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
Diet: A healthy
diet is key to controlling blood sugar levels and preventing diabetes
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 a goal.
- 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 even
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
- 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 exercise program.
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 Medicaid.