If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, then the next step is to work with your doctor to develop an appropriate treatment plan. Depending on the type of diabetes that you have, a combination of regular blood sugar monitoring, changes in lifestyle, and/or insulin and oral medications may be prescribed. Some of the most common ways to address diabetes include:
- Blood sugar monitoring.
You will need to check and record your blood sugar regularly – in some cases up to four times a day or more often if your doctor has decided you need to take insulin. Careful monitoring of your blood sugar levels is the only way to ensure that your glucose level remains within an acceptable range. People with type 2 diabetes who have not been prescribed insulin usually need to check their blood sugar much less often. Another option for monitoring blood sugar levels, often used by those taking insulin, is a continuous glucose monitor. This new technology can significantly reduce the number of times you need finger sticks to check your blood sugar, and it also tracks and provides important information about patterns in your blood sugar levels over time.
- Regular A1C testing.
In addition to monitoring your blood sugar levels daily, you will probably need regular A1C testing to measure your average level of blood sugar over a period of two to three months. A1C testing is the best indicator of how well your overall diabetes treatment plan is working. Elevated A1C levels may signal the need to change your current medication, to add a new medication, to adjust your insulin regimen, or change your eating habits. For most people with diabetes, the goal is for an A1C level below 7 percent. Your own target A1C goal will vary depending on your age and other factors, such as other medical conditions or underlying health issues. Your doctor will work with you to determine your A1C target and monitor it over time.
- A healthy diet.
While there is no one specific diet for diabetes, a focus on fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains is generally recommended. The goal is to eat foods that are high in nutrition and fiber while being low in fat and calories. This means you need to reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates, saturated fats, and sugary foods. You can sneak in sweets once in a while, as long as you make sure the include them in the overall calorie and sugar count of your meal plan. A registered dietitian can help to create a customized meal plan to fit your health goals, food preferences, and lifestyle. This will likely include calorie and carbohydrate counting, especially if you have type 1 diabetes.
- Insulin therapy. Individuals with type 1 diabetes need insulin therapy simply to survive. Many patients who have type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes also need insulin therapy. There are many types of insulin are available, including rapid-acting insulin, long-acting insulin, and intermediate options. Depending on your case, your doctor may prescribe one or a mixture of different insulin types to take throughout the day and night.
Insulin injections. Because stomach enzymes interfere with the action of insulin, it can’t be taken orally. For this reason, insulin is usually injected using a fine needle and syringe or an insulin pen, which is an injection device that resembles a large ink pen.
Insulin pumps. Approximately the size of a cellphone, this device is worn on the outside of your body with a tube that connects the insulin reservoir to a catheter inserted under the skin of your abdomen. There is also a tubeless pump that uses wireless technology to program specific amounts of insulin to dispense. This amount may need to be adjusted to deliver more or less insulin depending on meals, activity level, and current blood sugar level.
- Oral or other medications.
Other oral or injected medications may also be prescribed for diabetes treatment. Some medications for diabetes are designed to stimulate your pancreas to produce more insulin. Others, like Merformin, prevent the production and release of glucose from your liver, which causes you to need less insulin to transport sugar into your cells. Other medications interfere with the action of stomach or intestinal enzymes that digest carbohydrates, turning them to sugar, or work to make your body more sensitive to insulin.
Even with careful management, your blood sugar levels can change unpredictably. You will need to learn how your own blood sugar changes in response to specific foods, physical activity, medications, illnesses, alcohol, stress, and, for women, fluctuations in hormone levels. Even if you focus on eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and exercising regularly, you will need to remain diligent, as serious problems – and even death – can come from improperly treated diabetes. If you have just been diagnosed or are caring for someone with diabetes, you may want to seek out support services, or consider in-home care services. The caring, professional team at Specialty Care Services is ready to help you!