Diabetes is known as the silent killer for a reason.
It is estimated that 1.8 million Australians have the disease, yet up to 500,000 have type 2 diabetes and don’t know it.
More than 120,000 Australians have developed diabetes in the last year — that’s 280 people a day or one every five minutes.
Its impact is far and wide.
For every Australian who knows they have the disease, there is usually a support person “living with diabetes in their life” every day — as many as 2.4 million of them.
It is the fastest growing chronic condition in Australia, even outpacing the rise of heart disease and cancer.
The total annual cost of diabetes in Australia is estimated at an eye-watering $14.6 billion.
Your doctor should already have you on a diet to keep your diabetes in check. But by being sensible and vigilant, there are many other preventative measures you can take to reduce your chances of heart disease, nerve damage, kidney failure, blindness and gum disease.
Here are some handy tips to manage diabetes and maintain healthy glucose levels:
Watch your alcohol intake
Drinking alcohol can result in lower blood sugar for up to 24 hours. Your liver normally releases stored sugar if your blood sugar levels fall but this may not happen if it is busy metabolising alcohol.
- Get your doctor’s ok and drink only in moderation — that’s no more than two drinks a day for men under 65 and one drink a day for women or men over 65
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach
- Stick to drinks low in sugars like light beer, dry wines and sugar-free mixers
- Count your calories
- Check your blood sugar levels before bed. Alcohol can lower those levels well after your last drink.
The hormones your body produces in response to prolonged stress can cause your blood sugars to rise. Work out what helps you relax, whether it’s music, a walk, or a lie down when you feel your stress levels starting to rise.
Beware of interactions with medications
Medications taken for conditions other than your diabetes can affect your blood sugar levels. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist if there is likely to be an interaction. Sometimes an alternate medication can be prepared.
Keep on the move
Exercise is a really important factor when it comes to how to best manage diabetes.
Regular activity helps your body use insulin more effectively.
Strenuous activity is great but even light activity is better than nothing.
Consult your doctor about an exercise plan — you should be aiming for at least half an hour a day.
It’s a good idea to keep a diary to coordinate your activity around meal and medication schedules.
Drink plenty of water, check your blood sugar levels before, during and after exercise and have a small snack or glucose tablets on hand in case you need them.
Stick to the plan when you’re sick
If you’re feeling unwell, stress-related hormones designed to fight infection can raise blood sugar levels.
Stick to your meal plans and contact your doctor if you can’t keep food down as your insulin levels may need to be adjusted.
Menstruation and menopause
As above, the release of hormones can affect blood sugar levels.
Look for patterns in your readings and check with your doctor as to whether any adjustments need to be made regarding meals and exercise.
Clean your teeth
Look after your teeth and gums. Diabetics have a reduced ability to fight infection from oral bacteria.
You’re sweet enough
Reduce your sugar intake by adding your own sweeteners where possible. You’ll gain the added benefit of reducing your calorie and carbohydrate load.
Vaccinate against disease
Even if you are relatively healthy, diabetics can find it harder to fight off infections.
Some illnesses, such as influenza, can raise your blood sugars to dangerously high levels.
Hence, prevention is better than cure and immunisation is strongly recommended for the following diseases:
- Seasonal Influenza
- Pneumococcal diseases
- Hepatitis B
- Tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (one vaccine)
Know your numbers
It is absolutely imperative that you know your blood sugar levels around the clock with a device capable of continuous glucose monitoring. Devices are fully subsidised by the Australian government for eligible people.
Contact your doctor
The common theme when it comes to how to manage diabetes is to stay in close contact with your doctor.
That’s particularly important when there are changes to your life or routines.
Sometimes the slightest, seemingly innocuous change can have a significant impact on blood sugar levels triggering a potentially dangerous outcome.
At AHA Clinics, our doctors work closely with their patients to formulate strategies for all circumstances.