Diabetes is a demanding disease, currently affecting 30.3 million people in the United States. Since the disease ranks as the 7th leading cause of death in the U.S., caring for your diabetes is essential. The unfortunate reality for people with diabetes is that regulating the condition is a daily challenge. While it is a balancing act to keep your blood sugar stable, the condition is manageable with the right care.
Eating right, exercising, managing your overall health, and keeping stress levels at a low are all ways to avoid major health issues with diabetes. Whether caring for your child or executing a management plan for yourself, let’s take a closer look at how to stay in control of this disease.
Everything You Need to Know About Diabetes
If you want to care for diabetes for yourself or someone you love properly, it’s essential to have a general understanding of the disease. According to the American Diabetes Association, 1.5 million new cases of diabetes are reported each year in the United States. Each of those cases falls into one of three main types:
- Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body fails to make insulin on its own. Since you need insulin every day to live, this is the most severe form of diabetes.
- Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of the disease. This occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin. Patients require pills or insulin injections to control their sugar levels.
- Gestational diabetes occurs in pregnant women. While this form of diabetes generally goes away after birth, it leaves you at a higher chance of having type 1 or 2 diabetes later in life.
Most diabetics inherit a whole team of medical professionals and supporting resources when diagnosed with the disease. These professionals may include:
- A doctor or endocrinologist
- An eye doctor or ophthalmologist
- A foot doctor or podiatrist
- A dentist
- A patient or provider-led support group
If you don’t take the right steps to care for your diabetes, you may end up with more severe health problems, including damage to the following parts of your body:
- Blood vessels
- Neurological system
Diabetes is a serious condition and should be treated as such. If you have recently been diagnosed or are having trouble managing your diabetes, find ways to educate yourself on proper care. Local hospitals and doctors’ offices often have educational seminars on the disease. Take a class or join a support group. Spend some time reviewing information online. The more you know, the easier it will be to control the outcome of this disease.
When you make healthy food choices, maintain a healthy weight, exercise, take your medication as instructed, and regularly visit your doctor, you can live a long, meaningful life despite your diagnosis. Caring for your diabetes the right way will lower your chance of heart attack, stroke, kidney issues, nerve damage, and problems with your eyes, teeth, and gums. You’ll also have more energy so you can enjoy your life as you meet the demands of this challenging disease.
Caring for Children with Diabetes
Of the 9.4% of the population diagnosed with diabetes, around 193,000 patients are under the age of 20. The most common form seen in children is type 1 diabetes. With inadequate production of the hormone insulin by the pancreas, your child’s body can’t properly metabolize sugars. As the sugars build up in their bloodstream, it can’t be used by the body and is excreted in the urine. As a result, the most common signs of diabetes in children are:
- Increased urination
- Excessive thirst
- Increased appetite
- Weight loss
The onset of diabetes can occur at any time, but children experience peak periods between ages 5-6 and 11-13. The most common complaints reported by children are exhaustion and increased thirst. Even if your child doesn’t complain of symptoms, you may notice more frequent trips to the bathroom or even bedwetting. Any of these symptoms paired with weight loss and an increase in your child’s appetite are indications that it might be time to talk to your child’s pediatrician.
If your child is diagnosed with diabetes, you will play a significant role in their care. One of your most important tasks is to help them develop good habits at a young age. These habits will lower the risk of complications and make their transition into adulthood easier. Caring for a child with diabetes should include facilitating and supporting the following daily habits:
- Encourage them to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Counting carbs is an integral part of healthy eating with diabetic patients. Children should eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner and snacks as necessary. Teach your child about healthy food choices and the importance of timing their meals to work with their care plan.
- Teach them to monitor and manage blood sugar levels. All diabetic patients need to monitor their blood sugar levels routinely. Many patients require insulin therapy through a pump or insulin injections multiple times a day. Educate your child on how to regulate their sugar levels to keep from extreme highs and lows and reduce the risk of long-term health issues.
- Encourage 30 minutes of physical activity per day. This activity will help your child maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to help them time their food and water intake around any exercise.
- Support their independence. Most children can begin the process of injecting insulin around the age of seven. Talk to your child’s pediatrician or endocrinologist to see if they think your child is ready to learn the process of administering their medication. Remember, supporting independence means letting your child do things on their own while remaining nearby in case something goes wrong.
