Diabetes

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Updated 11 April 2018

Understanding the steps to diabetes self-management

This article will explore some ways to help you learn and implement some self-management practices.

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Diagnosis of diabetes

If you or a loved one have just been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be feeling an overwhelming onslaught of mixed emotions. Diabetes is a complex and serious condition, and living with it every day can be challenging1.

Part of that challenge is due to the fact that the management of diabetes will largely rest in your hands, and this can be daunting. Be kind to yourself and remember that small positive steps every day will make a difference in the long run. This article will explore some ways to help you learn and implement some self-management practices.

Getting started with self-management

Ideally, on diagnosis, you should have access to a team of healthcare professionals that may include the treating doctor, a diabetes educator or coach, and possibly a dietitian. However, in many cases you might only have access to a doctor, and your time spent with them in consultation will be limited.

In the beginning you may feel overloaded with information about what to eat, how much to exercise, when to take your medicine, how to test, as well as confusing terminology such as HbA1c, hyperglycaemia, hypoglycaemia, glycaemic control etc.

To help you make sense of it all, diabetes educators have developed some key areas to focus on1:

1. Healthy eating

Having diabetes does not mean you need to give up your favourite foods. Over time and through experience, you will learn how the foods you eat affect your blood sugar. You should eat regular meals and make food choices that will help control your diabetes better1.

Work with a dietitian or diabetes educator to develop a healthy, balanced eating plan that suits your lifestyle. Remember that it is okay to treat yourself once in a while. You can also visit the Accu-Chek website and download the Accu-Chek portion plate which will give you some practical tips on healthy eating.

2. Being active

The 2017 SEMDSA Guidelines for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes refers to studies that have proven that regular physical activity significantly improves blood sugar control, reduces cardiovascular risk factors, and may reduce chronic medication dosages2.

Regular physical activity may also improve symptoms of depression and improve health-related quality of life2. Try to include a combination of cardio and resistance training into your weekly exercise routine.

3. Self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG)

The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) recommends self-monitoring of blood glucose (SMBG) as an effective means for patients with diabetes to understand more about their condition and the influence of events such as exercise, stress, food and medication on blood sugar levels3.

However, for SMBG to be effective it is recommended that you practice structured testing using a tool such as the Accu-Chek 360 3-Day Profile Tool3. Structured testing is testing at the right times, in the right situations, and frequently enough to generate useful information3. Always agree with your doctor or diabetes educator what your individual structured SMBG testing plan is.

Another aspect you will agree on with your doctor will be your target range for your blood sugar levels. In the beginning, understanding this range and what is considered out of range may be confusing, so you may want to make use of a meter such as the Accu-Chek Instant meter which offers a support tool called the target range indicator4.

A study done on the target range indicator showed that 94% of study participants were able to easily interpret their blood sugar values through the use of the target range indicator4. Furthermore, 94% felt that the support tool will help them discuss their blood sugar values with their doctor4.

4. Taking medication

You may need to take medication to help keep your blood sugar (glucose) level steady. Diabetes can increase your risk for other health conditions, such as heart or kidney related problems, so you may need to take medicine to help with those, too1.

5. Problem solving

When you have diabetes, you learn to plan ahead to be sure you maintain blood sugar levels as much as possible within your target range goals – not too high, not too low. As we know, things don’t always go according to plan and a stressful day at the office or an unexpected illness can send your blood sugar in the wrong direction. Such days will happen from time to time. Here are some tips to help you cope1:

  • Don’t beat yourself up – managing your diabetes doesn’t mean being perfect.
  • Analyse your day – think about what was different and learn from it.
  • Discuss possible solutions – this can be with your doctor, your diabetes educator or even a face-to-face or online diabetes support group. Try joining some of the online diabetes communities such as the Accu-Chek Facebook page which has over 148 000 members. You can join the conversation at AccuChekSubSahara.

References:

1. American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE7) Self-Care Behaviours. [online]   Available at: https://www.diabeteseducator.org/living-with-diabetes/aade7-self-care-behaviors[Accessed 19 February 2018]

2. 2017 SEMDSA Guidelines for the Management of Type 2 Diabetes

3. Adapted from The International Diabetes Federation. Guideline on Self-Monitoring of Blood Glucose in Non-Insulin Treated Type 2 Diabetes. 2009

4. Parkin CG et al. Use of an Integrated Tool for Interpretation of Blood Glucose Data Improves Correctness of Glycemic Risk Assessment in Individuals With Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes. J Diabetes Sci & Technology. 2016; (11): 74-82

 

Ask the Expert

Diabetes expert

Dr. May currently works as a fulltime endocrinologist and has been in private practice since 2004. He has a variety of interests, predominantly obesity and diabetes, but also sees patients with osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, men's health disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, polycystic ovaries, and disorders of growth. He is a leading member of several obesity and diabetes societies and runs a trial centre for new drugs.

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