Pay Special Attention to Your Feet as a Diabetic
Diabetics experience a wide range of problems associated with the disease all over their body, but some parts of the body are more severely affected than others. Namely, the feet are a major source of danger for almost all diabetics, both type 1 and 2.
One of the more common foot-based afflictions associated with diabetes is what’s known as neuropathy. Neuropathy is the damaging of the nerves, and while this happens all over your body, it seems to affect the feet of diabetics worse than it does other parts of the body.
When your feet and legs are hit with neuropathy, a wide variety of problems arise. First, you might lose feeling in your feet. This might not sound all that serious at first, apart from being an inconvenience, but it’s very serious.
If you sustain any injuries to your feet and aren’t able to feel it, they can get infected and become very hard to treat if you don’t notice it. Due to this potential nerve damage, it’s important that diabetics check on their feet frequently to make sure there are no unnoticed cuts, scrapes, or punctures, because these can all lead to nasty wounds when infected.
Even if these wounds are noticed, another danger lurks with diabetes, which is significantly slower wound healing. Due to the high levels of sugar in the blood, your body doesn’t have the same kind of blood flow that it would in a non-diabetic, which makes wounds heal slower.
This means that even if you catch a cut in time, you have to keep it clean and make sure it doesn’t get infected, because it will take some time for that cut to go away. You should also keep track of anything like blisters, sores, or anything that can cause the inside of your foot to be exposed.
Make sure you take good care of your feet by cleaning them regularly, to avoid any chance of infection. Also be sure to get a good, comfortable pair of shoes. Poorly fitted shoes or shoes that are in bad condition can easily lead to blisters, and if you wear the same shoes a lot, be sure to wash them every now and then so they’re not cultivating bacteria.
If at any point you get a severe cut or one that isn’t healing properly, immediately contact your doctor so they can help you out. They have experience helping wounds heal faster and in a more sanitary environment.
What Can I Eat as a Diabetic?
After being diagnosed with diabetes, the first thing you’re more likely instructed on is what you can and can’t eat. So much stress is placed on what you can’t eat, and if you had a diet mostly consisting of those food items, you’d be left a bit lost on what’s left for you to eat.
For diabetics, the best rule of thumb is to stay away from foods that are heavily processed and sugar-heavy. This much is fairly common knowledge, especially among the diabetic community.
This means you shouldn’t load up on things like cereal, fries, sweets, white bread, soda, and more. For many people, though, some of these items are major parts of their diets, unhealthy as they may be.
This makes getting used to diabetes really difficult for those people, because on top of the new lifestyle changes of exercise and keeping track of blood sugar levels, they now have to completely change their eating habits.
Foods that are safe for diabetics aren’t as hard to come by as they may seem at first. One great option is certain fruits and vegetables. These two food groups have a ton of variety, so you’re sure to find at least one thing that you like among them.
However, be sure you’re getting the right kinds of fruits and veggies. You want your fruits and vegetables to be fresh, ideally. This doesn’t mean that they have to have been picked within the last 24 hours, but just don’t get anything canned or processed with heavy syrup.
Also, don’t assume that things are okay for diabetics just because they contain fruit. Things like fruit punch, juice, and jellies are all very poor choices for a diabetic because they contain high levels of sugar.
The other food group that will be your main source of food as a diabetic will be grains. Many of us are already familiar with this category in the form of foods like rice, bread, and more.
Much like fruit, not all grains are healthy for diabetics. Try to stay away from white, or processed, grains. You instead want products that are whole grain, like brown rice, whole grain bread, and oatmeal.
These two food groups alone give you a pretty decent selection of options to work with. In the morning, you might be able to have oatmeal with berries for breakfast. In the afternoon, you could have a sandwich made from whole wheat bread, some meat, and some vegetables, and in the evening for dinner, some brown rice and vegetables.
Understanding a Diabetes Diagnosis
Diabetes is a very difficult thing to deal with when you first get diagnosed with it. It may seem unfair, it may seem like too much, and it can all just seem very confusing. The best thing you can do is take a deep breath, understand what you’re dealing with, and then take the first steps towards addressing the condition.
Technically speaking, diabetes is a medical issue in which your blood sugar levels are too high due to a lack of insulin. Insulin is a hormone that breaks down sugar in your blood and distributes the molecules to cells that use it for energy.
Without insulin, the sugar in your blood won’t be properly broken down, and can lead to some severe complications if it’s not taken care of. In the case of the less common type 1 diabetes, typically discovered at a young age, your body’s immune system fails to recognize the parts of your pancreas that produce insulin as a part of you, and attack it.
