Learning to live with diabetes can be a challenging journey. There’s a lot to take in when you are newly diagnosed, and it is easy for diabetics make a mistake.
New medications, diet restrictions, and exercise changes can be overwhelming. It also can be tempting to think you might be able to get by without implementing lifestyle changes.
To correctly manage your diabetes, it is essential to make changes to your routine to help your condition improve. Changes will likely include monitoring your blood sugar, taking medications, implementing an appropriate exercise routine, and consuming a diabetes-safe diet.
In this article, we will explore 7 common mistakes diabetics make and tips on how to avoid them.
1. Poor Blood Sugar Monitoring
If you have diabetes, monitoring your blood sugar becomes a part of your day-to-day routine. There are two common pitfalls when it comes to blood sugar monitoring, this includes not testing frequently enough and not using or maintaining the equipment properly.
Since everyone’s diabetes is different, it’s essential to understand how your body responds to things like food, exercise, and medications. Regular blood sugar monitoring will help you identify patterns in your blood sugar and allow you to adjust your treatment plan accordingly. Without regular monitoring, you may experience blood sugar highs and lows, which are not ideal for your body.
To check your blood sugar levels, you will use a machine called a glucometer. It is important to use and maintain the glucometer correctly. When you first start using a glucometer, ask your doctor or nurse plenty of questions about how to properly use this equipment. This will ensure your readings are accurate.
Below are a few tips to avoid common glucometer problems:
- Make sure the test strip is fully inserted into the glucose meter
- Clean your device regularly
- Never use expired test strips
- Store test strips in their container to avoid damage from light or moisture
- Ensure that your hands are clean before testing
- Use gentle pressure to obtain a blood sample, squeezing your finger too hard can lead to inaccurate results
If you have difficulty operating or maintaining your glucometer, contact your healthcare team immediately.
2. Not Enough Exercise
Exercise is crucial for diabetics because of its many health benefits.
Exercise can help to manage blood pressure, blood sugar, and body weight. It is particularly effective in people with type 2 diabetes. It can also lower bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease and nerve damage.
Setting attainable exercise goals is one way to add exercise to your routine. Start with an activity within your current physical capabilities. If you aren’t in an exercise routine, something low-impact, such as walking, yoga, or swimming, might be appropriate. As you build up strength and stamina, you can increase the duration and intensity of your workouts.
As always, before adding any specific exercise to your routine, speak with your doctor first. Intense exercise can alter your insulin needs, so check with your doctor beforehand to explore recommended exercise activities and any potential limitations.
3. Inconsistent Exercise Habits
As mentioned earlier, exercise impacts your insulin needs. Insulin works by lowering your blood glucose. When you exercise, your muscles will take up extra glucose from the bloodstream for energy. This process will further lower your blood glucose levels.
If you engage in intense exercise and then administer your usual insulin dose, you might be at risk of experiencing low blood sugar. Exercising infrequently can make it even more difficult to predict your insulin needs because your blood sugar will vary daily. These variations put you at a higher risk of inappropriately dosing your insulin. This is why it is essential to consistently monitor your blood sugar after activities and stick with a constant exercise routine.
4. Skipping Regular Appointments
Everyone needs a regular check-up with their doctor. For people with chronic health conditions like diabetes, regular appointments become even more critical. Your doctor will monitor your HgA1c, blood sugar levels, kidney function, and other important parameters. This will help your healthcare team tailor your treatment to your needs.
Diabetics are also at increased risk of certain health complications such as nerve, kidney, and eye damage. This is why following through with the routine testing your doctor recommends is essential. Routine testing will likely include the following:
- Annual dilated eye exam
- Annual foot exam
- Annual flu shot
- Annual kidney tests and cholesterol tests
- Annual hearing check
- A doctor visit every three months
- An HgA1C test every three months
- A dental exam every six months
If any new symptoms emerge, it is essential to check in with your doctor sooner than the recommended guidelines.
5. Misunderstanding Carbohydrates
Following a specific diet is essential for many diabetics, and counting carbohydrates is part of this meal plan. Counting your carbohydrates will help you to match your activity levels and medications to the food you eat.
It is recommended to eat roughly the same amount of carbohydrates at every meal to keep your blood sugar balanced throughout the day. To do so, you must understand the different types of carbohydrates and how they impact your blood sugar.
There are three types of carbs: sugars, starches, and fiber. Sugars and starches will raise your blood sugar, unlike fiber which doesn’t break down into sugar.
It’s crucial to consider the total grams of carbohydrates in your food, not just the sugar content, to manage your blood sugar properly. Carbohydrates are counted in grams, not by servings. You can check the nutritional labels to find out the number of grams of carbohydrates in your foods. Serving sizes can be misleading because there may be more than one serving in a typical portion.
If you have questions about the number of carbohydrates you should eat, meeting with a nutritionist who can tailor a meal plan for you might be helpful.
6. Incorrect Insulin Storage and Administration
Insulin is an essential medication for many diabetics. It is an injectable medication that lowers blood sugar levels and is typically administered after meals.
Insulin must be stored correctly for it to work properly. If it gets too hot or cold, the medication might become ineffective. This can cause unwanted side effects such as dangerous blood sugar spikes or low blood sugar.
To properly store insulin, it should always be refrigerated. Avoid exposing it to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight. If you are traveling, you can use a cooler to transport your insulin safely in a temperature-controlled environment.
If you have any questions about how to store or administer any of your diabetes medications properly, you should contact your doctor right away.
7. Skipping Meals or Overindulging
Diabetes puts you at higher risk for blood sugar issues for multiple reasons.
Skipping meals can be very dangerous for diabetics, especially those on injectable insulin. When you eat a meal, your body will break down the food into glucose. This glucose will eventually be absorbed into your body’s cells by insulin. If you skip a meal and inject insulin, your body will still absorb the same amount of glucose from your bloodstream. You are at risk of low blood sugar without that additional glucose from your meal.
Even if you don’t inject insulin, many diabetes medications can put you at risk of low blood sugar. Sticking to your routine is important, and if you skip a meal, adjust your medications accordingly.
Low blood sugar can be catastrophic if not adequately treated. Symptoms of low blood sugar include dizziness, shaking, sweating, nervousness, anxiety, feeling strange or confused, difficulty walking or seeing clearly, feeling weak, and seizures. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor right away.
Overindulging, especially in foods high in carbohydrates, can result in spikes in blood glucose levels. Over time elevated glucose levels can lead to many health issues, such as cardiovascular disease, kidney, nerve, and eye damage.
Diabetes is a common chronic health condition that can be managed through a combination of diet, exercise, and medications. When newly diagnosed, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the new protocol you are expected to follow. To avoid common mistakes, it’s important to monitor blood sugar appropriately, exercise consistently, eat regularly, and follow a healthcare provider’s instructions. Following these simple steps will keep diabetes well-managed and prevent further complications down the road.
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