9 Things Healthy People With Diabetes Do
Any medical information included is based on a personal experience. For questions or concerns regarding health, please consult a doctor or medical professional.
Every single person with diabetes is unique, and every person with diabetes (PWD) knows that what works for one person may not work for another. At the same time, PWD who are maintaining a level of health that’s ideal for their bodies may have a few strategies in common. If you were to gather a group of PWD in a room and ask them what their best “healthy” strategies are, what would they say?
We essentially did just that, by asking our Mighty community what they do to stay healthy with diabetes. Check out all their favorite strategies below. Perhaps some are already in your toolkit, or perhaps you’ve been curious to try some others. Let us know in the comments what you would add. Your diabetes tribe is here for you!
Here’s what our Mighty community said:
1. They make exercise a part of their routine.
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, exercise can help manage your blood sugar and promote overall health. Be sure to work with your doctor to find the right balance of exercise and food, as exercise can cause a drop in blood glucose or cause blood glucose to run high during or after exercise.
“I stay healthy by running. Not only is it fantastic for my body and mind, it helps keep my blood sugars under control if I’m exercising regularly,” Brianna Henderson said. “I find it slightly easier to manage if I’m sticking to my running routine… overall running is my lifeline!”
“It has been shown over and over again in the scientific literature that walking has a blunting effect on post-prandial (post-meal) blood sugar spikes. On a personal level, if I walk after meals I’m able to administer less insulin and better control my blood sugar levels,” Drew Harrisberg explained.
2. They keep their supplies organized.
Diabetes requires a lot of supplies, from insulin pens to test strips to snacks. Find an organizational system that works for you, to ensure everything is easy to find when you need it.
“I use two insulin pens, one is rapid acting for meals and the other long-acting. I keep them in two separate mugs on my kitchen counter. This way they’re easy to reach for and there’s less chance I’ll mix them up,” Riva Greenberg said.
3. They prioritize sleep quality and quantity.
You’ve heard it before, but it’s true: Getting enough sleep can do more than just help you feel energized in the morning. Scientists have found that the body’s reaction to lost sleep resembles insulin resistance.
“It has been shown that as little as a few sleepless nights can induce a state of insulin resistance. If you want the best chance of improving your diabetes control, insulin sensitivity is key!” Harrisberg said.
4. They use mindfulness and de-stressing strategies.
Mindfulness is another strategy that may not seem like it would have a real-world effect on diabetes, but its power to reduce stress can only help you. The fight-or-flight response set off by stress can affect blood glucose levels, or it can simply cause you to take less care with your health overall. It’s wise for anyone with diabetes to figure out some techniques to reduce stress that work for you, and keep doing them regularly.
“Mindful deep breathing is a wonderful stress management technique that can be used to improve stress hormone levels in the body which can ultimately improve your blood sugar control,” Harrisberg recommended.
5. They stay informed on new technology and have confidence in what works for them.
The world of diabetes technology is constantly changing, and there are more ways than ever to manage your blood sugar, from insulin pumps to continuous glucose monitoring to insulin pens. You’ve probably used a combination of several different methods. Healthy people with diabetes stay up-to-date on the latest technology and talk with their doctors about which tools might be right for them, but also have confidence in what’s working. As Ashley Ng wrote in an article on The Mighty, there is sometimes pressure to always use the newest “thing,” when really the most important thing is that whatever you’re using is the best choice for you.
“We don’t need to always have the latest and greatest or always be at the forefront of every trend. We live in such a fast-paced world where being seen with an older model of something is faux-pax. As long as what you’ve got going works for you, you shouldn’t need to justify it to anyone,” Ng wrote.
6. They seek out doctors who are knowledgeable and empathetic.
Your doctor is a member of your team, so it’s important that he or she understands your overall health, the specific challenges of your diabetes and communicates in a respectful and kind manner. If you have multiple chronic illnesses, you’ll want doctors who can take all your health challenges into account, as Mindy Bartleson explained in her essay on The Mighty:
“After living with a chronic illness for almost 17 years, I’ve learned when to leave a health care provider if it isn’t the right fit. My first sign is if they won’t drop that the only answer is diabetes. Maybe it is part of it or all of it, but I don’t want to miss other possibilities because it’s the easy way out,” Bartleson wrote.
7. They remember that “it’s just data.”
It’s all-too-easy to base your own self-worth on your numbers. When you have a good reading, you might feel like you’re “winning;” conversely, an A1C that isn’t quite what you hoped can lead you to feel like you’re failing. But you are more than just a number, and you aren’t a “bad person” or “bad at managing diabetes” if your numbers aren’t always “on target.”
“When I was 22 I heard for the first time the conception of blood glucose levels as just data. When you have diabetes, it is really superbly easy to attach self-value to our numbers,” Heather Walker said. “But, we are not our numbers. They are not a reflection of who we are or what we are capable of. Remembering that blood glucose levels are just data helps me actively reduce the psychological burden of diabetes.”
8. They accept that burnout will happen.
“Diabetes burnout” is a well-documented phenomenon in which a person feels frustrated or disillusioned about taking care of their diabetes. They might (understandably) feel tired of all the work that goes into managing diabetes, particularly if despite all their work they are still experiencing setbacks. As Walker recommended, knowing that burnout will happen and not beating yourself up about feeling it can help you move through those periods.
“When I allow myself to accept that I can’t always be a superstar at self-managing my chronic conditions, my mental health is better. I am able to visit burnout for shorter periods of time when I am mentally prepared for them. It helps my health and overall well-being to not fight and belittle myself for needing a short break,” Walker said.
9. They let diabetes take the blame.
Because diabetes requires so much work on your part to manage, it’s easy to blame yourself when things aren’t going perfectly. But Walker offered this reminder: At the end of the day, you have diabetes! Ultimately, that is the reason you have these symptoms. You don’t have to blame yourself every time you don’t have “perfect” health.
“I recently had a new endocrinologist circle a high blood glucose reading and ask me, ‘Why did this happen?’ and in my most empowered reply, I said, ‘Because I have diabetes.’ We often feel like failures when we get a high reading or when we have a wonky day. The truth is, that high reading or wonky day happened only because we have diabetes. If we didn’t have diabetes, it wouldn’t have happened. We don’t always have to take credit for a mishap, and for me, letting diabetes take the blame help tremendously,” Walker said.
“As a recovering perfectionist I’ve had to learn you can’t do diabetes perfectly,” Greenberg added. “Our bodies and our blood sugar is too unpredictable. I do my best, try to learn from my mistakes and really appreciate all the hard work I do every day to stay well.”