My tips for successfully managing Diabetes

By Delia Howling Wolf – Medical Support Assistant

Before I was diagnosed with Diabetes on May 22, 1997 I was very ill for about 2 months.  I made an appointment at the clinic, I felt like I wouldn’t get better.  Tired, lethargic, cranky, upset stomach, nausea, headache, I pretty much had most all the symptoms. I am going to be honest after all the blood work I felt like I was going to be diagnosed with the “c” word.  It never occurred to be that I was diabetic.  Before I moved to North Dakota, I worked for Indian Health Service – Headquarters, we use to walk up 2 flight of steps, down 3 flights of steps, I even walked to and from work.  I was fairly active.  Once I moved here, it all came to a stop, I didn’t realize it would hit me like a ton of bricks.  So when I got the call I was diagnosed with Diabetes. I was actually relieved.  My doctor at the clinic started me on medication and I met with the Diabetes staff.  I had a good understanding, but of course, my body didn’t like metformin. I tried some other oral medications that worked, but the FDA didn’t like that one and recalled it.  I didn’t know at the time but I would spend the next few years trying a myriad of medications.  Until one day, Dr. Arcelay said I would like to try you on insulin, I freaked out for a few moments, but then I actually listened to him.  He said insulin is what your body produces, it’s actually the best for you and your body.  So after some hit and miss years…I have an insulin that works and works well.  Last month, my A1C was a 6.4.  I only tell you because I want you to know it can be done. You can succeed at managing your diabetes.

There’s no way around it: If you’re learning to manage either type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you need to monitor your carbohydrate intake, processed foods are probably our number one downfall.  I hear you every once in a while I am eating a spam breakfast burrito or a bologna sandwich.  My comfort food, but I also know it’s something to eat every once in a while not every day.

Your diet should include plenty of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and legumes.  Keeping track of your numbers is a very important to stay on top of your blood sugar levels and keep yourself feeling your best. If scribbling grams per meal on a napkin throughout the day isn’t your thing, check out helpful nutrition-tracking apps like Fooducate or MySugr, which keep everything organized and can even help you plan your meals.   You knew this was coming — and that goes for both the real deal and artificial sweeteners. While it was once common practice to recommend sugar-free sweeteners as a substitute for refined sugar, that’s no longer the case.

Instead of sweetening foods and drinks with pastel-colored packets, find natural ways to satisfy your sweet tooth.  Also keep an eye out for added sugar. Read the nutrition labels on any packaged foods before you buy — and don’t fall for glam labels like organic or natural. They can still hide added sugar.  Read your label of the ingredients listed first, as ingredients are always ordered based on how much of each ingredient is present. If you see several types of sugar in the first three items listed, put that item back on the shelf.

You actually have access to not one but two dietitians at the Diabetes Program.  Celeste Hart, RD is also a Certified Diabetes Educator and Shelby Stein, RDN, LRD.  We also have Gwen Davis, RN, Case Manager.  They are available for telehealth appointments throughout the day, please feel free to contact the Diabetes program to schedule an appointment.  They can give you meal prep ideas, help navigating the grocery store and finding diabetes friendly shopping lists and menu planning. 

As I continue to learn about Diabetes I know stress can make your blood sugar go high.  Not only is chronic stress linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but it can also interfere with your ability to manage the condition.

Find ways to keep calm and carry on, whether it’s yoga, meditation, snuggling with your dog, or a hot bath and a good book at the end of a hard day. There’s no “best” way to do self-care, so do what makes you feel good!  These days I enjoy face timing my grandchildren.  My older grands like to text and keep me in the loop.  It’s different right now don’t try to fight it – adapt to it.  My husband’s birthday was last week, I cooked his favorite foods, and we boxed them up. All the kids came by to get their meal, which included a cupcake. We got together on a zoom call and everyone sang Happy Birthday to him.  Much different than previous years, but we are ok, we are safe.  Give it a try, think of different ways to celebrate.  I know we need practice on our singing hahaha.

One of the long-term complications of diabetes is weakness, pain, and tingling or numbness in the hands and feet. This can turn into an increased pain tolerance in those areas (not a good thing!).  Having less pain sensitivity means it’s easier to get injured or develop infections. What starts as a small, unnoticed irritation could become a big problem down the road.  Please inspect your feet daily and make skin care part of your daily routine. This could be as simple as giving yourself a foot rub, taking note of any sores or numb spots, or treating yourself to a new moisturizer and using it daily.  If you notice any sore or redness, please make an appointment with your primary care provider.  I know our tendency is to think it will get better, but with diabetes this can change from one day to the other and high blood sugars don’t help with healing.

After a diagnosis, it’s tempting to live in denial or avoid dealing with your health. But the longer you wait, the harder it will be to get started.  Keep adding healthy habits to your life, but don’t forget to keep living.  The Diabetes program staff is here to help you, please give us call at (701) 627-7931.