This renders your body unable to produce insulin from that point forward, and this damage is permanent. Type 2 diabetes is a bit different. Type 2 diabetics can produce insulin just fine, but their bodies just don’t use it as they should, rendering their existing insulin less effective.
This form of diabetes usually develops much later in life than type 1, and is also far more common. This can cause damage to your body in a variety of ways. The excess sugar in your blood can damage the walls of blood vessels as it flows through your body, leading to nerve damage, loss of eyesight, and even increased risk of infections.
Typically, you’ll end up having to administer artificial insulin to yourself, while also keeping track of your glucose levels and meals. This sounds like an ordeal, and it first, it may feel that way.
However, there are many diabetics and doctors out there who have designed meal plans and provided people with means of easily keeping track of their blood sugar levels.
The best way to respond to a diabetes diagnosis is to get in the right mindset about it. It may be permanent, and it may be a huge hassle in terms of learning how to handle it, but there’s nothing you can do about that. What you can do instead is mitigate the effects of diabetes and make sure you live a longer, happier life by keeping the disease in check.
Top Risk Factors for a Diabetes Diagnosis
Diabetes isn’t simply a random occurrence or something that you can just catch from strangers like other diseases. There are typically other risk factors involved that you need to watch out for that may lead to being diagnosed with diabetes.
The risk factors differ slightly between the two types of diabetes, since type 1 can’t be prevented but type 2 can. In both types, family history is extremely important. If one of your parents or siblings has diabetes, you’re immediately at much greater risk, since it’s somewhat hereditary.
Another very important factor is your weight. While this is more important with type 2 diabetes, it still applies to both to some extent. You can greatly decrease your chance of getting type 2 diabetes by keeping your weight at a normal level and not allowing obesity to creep in.
Activity levels are important, too. People who are more active experience fewer cases of diabetes diagnosis than those who live a more sedentary lifestyle. This may be because exercise allows your body to utilize the blood sugar more effectively.
Ethnicity is another risk factor in the development of diabetes. Certain ethnicities are more likely to get a diagnosis – including Hispanics, Paicific Islanders, American Indians, Asian and African Americans.
Age is another important risk factor. As you grow older, your risk for developing the disease rises. Those over the age of 45 begin seeing their blood sugar numbers rise, often leading to a type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
If you had gestational diabetes while you were pregnant, or delivered a baby weighing more than nine pounds, then the chances of you developing full blown diabetes after you give birth are also increased. It may not happen instantly, but down the road it could have an impact.
Other medical conditions – such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides, or PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome) can also be contributors to type 2 diabetes.
Other health concerns – primarily heart disease or having had a stroke previously – can also mean you’re headed for a diabetes diagnosis in your near future. So having an overall plan of attack for better health is important.
Even your mental health plays a vital role in staving off diabetes. Stress hormones can contribute to your body’s inability to properly use insulin, so if you’re depressed or experience chronic stress or anxiety, you’re setting yourself up for a diabetes diagnosis.
Stress is a Serious Contributor to Diabetes
One of the most serious and common issues that diabetics face isn’t an issue concerning bodily damage or anything strictly physical, but rather something mental: stress.
Stress is something that people all around the world, both diabetics and non-diabetics, struggle with fairly often. For diabetics, stress affects them a bit differently on a technical level.
When your body’s stress hormones are activated, they cause your body to begin producing extra hormones and stocking up on glucose. In nature, this was helpful for us so that we could be prepared to fight or run in the event of an attack by another human or by an animal.
However, these days, stress is caused by less urgent things, and is a lot less helpful. The increased storage of glucose can mean serious trouble for diabetics, who can’t process it correctly - or at all.
Therefore, it’s very important that diabetics manage their stress to the best of their ability. Aside from normal stress of day to day life, there are other parts of diabetes that can bring on excess stress that you might not even notice.
It’s very important that you’re able to identify your issues, come up with solutions, and solve your issues. One of the major sources of stress for diabetics is the sheer amount of extra steps and thought that you have to put into everything you do.
Every meal you eat has to be planned, you have to keep track of your blood sugar levels, you have to administer insulin, you have to keep in touch with your doctors, and more.
All of this can really start to pile up on you, especially if you’re new to diabetes and have only recently been diagnosed. One of the best tips for dealing with it is to use your available resources.
You don’t have to deal with diabetes all by yourself - nobody wants to. Get in touch with one of many organizations around the world whose purpose is specifically to help diabetics.
They can help you design meal plans, recommend doctors, remind you to keep track of your glucose levels, and more. Don’t be afraid to use them. You should also try a few common stress relieving tips.
One is to stop stressing about things you can’t change, and this applies very well to diabetes. Many people get all stressed out and worried about being diagnosed with diabetes, but there’s nothing they can do to change the diagnosis – the control lies in developing a new lifestyle and embracing it.
