We explore ways to help you learn and implement self-management practices.
The diagnosis of diabetes
If you or a loved one have just been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be feeling an overwhelming amount of mixed emotions. Diabetes is a complex and serious condition, and living with it every day can be challenging1. Part of that challenge is due to the fact that the management of diabetes will largely rest in your hands. This can be daunting. Be kind to yourself and remember that small positive steps every day will make a difference in the long run.
Getting started with self-management
Ideally, on diagnosis, you should have access to a team of healthcare professionals. This may include the treating doctor, a diabetes educator or coach, and possibly a dietitian.
However, in many cases you might only have access to a doctor and your time spent with him or her in consultation will be limited.
In the beginning, you may feel overloaded with information about what to eat, how much to exercise, when to take your medicine, how to test as well as confusing terminology, such as HbA1c, hyperglycaemia, hypoglycaemia, glycaemic control etc.
To help make sense of it all, diabetes educators have developed some key areas to focus on1:
Having diabetes does not mean you must give up your favourite foods. Over time and through experience, you’ll learn how the foods you eat affect your blood sugar. You should eat regular meals and make food choices that will help control your diabetes better1.
Work with a dietitian or diabetes educator to develop a healthy, balanced eating plan that suits your lifestyle. Remember that it is okay to treat yourself once in a while. You can also visit the Accu-Chek website and download the Accu-Chek portion plate which will give you some practical tips on healthy eating.
Guidelines for the management of Type 2 diabetes refer to studies that have proven that regular physical activity significantly improves blood sugar control, reduces cardiovascular risk factors, and may reduce chronic medication dosages2. Regular physical activity may also improve symptoms of depression and improve health-related quality of life2. Try to include a combination of cardio and resistance training into your weekly exercise routine.
Self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG)
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) recommends SMBG as an effective means for patients with diabetes to understand more about their condition and the influence of events – such as exercise, stress, food and medication – on blood sugar levels3.
However, for SMBG to be effective, it’s recommended that you practice structured testing using a tool, such as the Accu-Chek 360 3-Day Profile Tool3 which can be found on www.accu-chek.co.za
Structured testing is testing at the right times, in the right situations, and frequently enough to generate useful information3. Always agree with your doctor or diabetes educator what your individual structured SMBG testing plan is.
Another aspect you should discuss with your doctor will be your target range for your blood sugar levels. In the beginning, understanding this range and what is considered out of range may be confusing, so you may want to make use of a meter such as the Accu-Chek Instant Meter which offers a support tool called the target range indicator (TRI)4.
A study done on the TRI showed that 94% of study participants were able to easily interpret their blood sugar values through the use of the target range indicator4. Furthermore, 94% felt that the support tool will help them discuss their blood sugar values with their doctor4.
You may need to take medication to help keep your blood sugar (glucose) level steady. Diabetes can increase your risk for other health conditions, such as heart or kidney related problems, so you may need to take medicine to help with those too1.
When you have diabetes, you learn to plan ahead to be sure you maintain blood sugar levels as much as possible within your target range goals – not too high, not too low.
As we know, things don’t always go according to plan and a stressful day at the office or an unexpected illness can send your blood sugar in the wrong direction. Days like this will happen from time to time. Here are some tips to cope1:
- Don’t beat yourself up – managing your diabetes doesn’t mean being perfect.
- Analyse your day and think about what was different and learn from it.
- Discuss possible solutions. This can be with your doctor, your diabetes educator or even a face-to-face or online diabetes support group. Try joining some of the online diabetes communities out there, such as the Accu-Chek Facebook page which has over 148 000 members. You can join the conversation at AccuChekSubSahara.