6 Insulin Do’s & Don’ts

A man holding an insulin pin

Diabetes requires constant care, from keeping track of your blood glucose levels to self-administering insulin treatment. But living a full, active life while managing diabetes doesn’t have to be mission impossible. Read on for the do’s and don’ts of treating your condition.

1. Do learn the facts.

You have a lot to learn about diabetes care, but where do you start? Most insurance companies pay for sessions with a diabetes educator and dietitian as you learn how to track your glucose levels, administer insulin treatment and manage your diet. Your endocrinologist can probably recommend a diabetes educator. If your insurance doesn’t cover one-on-one sessions, many large hospitals offer group classes.

MUST READ:4 Ways To Manage Diabetes On A Budget

2. Do track your glucose levels.

To calculate your insulin treatment doses, you’ll need to know your blood sugar level. And that means you’ll need to test often – four or more times each day. The constant testing is a bit of a burden, but it’s an important part of diabetes care. Portable glucose meters are available in any drugstore and will give you a result in 20-30 seconds.

3. Do count your carbs.

Your mealtime doses of insulin will be based on carbohydrates. That’s because your body transforms dietary carbs into glucose in your bloodstream. To figure out how many servings of carbohydrates you’re having with every meal, use Internet nutrition calculators or smartphone apps. Meanwhile, a dietitian can work with your [food] likes and dislikes to come up with a healthy meal plan so you don’t feel like you’re in a dietary prison.

4. Do understand your equipment.

You have several options for insulin treatment:

  • The first is the old-fashioned vial and syringe, which requires you to carry fresh needles and insulin and accurately draw up each dose for injection.
  • A pre-loaded insulin pen has a dial that you set to deliver the precise dose you need before every meal.
  • An insulin pump, a device worn under your clothes, is self-triggered for insulin throughout the day based on blood sugar measurements or in anticipation of eating a meal. You’ll still need to know how to calculate your insulin needs at any time in case the pump breaks.

MUST READ:Biggest Diabetes Myths

The choice between pen and syringe is often a matter of cost. If your insurance covers the pen, you may find that more convenient. The pen is easy to carry in a handbag. Consider moving on to the pump only when you’re comfortable calculating your insulin needs. You’re not ready for it until you know the basics.

5. Don’t be afraid of needles.

One of the biggest fears that most people have when starting insulin treatment is fear of pain from injecting insulin with syringes and lancets for repeated glucose testing. But rest assured: Most people find that insulin treatment isn’t painful, because they use microfine needles inserted into the belly, outer thigh or back of the upper arm. This fatty tissue doesn’t have a lot of nerve endings.

A diabetes educator will show you how to flick the syringe and push air bubbles out. If you’re using a pen, always shoot 2 units into the air to eliminate bubbles. Glucose testing, however, may be noticeable because it requires pricking a fingertip with a lancet. Because the hands are rich with nerves, this testing may pinch. Still, there are ways to make it easier. For example, wash your hand first with warm, soapy water to soften the skin and get blood flowing.

6. Don’t be afraid to travel.

With proper planning, you can take insulin treatment anywhere, whether driving across town or flying to an exotic destination.

For local trips, keep a bag with all your diabetes supplies in your purse – blood-testing supplies, syringes and vials (or your pen), and hand sanitizer and alcohol wipes. Also keep glucose pills, hard candy, juice or another sugar source handy in case your blood sugar level drops.

Opened insulin containers won’t degrade at room temperature, but it’s best to tote a cooler if you plan to be outside in the sun or you’re carrying unopened supplies. To prevent insulin from losing potency, never leave it in a hot car or place it directly on an ice pack.

MUST READ:Diabetes & The Surprising Power Of Yogurt

Is it embarrassing to inject insulin in public? Most people quickly learn to self-deliver insulin treatment in any setting.

