How can you improve your diabetes? There are some general measures which are described here. They will help provide a foundation for maintaining good diabetes control your whole life. Once you have taken the steps described here you can move on to the 3 components of good diabetes control: right food, right exercise and right medications (see below).
1) Learn about diabetes
The more you know about diabetes, the higher your chances of beating it. Unfortunately there is a lot of wrong information about diabetes on the internet, so make sure you use reliable sources written by healthcare professionals. I recommend the following two websites:
2) Check your blood glucose
People who have Type 2 diabetes generally don’t have to check their blood glucose as frequently as those who have Type 1 diabetes. However, too many people take this to the dangerous extreme: they rarely check their blood glucose at all. It is difficult to maintain good diabetes control without regular glucometer checks. This is because learning how high your blood glucose rises after a meal provides valuable information about what a certain food or meal does to you. You can do this by checking your blood glucose before and two hours after a meal. This information in turn will help you to make the right food choices. Interestingly, the same food can raise blood glucose differently in different people. That’s why it is important to find out what is happening to you.
3) Know the target glucose levels
For good diabetes control, the blood sugar targets are:
Before meals (fasting): Less than 115 mg/dl (6.3 mmol/L)
2 hours after a meal: Less than 144 mg/dl (8 mmol/L)
4) Learn about food
Learning some basic facts about food will help you avoid high glucose levels. The problem is, there is a lot of wrong information about which food is best for diabetes. Nowadays it’s sometimes difficult not to be misled by all the incorrect views out there. Time and time again this gets people on the wrong track, after which it can sometimes take years to change learned habits. In the information age of today, we get a lot of untrue information on the internet and social media. You can get it even from family and friends who have your best interests at heart, but perhaps might not appreciate the delicate balance between food and the endocrine system.
So where can you learn about food? You can start by understanding the carbohydrate content of different foods. Click here to see a table listing these details. I compiled this data from the official US Department of Agriculture figures, so it is reliable. Carbohydrates get digested into sugar and so determine the rise in your blood glucose. The term “glycemic index” is useful to understand this and you can read more about this here.
5) Keep learning, keep modifying
With the right approach, you will eventually find the right way to control your diabetes. Congratulations! You’ve won half the battle. The other half is to keep it well controlled, which can be equally challenging. This is because Type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease: it usually gets worse as the years go by. In fact, this is one way it differs from Type 1 diabetes. However, I’ve seen countless patients who never let their control worsen due to a very strict food and exercise regime. If you notice that your control is worsening, review what you are doing and find out where there might be room for improvement. Your doctor can help you to get back on track.
From the above, it is clear that you need to keep learning about diabetes: what works for you and what doesn’t. Keep in mind that what used to work many years ago might not work today; that’s just the nature of this condition. By learning in this way you can modify your methods to get the right balance for maintaining good control over decades.
6) Good diabetes control: the 3-legged stool
Good control is a stool that rests on 3 legs: right food, right exercise and right medications. All 3 are equally important. Omit one leg and your control will be as stable as a 2-legged stool. But you can keep your balance by giving equal attention to each leg. Every single patient I have seen managed to get good control by focusing on these 3 factors. Every single patient who had poor control needed to improve on one or more of the 3 factors. You will be able to maintain lifelong good diabetes control by periodically reviewing the balance of these 3 factors in your life