9 Ways to Make the Most of Your Diabetes Treatment
Optimizing Diabetes Treatment
Medication often plays an important role in managing type 2 diabetes. But to get the most out of it, you need to take it as prescribed and make any lifestyle changes your doctor suggests. A comprehensive treatment plan can help keep your blood sugar as close to normal as possible, which can help prevent complications, like nerve damage, blindness, and kidney failure, down the road.
Follow these tips to get the most out of your diabetes treatment plan.
Know Your Options
Your doctor may prescribe diabetes medications like pills, injectable drugs, and/or insulin to control blood sugar. Each of these diabetes drugs works in a different way, and sometimes you'll benefit most from a combination of drugs. For example, some medications lessen the amount of glucose released by your liver, others kick-start your pancreas to release more insulin, and others improve how insulin works so that sugar can move into your tissues. Some diabetes drugs can also slow digestion of carbohydrates; others help your kidneys remove glucose when you urinate.
In some cases, insulin may also be started when you are first diagnosed. In others, insulin may be added to your treatment regimen if you’re not hitting your target blood sugar levels with other diabetes medications. Some forms of insulin work quickly and are taken with meals. Others are long-acting and are taken once or twice a day.
Talk to your doctor about the medications you’re taking, so you can understand the role each one plays in diabetes management. Knowing how each medication works can motivate you to stick to your plan, even if it seems complex at first.
Take Medication Correctly
The goal of treatment is twofold: To prevent complications from high glucose, and to avoid dangerously low blood sugar, or hypoglycemia, says Solomon Rosenblatt, MD, an endocrinologist at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Michigan. To walk this line, you need to know when to take your diabetes medication. For instance, those taken with food are meant to slow the rise of blood sugar after eating. Using a medication box or log and an alarm set on your phone are easy ways to keep track and take them on time, says Vandana Sheth, CDE, RDN, a certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian nutritionist in Torrance, California.
Store Your Medication Properly
This is especially important if you use insulin, Dr. Rosenblatt says. Exposing insulin to extreme heat or cold can destroy it and make it completely ineffective, he adds. For your comfort, make sure the insulin you’re using is at room temperature, he says. Once opened, insulin will typically stay potent for 28 days. If you're buying more than a month's worth at a time, store the other vials in the fridge. Be sure to follow storage guidelines and regularly check expiration dates on all of your other medications, as well.
Know How Other Meds Affect Diabetes
There are a number of medications that can raise blood sugar, Rosenblatt says. “The best known is corticosteroids,” he adds. These drugs are used to treat inflammation, pain, and other conditions. If you need to take them, be sure to tell your diabetes doctor. He or she can adjust your diabetes treatment to keep blood sugar under control. Make sure you talk to your doctor before taking any new drug, even over-the-counter medications and supplements.
Recognize When Meds Aren’t Working
“Just like we use the speedometer in our car to gauge our speed, a blood sugar test can help us gauge how we’re doing,” Sheth says. If you get more high and low blood sugar readings, yet haven’t changed your diet or activity level, your medication may have stopped working, she explains. One way to tell if your current regimen is effective is with an in-office blood test called the A1C, which measures your average blood sugar level over a three-month period. A target A1C for someone with diabetes is under 7 percent, Rosenblatt says. Your doctor can make adjustments to your diabetes treatment plan if testing shows that your blood sugar is trending out of range.
Eat Well and Move More
A healthy, carb-controlled diet is important in managing type 2 diabetes, Sheth says. Work with your diabetes care team to come up with an eating plan that meets your needs. Exercise is another key component of diabetes management. “When you exercise, you are naturally helping your body better process, and lower, blood sugars,” she adds. It can help you lose weight, too. Aim for at least 20 minutes of activity per day. Ultimately, getting to your goal weight through diet and exercise may reduce the amount of medication you need to take, Rosenblatt says.
Long-lasting stress in your life, whether over money, marital woes, or another issue, can make it harder to manage type 2 diabetes. When you’re stressed, hormones signal your body to release more sugar so it’s available for muscles to use as fuel. It’s part of the body’s fight-or-flight response to threats, according to the American Diabetes Association. Exercise can help lessen stress, giving you another reason to get moving. Learning a relaxation technique like meditation can help, too.
Roll-up Your Sleeve
It is important to get an annual flu shot as well as any other vaccinations that your doctor suggests to help prevent illness. Your body perceives an illness as a type of stress, which can cause your blood sugar to rise, Sheth says. However, “if you don't have much of an appetite from being sick, but continue to take your meds, your blood sugar may get too low,” she adds. It’s a good idea to check your blood sugar more frequently when you're feeling ill, and establish and follow sick day guidelines for blood sugar management, Sheth says.
Avoid Diabetes Burnout
Managing diabetes and any other health conditions you have can be a challenge, and you shouldn’t go it alone. Talk to your doctor, diabetes educator, and the rest of your healthcare team if you’re having trouble sticking with your treatment plan.
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