every single day, make sure you take a look at your feet, checking for cuts, blisters, or red spots. Let your doctor know right away if you see any of these signs. The fourth thing is to get regular check-ups with a dentist. High blood glucose can lead to problems with your teeth and gums, which is why you want to be proactive and make sure they’re checking for gum disease and other oral health problems.
The fifth thing is to make sure you get a flu shot every year and stay up to date with your vaccinations. Diabetes can make it harder for your immune system to fight infections, so you may be at greater risk for complications from an illness compared to people without diabetes. Some illnesses, like the flu, can raise your blood glucose to dangerously high levels. People with diabetes also have higher rates of hepatitis B and are at increased risk of death from pneumonia. So it’s important to talk with your doctor to make sure that your vaccinations are up to date.
Because of the effect of diabetes on your immune system, it’s also really important to make sure that you’re washing your hands regularly to prevent germs from spreading. As a friendly reminder, here are a few times when you want to remember to wash your hands:
Before and after using a blood glucose meter
Before and after providing any type of care such as assisting another person using the restroom.
Any contact with bodily fluid such as blood, urine, and mucous membranes in the nose or mouth
Coming in contact with non-intact skin, like a scratch, cut, open wound, blister or hang nail.
Preparing food and before eating
One last thing to be aware of for good health with diabetes is to pay close attention to any wounds on your body, especially any wounds that are not healing. In people with diabetes, wounds tend to heal more slowly and worsen more quickly. Finding them early and monitoring them closely each day is the key to avoiding infections and complications. Doing regular self-checks on your body will help you get more familiar with how your body heals and to monitor any areas of concern.
So in conclusion, there are several things that you can prioritize that will help you maintain good health with diabetes—
- Try to quit smoking
- Get an eye exam
- Check your feet
- Get regular dental check ups
- Get a flu shot
- Wash your hands regularly
- Regularly check your body for cuts or wounds and monitor any wounds carefully
Remember the key is prevention! It’s much easier to treat any problems if we find them early on. And that’s what you need to know—thanks for watching!