By Melinda Maryniuk, MEd, RD, CDCES
The main thing every person with diabetes should know is: 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 keeping track of usual numbers like A1c, cholesterol and blood pressure, we’re going to talk about a few additional things you can do to maintain good health with diabetes and prevent future problems.
First, is if you are a smoker, talk to your doctor about getting help to quit. Smoking increases your risk of diabetes complications. Second, an eye exam – every person with diabetes should get a dilated eye exam every year. The good news is, by getting a yearly exam, the eye specialist will be able to detect any damage early. This means that your risk of eye problems decreases to almost zero.
The third thing that you want to make sure to keep an eye on is your feet. Everyday, 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 anything like this. Fourth – get regular check-ups with a dentist. High blood glucose can lead to problems with your teeth & gums, which is why you want to be proactive and make sure they’re checking for any 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 those 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.
Because of the effect of diabetes on your immune system, it’s also important to make sure 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 & before eating
Lastly, pay close attention to any wounds on your body, especially wounds that are not healing. In people with diabetes, wounds tend to heal slower and worsen more quickly. Finding them early and monitoring them closely each day is the key to avoiding infections & 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.
In conclusion, there are several things to prioritize that will help you maintain good health with diabetes:
- Try to quit smoking.
- Get an eye exam.
- Check your feet.
- Complete regular dental check ups.
- Get a flu shot.
- Wash your hands regularly.
- Consistently check your body for cuts or wounds and monitor any wounds carefully.
Remember, the key is prevention! It’s much easier to treat problems if we find them early on.