Signs of Blood Sugar Abnormalities
The main effect of diabetes is that your body cannot properly manage your blood sugar levels, because of a lack of insulin being produced. Insulin breaks down sugars in your blood and redistributes them out to other cells in your body that need them for energy.
But if you’re type 1 diabetic, you’re not producing any. Then, your body will have too high of a blood sugar level. There are two extremes that your blood sugar can be at as a diabetic: hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia, though diabetics are way more likely to be hyperglycemic.
You’re considered to be hyperglycemic if your blood sugar level is above 130 mg/dL after not consuming anything for a while, or 180 mg/dL after eating. High blood sugar can cause serious damage to your blood vessels and veins, and if you’re diabetic, you can’t process this sugar very easily.
Another potential danger of hyperglycemia is that if you have too high of a blood sugar level, you can develop an often fatal condition in which your body stops being able to process sugar altogether.
This condition is more prevalent among type 2 diabetics than it is among type 1. If you’re worried that you may be hyperglycemic, you can watch out for a few telltale symptoms that may tip you off to it.
For example, you’ll most likely feel fatigued, since the rest of your body isn’t getting the energy it needs from the sugar in your blood. You may also experience headaches and excessive urination.
If you notice any of these symptoms, you should immediately get your blood sugar levels tested at a medical facility. Although it’s less common, hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can also occur in diabetics.
Most of the time, it’s brought on by taking too much insulin, and breaking down too much of the sugar in your blood. This can also occur if you take your normal amount of medicine but also exercise more than usual or eat less than usual.
There are many symptoms that accompany hypoglycemia. You’ll still feel fatigue like you would with hyperglycemia, but you’ll also become more anxious, shaky, irritable, and just all around more nervous.
If you notice any of these symptoms and you’re a diabetic, the appropriate response is to first drink some juice or take a glucose tablet to try to normalize your blood sugar levels. If this doesn’t work, immediately get to a doctor, because unchecked hypoglycemia can be fatal.
How to Monitor Your Blood Sugar
Possibly one of the harder things to get used to after initially being diagnosed with diabetes is the blood checks you have to perform on yourself on a consistent basis. The blood checks will measure the amount of sugar in your blood, also known as your blood glucose level or blood sugar.
If your blood sugar gets too low or too high, as a diabetic, you can be in some serious trouble. Therefore, it’s very important that you keep regular track of your blood sugar, preferably logging it in some kind of journal to share with your doctor.
Typically, you’ll be checking your blood sugar around five times per day, every day. This may sound excessive, but your blood sugar changes a lot throughout the day, and you need to keep consistent track of it, or you may encounter some severe issues.
You should typically check your blood sugar levels before you eat a meal, so the results aren’t affected or skewed in any way. Before your next meal, your levels should have returned back to the base number.
This will give you a better idea of what your regular sugar levels are, and if they’re too high or too low. Depending on which glucose monitor you buy, your means of actually recording your sugar levels will be a bit different, but they’re all fairly similar.
Once you’re used to the process, it becomes like second nature, but at first it will be a bit difficult. Be sure that you continue getting the same lancets and test strips that go with your kit, though.
These are fairly inexpensive to replace, as 100 packs of both are available for under $20 for the test strips and under $5 for the lancets. First, you’ll clean and prepare the place you’re drawing blood from, as to avoid any chance of infection.
Next, you’ll use the lancing device to prick your finger. This sounds scary at first, but it’s typically pretty painless. Be sure to use the side of your fingertip instead of the pad, because the pad has more nerve endings and it will hurt more.
Finally, you’ll touch the test strip to the blood drop and wait for the meter to show your results. Depending on a lot of different factors, the healthy glucose level can differ greatly, so be sure to consult your doctor and find out what range you should be aiming for.
How Exercise Helps with Insulin Resistance
Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar levels are too high due to insulin resistance, where your body doesn’t effectively use insulin to break down sugars, despite producing it.
This can be dangerous for a number of reasons involving damage to your nervous system and internal organs. However, there is a way to make your body less resistant, or simply more sensitive to insulin: exercise.
Various studies have shown that exercising regularly can vastly improve how well your body uses insulin, even essentially reversing the condition in some cases. While you reverse the effects of insulin resistance, you’ll also be getting in better physical condition and improving your heart health.
The reason exercise has such a drastic effect is actually fairly simple. Glucose, the primary sugar found in blood that doesn’t get broken down in the case of diabetes, is your body’s primary source of fuel for all physical actions.
