Compared to the general population, African Americans are disproportionately affected by diabetes:
• 4.9 million (an increase from 3.7 million in 2007), or 18.7% of all African Americans, aged 20 years or older, also have diabetes.
• African Americans are 1.8 times more likely to have diabetes as non Hispanic whites.
• 25 percent of African Americans between the ages of 65 and 74 have diabetes.
• 1 in 4 African American women over 55 years of age has diabetes.
While living with diabetes can be a challenge, following some basic guidelines can help you keep your blood sugar under control and avoid diabetic complications and emergencies.
Here are 15 tips for living a healthier life with diabetes:
1. Don’t assume that you’ll feel when your blood sugar is getting high.
Type 2 diabetes is often a silent disease. You may feel just fine even though chronically high blood sugar levels are doing serious damage to your body. When it comes to monitoring diabetes, don’t rely on how you feel. Don’t wait until it’s advanced enough to cause symptoms.
Every person with diabetes needs to use a home blood glucose monitor to keep tabs on blood sugar. Ask your doctor about how often you need to check your blood sugar. It varies from person to person, depending on your health and the medicines you take.
2. Get enough sleep.
People with type 2 diabetes who don’t sleep enough are more likely to feel more nerve pain and have unhealthy blood sugar levels. High levels of stress hormones in the body — triggered by not getting enough sleep — can make you hungry for sweets, which can make the problem worse. Studies have found that chronic lack of sleep is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes in the first place.
Allow for seven to nine hours of sleep a night. In some cases, diabetes symptoms, such as frequent urination, can make sleep difficult. If you’re always overtired, talk to your doctor.
3. Treat cuts and injuries immediately.
You can just use an antibiotic cream and apply a bandage to a wound. Don’t let it “air out” — wounds will heal better if they’re kept moist and covered. If you have diabetes, your body heals more slowly and is more prone to infection. Untreated minor cuts can turn into painful wounds that take months, or even years, to heal. Always treat cuts and scrapes, even if they’re just shaving nicks or small blisters.
Also, be sure to keep an eye on the injury. If you see signs of infection, call your doctor.
4. Control stress, which can cause your blood sugar to rise.
Stress can be trouble for people with diabetes. First, when you’re stressed, you’re less likely to take care of yourself. You may eat poorly, stop exercising, or not get enough sleep. Second, stress seems to have a direct effect on blood sugar levels, pushing them out of whack.
Because no one avoids stress completely, learn ways that you can reduce it. Exercise, yoga, and meditation all help cut down on stress. Practice stress-busting deep-breathing techniques that you can use on the go. They can calm you down in the middle of a flap with your teenager or after a stressful meeting with your boss.
5. Exercise regularly.
Exercise has real benefits for people with diabetes. It can lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, improve your body’s use of insulin, and boost heart health. It may even allow you to take lower doses of your medications.
Most experts suggest at least 150 minutes of exercise a week spread out over three days. Remember that all sorts of activities count — playing tennis, walking, and biking. Splitting your activity into smaller chunks during the day and combining cardio workouts with strength training make it easier.
6. Don’t forget to strength train.
In addition to aerobic activity, try to lift weights or practice resistance training two to three times a week. Building muscle won’t only make you stronger. It will boost the effectiveness of your natural insulin and improve your blood sugar levels. It also will burn calories and help prevent weight gain.
You don’t need to join a gym if you don’t want to. Doing calisthenics — such as push-ups — or using free weights or resistance bands at home will work.
7. Keep your weight under control.
Extra weight is a risk factor for developing diabetes. It’s also a risk factor for some of its serious complications, such as heart disease.
It’s easy to get discouraged if you have a lot of weight to lose. But small steps will make a difference. Studies have found that losing even a little weight — just 5 to 15 pounds — can lower blood sugar levels. Losing weight also will improve your blood pressure, reduce your risk of heart disease, and boost the effectiveness of insulin.
8. Be aware of how diabetes can affect pregnancies.
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