- Supervise insulin injections. As your child begins to care for their disease, supervision is required. Too much insulin could lead to low blood sugar, resulting in trembling, rapid heart rate, weakness, and even loss of consciousness. Too little insulin could bring back the first symptoms of diabetes, like increased urination, thirst, and appetite. Supervising your child as they take on more independence can help avoid significant health issues.
- Join a parent group. Taking care of a child with diabetes can be daunting. That’s why it’s essential that you take care of yourself as well. Parent support groups provide a great resource to help you avoid burnout. They can also provide you with answers to questions and advice for everyday struggles parents face.
- Enlist supportive services for your child at school. While they are away from your care, it’s crucial to have a plan in place with their educational institution. Read more tips on caring for diabetes at school here.
7 Medical Self-Care Tips for Adult with Diabetes
Properly caring for your diabetes will help you avoid long-term damage to your body and even the failure of vital organs that keep you alive. Daily struggles with this disease can lead many adults to feel overwhelmed, sad, and angry. If you know the steps to diabetes self-care, but have a hard time sticking to them, it might be time to break things down. Medical self-care is a long-term commitment, but it’s crucial to avoid complications of the disease.
Here are seven medical self-care tips to help you manage your diabetes.
- Eat right. People with diabetes should follow a balanced diet to manage the disease. Stick to a plan that is low in fat, salt, and sugar and high in fiber. Most patients benefit from creating a meal plan each week. Talk to your dietician about the best way to time your meals. Keep the effect of activity on insulin levels in mind, as well. Be sure to get a regular food intake of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
- Be active. Set a goal to move at least 30 minutes a day. This activity helps control blood sugar and reduce your risks of health issues like heart disease. Being physically active also helps the insulin in your body work better. The best time to be physically active with diabetes is an hour after eating when your blood sugar is higher. Remember to check your blood sugar levels before and after you work out. Never engage in physical activity if your levels are higher than 240 or lower than 70. Keep plenty of water with you and bring a snack or glucose tablets in case your sugar levels drop.
- Monitor your blood sugar regularly. Have your doctor recommend how many times per day you should check your blood sugar levels. Most patients check levels at least four times a day. Since you’ll know your target blood sugar levels, keep those in mind when your blood sugar goes up or down. Ask your doctor to test your A1C at least twice a year. Testing your A1C will show you how your blood sugar levels are running over the course of 3 months.
- Take medications as instructed. Follow directions carefully when it comes to taking medications. If you have trouble remembering when to take your medications, set the alarm on your phone. Some hospitals recommend medical apps that help you track medication intake. Enroll in a medication refill program at your local pharmacy, so your meds never run out. You can even have them call or text you when it’s time to pick up your medication.
- Be proactive. Schedule regular checkups and doctor appointments as needed. Ask questions and voice your concerns. Talk with your healthcare provider about the medications you are taking and what they are specifically used to treat. Keep a daily record of blood sugar readings, meals, exercise, and how you feel. Know your daily target numbers. Keep a list of your doctors’ names and phone numbers for your family in case of an emergency. Wear a medical alert bracelet, so emergency responders are aware of your condition if something happens.
- Reduce your risks of disease-related severe complications. Since diabetes can lead to several other health risks, it’s essential to stay on top of your overall health. Brush and floss your teeth twice a day and practice proper oral hygiene practices. Visit your dentist regularly to prevent any serious issues with your teeth, gums, and mouth. Keep your toenails well-groomed. Visit a foot doctor if you have a concern. Get your flu shot each year to avoid other illnesses.
- Practice good coping skills. Do your best to stay positive. Take active steps to reduce your stress levels. If you find trouble coping with the disease, reach out to friends and family for support. If they can’t help, seek professional help to deal.
When to Visit the Nearest Emergency Center
Following the tips and steps listed above is a great way to manage your diabetes. But there might be some days when your health takes a dramatic turn for the worse despite your best efforts to care for yourself or loved ones. Since many outside factors can influence your blood sugar levels, it’s vital to seek emergency treatment when a spike or dip in your levels leads to more severe complications. If you feel like your health is declining as a result of your diabetes, contact your doctor or visit the nearest emergency center.
iCare ER & Urgent Care is here to address any concerns related to your diabetes or your health in general. Our experienced medical providers deliver a superior level of service and quality medical care. We’re open 24 hours a day, seven days a week to tend to your most emergent health concerns. Please stop by one of our locations or give us a call at (214) 407-8688!