When you’re diagnosed with diabetes, your primary care provider creates an individualized treatment plan to help you get the condition under control. Initially, that plan focuses on daily medication, blood sugar monitoring, and targeted lifestyle modifications to keep you healthy.
At some point, your treatment plan may also include a specialized diabetes care team to help you manage the disease and minimize your risk of complications. But at the end of the day, you are the most important member of your diabetes care team.
As a seasoned family medicine expert who specializes in chronic disease management at Comprehensive Care Clinic in Spring, Texas, Tyneza Mitchell, FNP, wants you to know that diabetes is not a “set it and forget it” condition — it’s a progressive disease that requires an ongoing commitment to daily care.
One of the most prevalent myths about diabetes is that medication and daily blood sugar testing keep the disease in check. While these elements of care are essential, they’re only one part of an effective diabetes management plan.
Type 2 diabetes is a progressive illness, meaning the underlying insulin resistance that causes it tends to intensify over time with incomplete care. While medication helps control your blood sugar levels, medication isn’t enough to stop the progression of insulin resistance.
As time goes by, your medication may become less effective, requiring you to take greater doses to manage your increasingly hard-to-control blood sugar levels. This haphazard, incomplete approach to diabetes management leaves you vulnerable to a range of health complications, including:
In most cases, diabetes-related complications occur as poorly controlled blood sugar levels systematically damage nerves and blood vessels throughout the body. Mismanaged diabetes is a leading cause of blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, and lower limb amputation.
Luckily, this worst-case diabetes scenario doesn’t have to be a foregone conclusion — you can delay or halt worsening insulin resistance to effectively slow or stop diabetes advancement. In some cases, it’s even possible to improve insulin resistance and lessen the impact of diabetes.
So, what’s the magic key to better living and optimal health with diabetes? A comprehensive and attentive diabetes management plan, which includes:
The actions you take to control diabetes every day — backed by the support of lifestyle modifications as needed — are crucial to managing both blood sugar and underlying insulin resistance. You can foster optimal health with diabetes by:
You should maintain a healthy weight because excess fat makes it harder to control blood sugar levels. It’s also important to eat wholesome food because it won’t spike your blood sugar levels. In addition, be sure to exercise to boost circulation, reduce inflammation, and improve insulin resistance.
Successful diabetes management also includes learning all you can about the condition and forming a diabetes care team to support you every step of the way. A well-rounded care team includes:
Remember, if an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, regular medical checkups are key for helping you maintain the upper hand over diabetes so you can protect your long-term health.
If you have trouble meeting your daily blood sugar goals, schedule doctor visits every three months to have an A1C test, which measures your average blood sugar levels over a three-month period. If your blood sugar levels are usually on target, you should have:
As part of these routine diabetes care visits, you can expect yearly blood lipid testing to check your cholesterol levels, annual testing for chronic kidney disease, and frequent blood pressure measurements to screen for hypertension (high blood pressure).