Self-Care at Home
If you or someone you know has
diabetes, they would be wise to make healthful lifestyle
choices in diet, exercise, and other health habits. These will
help to improve glycemic (blood sugar) control and prevent or
minimize complications of diabetes.
Diet: A healthy
diet is key to controlling blood sugar levels and
preventing diabetes complications.
Exercise: Regular exercise, in
any form, can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes.
Activity can also reduce the risk of developing complications
of diabetes such as heart disease, stroke, kidney failure,
blindness, and leg ulcers.
- If the patient is obese and has
had difficulty losing weight on their own, talk to a
healthcare provider. He or she can recommend a dietitian
or a weight modification program to help the patient reach
- Eat a consistent, well-balanced
diet that is high in fiber, low in saturated fat, and low
in concentrated sweets.
- A consistent diet that includes
roughly the same number of calories at about the same
times of day helps the healthcare provider prescribe the
correct dose of medication or insulin.
- It will also help to keep blood
sugar at a relatively even level and avoid excessively low
or high blood sugar levels, which can be dangerous and
Alcohol use: Moderate or
eliminate consumption of alcohol. Try to have no more than
seven alcoholic drinks in a week and never more than two or
three in an evening. One drink is considered 1.5 ounces of
liquor, 6 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer. Excessive
alcohol use is a known risk factor for type 2 diabetes.
Alcohol consumption can cause low or high blood sugar levels,
nerve pain called neuritis, and increase in triglycerides,
which is a type of fat in our blood.
- As little as 20 minutes of walking
three times a week has a proven beneficial effect. Any
exercise is beneficial; no matter how light or how long,
some exercise is better than no exercise.
- If the patient has complications
of diabetes (eye, kidney, or nerve problems), they may be
limited both in type of exercise and amount of exercise
they can safely do without worsening their condition.
Consult with your health care provider before starting any
Smoking: If the patient has
diabetes, and you smoke
cigarettes or use any other form of tobacco, they are
raising the risks markedly for nearly all of the complications
of diabetes. Smoking damages blood vessels and contributes to
heart disease, stroke, and poor circulation in the limbs. If
someone needs help quitting, talk to a healthcare provider.
Self-monitored blood glucose: Check
blood sugar levels frequently, at least before meals and at
bedtime, and record the results in a logbook.
- This log should also include
insulin or oral medication doses and times, when and what
the patient ate, when and for how long they exercised, and
any significant events of the day such as high or low
blood sugar levels and how they treated the problem.
- Better equipment now available
makes testing blood sugar levels less painful and less
complicated than ever. A daily blood sugar diary is
invaluable to the healthcare provider in seeing how the
patient is responding to medications, diet, and exercise
in the treatment of diabetes.
- Medicare now pays for diabetic
testing supplies, as do many private insurers and