All of your cells produce energy by breaking down glucose in cellular respiration, even for little activities like breathing, talking, or even just moving your fingers. By engaging in more physical activity, you’ll be using more of that glucose on a regular basis, not even allowing it to make it into the bloodstream before being used as fuel.
So with less glucose in the blood, your body will actually be able to use the insulin effectively enough to regulate the levels in the bloodstream. Now, if you live a fairly non-active lifestyle already, adding in all this exercise might sound a bit daunting since you’re not used to it.
It’s really not as bad as it might sound, though. You don’t have to go out and walk for miles on end every single day, every singly week. It’s been shown that even just a 30 minute walk 3 times a week can make a significant difference in your insulin resistance.
Any sort of aerobic exercise will do. Aerobic exercises are ones that make you feel out of breath when you’re done with them or make your heart rate go up. A few common examples are jogging, walking, swimming, and riding a bike.
It’s also recommended to throw in some anaerobic exercises, such as weightlifting. This is because the more muscles you have, the more glucose your body will use when doing aerobic exercise, meaning your insulin will work a bit better.
Get Your Eyes Checked After a Diabetes Diagnosis
One of the lesser known side effects of diabetes is the damage it can cause to your eyes. This might go unnoticed at first or dismissed as a result of just getting older, because type 2 diabetes typically begins in your 40s.
But instead of dismissing it, get your eyes checked. Diabetes is a condition in which your blood sugar levels are too high due to a lack of insulin. Due to the high levels of sugar in your blood, a lot of little things in your body can be damaged from the blood that runs through them.
This is what causes the damage in your eye as a diabetic. The back wall of your eyes are lined with a tissue referred to as the retina, which is the light-sensitive portion of your eye.
Any damage to your retina can cause severe sight loss, as those portions of your eye may no longer be able to sense light. Temporary retina burns can be brought on by looking at lights, but more permanent damage is brought on by diabetes.
Many tiny blood vessels run through your retina in order to keep the tissue healthy and functioning. As a result of diabetes, these miniscule blood vessels can be damaged by the excess sugar, leading to a loss of vision.
This condition is known as diabetic retinopathy. Some of the more common symptoms of this condition are blurred vision and little spots that don’t quite look right. Retinopathy isn’t the only eye damage you’re at risk for as a diabetic.
Diabetics can be up to five times more likely than the average person to develop cataracts. A cataract is a clouded lens in your eye. A regular lens is vital for sight, because it allows you to focus on different things, but it can get clouded.
The symptoms of cataracts are fairly simple, you’ll begin to have more clouded and blurry vision. As it gets worse, you may even be able to see the clouded lens in your eye, as one pupil will be noticeably lighter.
Luckily, cataracts are easily fixed with cataract surgery. These conditions apply for all forms of diabetes. If any of these conditions go unchecked, they can cause permanent and severe vision loss. It’s recommended that diabetics get their eyes checked at least annually, so they can catch any of these early signs before they develop any further.
Do You Need Insulin After a Diabetes Diagnosis?
One of the most infuriating parts about being diagnosed with diabetes is that you have to take on a list of new responsibilities, and one of the more feared ones is having to administer insulin to yourself. It just seems like such a hassle, but do you really even need to administer it?
The answer depends on a few different factors. Most importantly, which type of diabetes do you have? If you have type 2 diabetes, there are certain situations in which you may not always have to take insulin.
However, if you’re a type 1 diabetic, you will always have to take insulin, since type 1 diabetics cannot produce their own. However, if you’re a type 2 diabetic, you might be able to skip the syringe early on by simply maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise and a healthy diet.
However, if you can’t do that, then you will need to make the switch to insulin. Unfortunately, the lifestyle changes alone only really work for type 2 diabetics who have only recently developed diabetes.
In its early stages, diabetes can be controlled through the healthy lifestyle, but as you get older, insulin will be required in some capacity. This might sound a bit devastating, but fortunately, administering insulin to yourself these days is easier than it ever has been.
There are a few different methods which all sound a bit scary at first, but due to advances in medical technology, really aren’t too big of a deal. The classic method if administering insulin, though it’s losing popularity, is by syringe.
You would typically have to draw the insulin up into the syringe and use the needle to give yourself a shot, making sure to administer the right amount. This obviously would make most people uncomfortable and scared, but you can be assured that the needle doesn’t actually hurt that much.
The vastly more popular method which has been recently introduced is using insulin pens. These pens are like preloaded shots, and are much easier to use. By using preloaded cartridges for the doses, it makes it impossible to get the wrong amount in.
The pens are way more comfortable to use, are less intimidating, and hurt far less. Some are disposable pens, only good for one use before needing to be thrown away, but others can use the cartridges, allowing you to keep using the same pen with different needles.