This article was originally published on dLife.com—a website dedicated to helping people with diabetes live happier and healthier lives—as “10 Small Steps To Improve Your Diabetes Management,” and is reposted with permission from the author.
This month, promise yourself that you'll do at least one of the following ten things to improve your diabetes management, your health, and your life. Don't just click and read ... grab a pen and paper. Do this for you!
1. Step Up Your Carb Counting.
If you are carb-conscious to the point of being a bit compulsive, read on to the next step. But if you tend to cut corners, guess on carbs instead of looking them up, and let more bad carbs slide into your diet than you should, take this small step this month. Buy a new pocket carb counter, track your carb intake and post-meal blood sugars more carefully, and look for indicators and patterns of habits that may be working against you. Use the dLife Food Finder to look up carb counts for more than 25,000 foods: Go there now!
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2. Try A New Vegetable Every Week.
It is well worth the time and effort to expand your horizons when it comes to fruits and vegetables. Don't be afraid to ask store clerks what things are. Talk to your dietitian about recommendations or search reputable sites such as nutrition.gov for information on selecting, storing, and preparation. Come on! One new veggie a week. You can do it!
3. Clean Your Kitchen.
Well, clean it out, that is. After eating, when you are no longer hungry, open every cabinet and toss out what's expired or unhealthy and tempting. Move salty, high carb foods to a higher shelf. If there are unopened containers that you can't bear to put in the garbage, fill a box and drive it to a local shelter. Cereals, chips, soda, cookies, boxed mixes for pancakes, brownies, cakes… try to keep fewer unhealthy foods available in your kitchen. You can't eat it if it's not there.
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4. Get Connected.
No man or woman can do this alone. People with diabetes have a high risk of depression. Support groups are a great way to deal with that depression, make personal connections and keep yourself, and others, motivated. Talk to your doctor, CDE, or call your local hospital to talk to the social worker on staff about where to find local support groups for people with diabetes as well as their caregivers. If you're a lone wolf or live in a remote area, help is still a click away. Online support groups are a great way to talk to people any time of the night or day. If you are truly motivated, consider starting a support group to create the help you are looking to find.
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5. Move More.
The CDC recommends intensive exercise and muscle-strengthening activities for an hour a day for children and 2 1/2 hours, or 150 minutes, per week for adults. This may seem like a lot but just like everything else, take it one day at a time. Here are some things to try:
• Experts recommend taking 10,000 steps a day for better health, which is not necessarily easy to do for the average person. So, try going for a 10-minute brisk walk, 3 times a day, 5 days a week. This will not only give you a total of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity but it's as if you're taking those 10,000 steps a day!
• Need to firm up those muscles? Young children are built in weight machines! Lift them up in play and improve not only your health, but your relationship with your child as well.
• Do a squat every time you pick something up. Instead of bending over in the usual way, which stresses the lower back, bend your knees and squat. This forces you to use your leg muscles and will build strength.
• Every time you stop at a traffic light (or the bus does), tighten your thighs and derriere muscles and release as many times as you can. (Don't worry, no one will see it!) This will firm leg and buttocks muscles, improve blood flow — and keep you amused!
• Whenever you're standing on line, lift one foot a half-inch off the ground. The extra stress on your opposite foot, ankle, calf and thigh, plus your buttocks, will help firm and tone muscles. Switch feet every few minutes.
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6. Test More.
The saying is "Test! Don't Guess." Regular self-testing testing of your blood sugar helps you know your body's reaction to certain foods and activities. It also teaches you to spot your natural trends. You may not be able to stay ahead of the curve all the time, but you'll have more control and keep diabetes complications at bay if you know your blood sugar numbers. If keeping up with testing is difficult, try setting an alarm on your clock or cell phone as a reminder until it becomes a habit. Have a friend or family member remind you, as long as they don't turn into the diabetes police.
7. Help Someone.
Sometimes, in order to help ourselves, we need to help someone else. Getting out of your own mindset can be cathartic and help put things in perspective. Lots of people are looking for others to advocate on their behalf, show them a new way to do something, or just share an encouraging word and lend a listening ear. Support groups are a great way to help others. You can share your experiences online or in person and make a difference for someone who is newly diagnosed or simply overwhelmed. Becoming a diabetes advocate can help too. Give money, walk for a fundraiser, write, teach, volunteer at a camp — use your talents and interests to get the word out about diabetes.
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8. Call Your Doctor!
Routine visits help keep things in check. No matter how much you despise going to the doctor, it's better to go in health than sickness. Got a situation that's been nagging you? Check it out before it turns into an irreversible problem. And take a friend along for support if necessary. Can't see your feet? Your podiatrist can inspect your feet and clip your toenails too. If a medical situation arises and you can't get to your doctor, an urgent care center is your next best option. When all else fails, visit the emergency room and be sure to update your regular physician too. It's better to be sure than to suffer needlessly.
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9. Learn Something New.
You can teach an experienced person with diabetes a new way to do things. New research comes out daily about the latest medications, benefits of exercise, foods that help — or hurt — your health, etc. Books, magazines, and television shows are dedicated to the topic of health issues like diabetes. So tune in and be aware. The cure may or may not be around the corner, but for now you can still live the best life possible with diabetes.
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10. Give Yourself A Break.
At the end of the day, diabetes is just one part of your life. Check with your health care provider before going on vacation. If your diabetes care team doesn't advise against it, keep doing or trying the things that interest you. Go on vacation or take a stay-cation! Do something just for you to decompress and remember who you are apart from diabetes.
This is your time to take small steps that will make a big difference in your diabetes management and your life. This month, put your blinders on to all the things that pull you this way and that, and make it all about you. You deserve it.