An estimated 86 million Americans over age 20 have prediabetes. 15-30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 years, and they are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. The risk of death for adults with diabetes is 59% higher than for adults without diabetes1 .
Manage your diabetes ABCs2
Knowing your diabetes ABCs will help you manage your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Stopping smoking if you smoke will also help you manage your diabetes. Working toward your ABC goals can help lower your chances of having a heart attack, stroke, or other diabetes problems.
A for the A1C test
The A1C test3 shows your average blood glucose level over the past three months. The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below 7 percent. Ask your health care team what your goal should be.
B for Blood pressure
The blood pressure goal for most people with diabetes is below 140/90 mm Hg. Ask what your goal should be.
C for Cholesterol
You have two kinds of cholesterol in your blood: LDL and HDL. LDL or “bad” cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels. Too much bad cholesterol can cause a heart attack or stroke. HDL or “good” cholesterol helps remove the “bad” cholesterol from your blood vessels.
Ask your health care team what your cholesterol numbers should be. If you are over 40 years of age, you may need to take a statin drug for heart health.
S for Stop smoking
Not smoking is especially important for people with diabetes because both smoking and diabetes narrow blood vessels. Blood vessel narrowing makes your heart work harder. E-cigarettes aren’t a safe option either.
If you quit smoking
- you will lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, nerve disease, kidney disease, diabetic eye disease, and amputation
- your cholesterol and blood pressure levels may improve
- your blood circulation will improve
- you may have an easier time being physically active
If you smoke or use other tobacco products, stop. Ask for help, so you don’t have to do it alone. You can start by calling the national quitline at 1-800-QUITNOW or 1-800-784-8669. For tips on quitting, go to SmokeFree.gov.
Keeping your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels close to your goals and stopping smoking may help prevent the long-term harmful effects of diabetes. These health problems include heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, and eye disease. You can keep track of your ABCs with a diabetes care record. Take it with you on your health care visits. Talk about your goals and how you are doing, and whether you need to make any changes in your diabetes care plan.
Follow your diabetes meal plan
Make a diabetes meal plan with help from your healthcare team. Following a meal plan will help you manage your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
Choose fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, chicken or turkey without the skin, fish, lean meats, and nonfat or low-fat milk and cheese. Drink water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages. Choose foods that are lower in calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sugar, and salt. Learn more about eating, diet, and nutrition with diabetes.
Make physical activity part of your daily routine
Set a goal to be more physically active. Try to work up to 30 minutes or more of physical activity on most days of the week.
Brisk walking and swimming are good ways to move more. If you are not active now, ask your health care team about the types and amounts of physical activity that are right for you. Learn more about being physically active with diabetes.
The most common way to check your blood glucose level at home is with a blood glucose meter. You get a drop of blood by pricking the side of your fingertip with a lancet. Then you apply the blood to a test strip. The meter will show you how much glucose is in your blood at the moment.
Ask your health care team how often you should check your blood glucose levels. Make sure to keep a record of your blood glucose self-checks. You can print copies of this glucose self-check chart. Take these records with you when you visit your healthcare team.
What is continuous glucose monitoring?
Continuous glucose monitoring4 (CGM) is another way to check your glucose levels. Most CGM systems use a tiny sensor that
you insert under your skin. The sensor measures glucose levels in the fluids between your body’s cells every few minutes and can show changes in your glucose level throughout the day and night. If the CGM system shows that your glucose is too high or too low, you should check your glucose with a blood glucose meter before making any changes to your eating plan, physical activity, or medicines. A CGM system is especially useful for people who use insulin and have problems with low blood glucose.
What are the recommended targets for blood glucose levels?
Many people with diabetes aim to keep their blood glucose at these normal levels:
- Before a meal: 80 to 130 mg/dL
- About 2 hours after a meal starts: less than 180 mg/dL
Talk with your health care team about the best target range for you. Be sure to tell your healthcare professional if your glucose levels often go above or below your target range.
What happens if my blood glucose level becomes too low?
Sometimes blood glucose levels drop below where they should be, which is called hypoglycemia. For most people with diabetes, the blood glucose level is too low when it is below 70 mg/dL.
Hypoglycemia can be life-threatening and needs to be treated right away. Learn more about how to recognize and treat hypoglycemia5 .
What happens if my blood glucose level becomes too high?
Doctors call high blood glucose hyperglycemia.
Symptoms that your blood glucose levels may be too high include
- feeling thirsty
- feeling tired or weak
- urinating often
- blurred vision
If you often have high blood glucose levels or symptoms of high blood glucose, talk with your healthcare team. You may need a change in your diabetes meal plan, physical activity plan, or medicines.
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