Diabetes-Who's In Charge?

I have seen all too many times where the diabetic patient is waiting for someone to tell him what to do. That is a serious mistake. As a diabetic you need to take control and quickly grab a handle on what is happening. There are a lot of resources out there to help-the ADA, your local hospital, and of course the internet

You need a team of pros working together to provide support and professional advice, but it's up to you to follow through. As they say in the Navy "you have the con" or something like that.

Here are some tips to help you run the ship.

– Make a commitment to managing your diabetes. Learn all you can about your Diabetes. There are tons of resources out there. Ask your health care team for help if your best efforts are not enough to control your blood sugar.

– Schedule a yearly physical. It's important to have a thorough physical exam every year in addition to your regular diabetes checkups. Check for complications of diabetes and screen conditions such as cardiovascular disease and kidney diseases.

– Schedule a yearly eye exam. Make sure your eye care specialist knows you have diabetes. Check for signs of retinal damage and cataracts and test you for glaucoma.

– Take good care of your teeth and gums. People with type 2 diabetes are prone to gum infections. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day, and schedule twice-a-year dental cleanings.

– Keep your vaccinations current. Because high blood sugar can weaken your immune system, you may be more likely to get influenza or pneumonia. Get a yearly flu shot and vaccinations for pneumonia and hepatitis B.

– Take care of your feet. Diabetes can damage nerves in your feet, which reduces your ability to feel pain. You may develop a cut or other injury without realizing it. Diabetes reduces blood flow to your feet making it harder for sores to heal. Check your feet every day for blisters, cuts, and bruises, cracked or peeling skin, and redness or swelling.

– Do not smoke. People with diabetes who smoke are three times as likely to die of cardiovascular disease or stroke as are nonsmokers. Smoking also increases the risk of nerve damage and kidney disease. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit smoking.

– Avoid alcohol. Alcohol prevails the release of glucose from your liver and can increase the risk of your blood sugar falling too low. If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so only in moderation.

– Take a daily aspirin. Taking an aspirin every day after age 40 may reduce your risk of heart attack. There are risks too so talk with your doctor to make sure aspirin is safe for you and, if so, which strength you should take.

– Monitor your blood pressure. If you have diabetes, you're twice as likely to develop high blood pressure as you'd be if you did not have the disease. The risk for blacks and Hispanics is even higher. The combination of diabetes and high blood pressure is serious because both conditions can damage your blood vessels, increasing your risk of heart attack, stroke and other life-threatening conditions.

– Monitor your cholesterol. Unhealthy levels of cholesterol and triglycerides can cause cardiovascular disease in anyone, with type 2 diabetes or without. But as with high blood pressure, the damage is usually worse and more rapid when you have diabetes.

– Learn to manage stress. Constantly dealing with stress can make it more difficult to take care of yourself and manage your diabetes. You may find yourself eating all the wrong foods or forgetting to exercise or take your medications. Prolonged stress can cause your blood sugar levels to rise even if you stick to your diet and medication plan.

Do your best to stay positive. You are in this for the long haul. You need all the help you can get from where you can get it. Diabetes is a serious illness, but it can be controlled. If you're willing to do your part, you can continue to enjoy an active and healthy life.