Diabetes affects more than 37 million people in the U.S., or over 11% of the population. Whether you’ve recently been diagnosed or you’ve been living with it for some time, knowing that you’re not alone can be helpful on tough days. Rest assured that many people manage this disease effectively and still experience a long, enjoyable life.

While diabetes is indeed a life-altering illness, there are many ways you can take charge of your health and prevent complications. Here are a few to consider.

Master Your Medications

Your diabetes care team will first help to make sure you’re confident controlling your blood sugar levels. For most people, this will include checking your blood sugar every day. If you’ve had difficulty maintaining target blood sugar levels, you may be prescribed medicine that can help you produce more insulin, or slow your digestion to lower your blood sugar.

If needed, you may also be put on insulin therapy. Doses and types vary by patient. For instance, long- and ultralong-acting insulin can regulate blood sugar levels for 24 to 36 hours, while rapid-acting insulin controls your blood sugar directly after eating. There are several different ways to deliver insulin, the most common being injections.

Whatever treatment plan your and your doctor derive, taking your medications exactly as directed is important to supporting the best outcomes and preventing complications.

Skip “Diabetic” Foods

Food marketed specifically for people with diabetes doesn’t contain any special qualities you couldn’t find elsewhere, and it’s often more expensive. The lack of evidence supporting these “diabetic foods” is so low, in fact, that advertising it has been outlawed in the U.K. Stick instead to sensible dietary approaches for managing diabetes.

Simplify Carb Consumption

“Carbohydrates do impact your blood sugar levels,” acknowledges Laura Hays, RDN, LD, at Morgan Medical Center, “but not all of them have the same effect.” Because of this complexity, trying to navigate carbs can be overwhelming for diabetics. The American Diabetes Association has broken it down in a way that’s simple and straightforward:

  • Eat mostly unprocessed, non-starchy carbs. These are mainly vegetables like lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, and cucumbers. They should fill half your plate.
  • Eat some whole, minimally processed carbs, including fruits, wheat bread, whole grain pasta or oatmeal, and starchy vegetables, like sweet potatoes. These should make up a quarter of your plate.
  • Eat few to no heavily processed carbs, including sugary drinks and dessert snacks or other sources of added sugars.

Incorporate lean proteins like tofu, fish, beans, and chicken into the final quarter of your plate. This eliminates the need for any complex calorie or carb counting and allows you to take a simple approach to eating well, no matter when or where.

Visit the Eye Doctor

Since diabetes can affect every system in your body, it’s important that you maintain regular doctor’s visits to monitor your overall health, too. One appointment you’ll definitely want to prioritize is your annual eye exam. Diabetes can lead to changes in the tiny blood vessels in your eye, potentially leading to vision loss. Your eye doctor can detect these changes before symptoms even develop through a dilated pupil exam, and early detection can help preserve your vision.

Managing diabetes can seem challenging without the right care team by your side. Morgan Medical Center’s primary care providers offer compassionate and comprehensive care for chronic illnesses like diabetes. To schedule an appointment with our family medicine department, call us at 706-438-1275