Longer trips require more planning. Always pack twice as much insulin as you think you’ll need. If your return is delayed or you lose supplies, you’ll have extras on hand. Keep all supplies in your carry-on luggage – both so that they’re handy when needed and so that they don’t freeze in the cargo hold. Take a small insulated bag with an ice pack to keep unopened supplies cool while you travel. As long as the ice pack stays frozen, you’re good to go; if it melts, add ice.

Vitamin D Deficiency Puts Blacks At Risk For Heart Disease

A pile of different types of vitamins

(BlackDoctor.org) — A common but frequently overlooked nutrient deficiency could be putting African-Americans at greater risk for heart disease and stroke.

According to the National Research Journal, nearly 82 percent of African-Americans face vitamin D deficiency – that’s more than twice the national average. Low vitamin D levels are associated with arterial stiffness, which is a known risk factor for both heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death among African-Americans.

Why? For one, pigmentation reduces vitamin D production in the skin. Second, as many as three in four African-Americans are lactose intolerant, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, which may lead to reduced consumption of vitamin D-fortified dairy products.

Unfortunately, taking extra supplements alone is not the answer, since taking more than 4,000 IU a day puts you at risk for vitamin D toxicity.

Why is vitamin D deficiency so harmful?

• Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and is needed for bone growth and restoration.

Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or
misshapen. Together with calcium, vitamin D also helps protect older
adults from osteoporosis.

• A growing body of research suggests
that vitamin D might play some role in the prevention and treatment of
type 1 and 2 diabetes, hypertension and multiple sclerosis, among other
health issues.

• In 2000, University of North Carolina Chapel
Hill doctors reported an increase in the reported number of rickets
cases among breastfed babies, especially among African-Americans.

Studies suggest that more than one-third of Americans are vitamin D
deficient. Nearly 82 percent of African-Americans face vitamin D

• Low vitamin D levels are associated with arterial
stiffness. This is a known risk factor for both heart disease and
stroke, two of the leading causes of death among African-Americans.

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

Some of the symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency include:

• Vitamin D deficiency causes muscle weakness and pain in children and adults. However, for many people, symptoms are subtle.

Low vitamin D can cause skeletal disorders, such as rickets in children
and bone loss in adults, and has been linked to an increased risk of
hip fractures.

• Vitamin D deficiency can be linked to a variety
of health problems for newborns, such as seizures, juvenile diabetes and
lower respiratory tract infections.

• Vitamin D deficiency in
children has been associated with cardiovascular risks – including
higher diastolic blood pressure and hypertension – and lower calcium

• Health concerns affecting seniors, such as osteomalacia and depression, have been also linked to vitamin D deficiency.

• Without sufficient vitamin D, bones can become thin, brittle, or misshapen.

So what’s the solution?

Due to the unique challenges that Blacks face when it comes to meeting their vitamin D needs, it’s important for them to talk with their doctors about getting their vitamin D levels tested, and then determining optimal sources of vitamin D to improve their levels.

• Your physician can check your vitamin D level with a blood test.

• An example of one of these tests is Abbott’s ARCHITECT 25-OH Vitamin D assay, which can measure the stable form of vitamin D, 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25-OH vitamin D), in a person’s body. 25-OH vitamin D is established as the appropriate measurable indicator of vitamin D status because it is stable and easily measured.

How can you improve your vitamin D levels?

• Talk to your doctor.

• Get some sun. Vitamin D is called “the sunshine vitamin” for a reason—your body processes vitamin D from sunlight. Studies suggest that 5–30 minutes of sun exposure midday, at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen usually lead to sufficient vitamin D levels for most people.

• Eat foods with vitamin D. Fortified milk and other calcium-rich foods, fortified orange juice, eggs (yolks included), fortified cereals, salmon, liver and mushrooms are all examples of foods that are sources of vitamin D.

• Use supplements with caution. Supplements can be a good, easy source of vitamin D. However, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider before taking supplements, particularly because too much vitamin D can result in toxicity.