Diabetes information is available almost everywhere. It can be overwhelming and difficult to decide what's relative to you and what doesn't apply. Here, find expert answers to some commonly asked queries.
Check with your doctor about the right diet for you.
Q: What should my blood sugar be when I wake up (fasting) and before meals? What about after?
A: For most people with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends a fasting or before-meals blood glucose (or blood sugar) goal of 70–130 mg/dl. One to two hours after eating, a postprandial blood sugar reading at or under 180 mg/dl is recommended.
Q: Why do my legs hurt when I start walking and stop hurting when I sit down?
A: You may have signs of peripheral arterial disease, or PAD. “It develops when too much plaque in your arteries limits blood flow to the legs. The pain may occur while you walk because muscles need increased blood flow. The pain may stop when you sit because your muscles then require less blood flow,” says Marjorie Cypress, Ph.D., C.A.N.P., C.D.E., a nurse practitioner in Albuquerque and president of Health Care & Education for the American Diabetes Association. PAD increases the risk of heart attacks, strokes and foot ulcers. Cypress suggests lowering your risks for PAD with the same advice you follow to stay healthy with diabetes.
Q: We’re on the road a lot. What healthy foods can we take our trips?
A: “Preplanning and having healthy snacks at the ready are keys to helping you eat healthy on the road,” says Lisa Brown, R.D,. C.D.E., president of BrownFox Solutions in Minneapolis. and past chair of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Diabetes Care and Education practice group. Brown suggests fresh fruit, small containers or cans of fruit (no syrup), fat-free yogurt, part-skim cheese (sticks, slices, and cubes), sugar-free pudding cups, nuts (any type), whole-wheat crackers or pretzels, peanut butter, baby carrots, and 100-calorie snack packs (buy them or create your own). Also, drink plenty of water and no-calorie drinks.
Q: Why is weight loss so important?
A: Weight management is vital when you have diabetes. Weight loss increases insulin sensitivity, allowing cells to more effectively use the insulin the body continues to make. Losing just 10 to 15 pounds can accomplish a boatload of benefits. Among them are improved blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and possibly taking fewer medications or lower doses. Opt for a slow and steady approach to weight loss, making small eating and exercise changes you can sustain long-term. The pounds you keep off over time are the most important to living a long life.
Q: Can I drink alcohol?
A: Yes, adults with diabetes can drink alcohol and should follow the same guidelines as the general public—an average of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men. That said, when you have diabetes, it’s important to use caution if you choose to drink. Drink only if your blood glucose is under control—testing can help you decide if you drink, or might have a drink. Eat some food when drinking alcohol, particularly if you take insulin or another blood glucose-lowering medication that can cause hypoglycemia. If you have any questions about consuming alcohol safely, talk with your doctor.
Q: Why can’t my wife and I use the same lancet if we clean it?
A: “The CDC strongly recommends that blood-testing devices, including lancets, should never be used by more than one person to prevent any chance of infection,” says Connie Crawley, R.D., nutrition and health specialist at the University of Georgia Extension Service in Athens. “And alcohol may not sufficiently disinfect a lancet.”
Q: Can I get rid of diabetes? Will it ever go away?
A: Once you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you have it for the rest of your life. To stay healthy, keep your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol under good control. To do so, eat healthy, be physically active and take your prescribed medications. Also get the tests and checks you need to detect complications early and treat them aggressively.
Q: How often should I replace my glucose meter?
A: Replace your meter if you determine it is not working correctly with its strips. To check, use the control solution that comes with your meter. “It’s an essential monitoring supply that many people don’t know about or use,” says Janine Freeman, R.D.N., C.D.E., of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
To use the control solution, put a drop (similar to the amount of blood you need) on a strip and do a test. Your vial of strips gives you a glucose range in which the result should fall. If it's in the range, your meter and strips are working correctly. If not, contact the manufacturer, which will offer advice and possibly a free replacement meter. “Use control solution each time you open a new box of strips or any time you suspect your meter or strips aren’t working together,” says Freeman, who also suggests cleaning and disinfecting your meter at least once a week, when blood is on the meter and before allowing anyone else to use it. Consider upgrading your meter every five or so years because there is so much innovation, Freeman says.
Q: Is it true that complications of diabetes can be delayed and even prevented?
A: Yes! Research shows that the earlier your diabetes is diagnosed and the sooner you start to aggressively get your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol into target ranges, the healthier you can be over the years. To stay healthy and detect any complications early, make sure your doctor orders all the tests and checks you need. Let your provider know if you have any signs or symptoms of a potential problem.