Taking charge of your type 2 diabetes means controlling your blood sugar. But to control your blood sugar, you have to test it, says Rhonda O'Brien, a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Boise, Idaho.
O'Brien coaches and guides people with diabetes so that they can manage their day-to-day care. A big part of her work is teaching people how to check their blood sugar, find their target blood sugar range, and create an eating plan that helps keep sugar levels stable.
If you're recently diagnosed—or even if you have had diabetes for a while—maybe you already know how important it is to test your blood sugar and keep track of the results. But do you do it?
"A lot of people who find out that they have type 2 diabetes think, 'Well, at least it's not the "bad kind" of diabetes [type 1]. But they still need to test. Type 2 diabetes is just as serious as type 1," O'Brien says.
The need to test your blood sugar never goes away, she says. "You need to keep up with it every day."
Look for patterns in test results
As important as testing is, you also need to know what the results mean and how to use them, O'Brien says. Testing helps you learn how your blood sugar is affected by what, when, and how much you eat, your stress level, and how much activity you are getting.
So what kinds of things should you look for when you test your blood sugar?
"Look for patterns," O'Brien says. "If your blood sugar is always high before lunch, take a look at what you had for breakfast. Maybe you need to make some changes."
You don't have to try to figure out all of this on your own. You can work with your own diabetes educator or dietitian to create a plan that works for you. Ask your doctor to help you find one, or check with your local hospital.
Healthy eating and activity help you control blood sugar
"You don't have to follow a strict diet. Focus on healthy eating," O'Brien says. "There's no 'good food' or 'bad food' for diabetes. Learn about the amount of carbohydrate in different foods. Then test your blood sugar to see how different foods and amounts of foods affect your blood sugar."
"Activity plays a part too. Even taking a walk after a meal can help you keep your blood sugar stable," O'Brien says.
When you're active, your body uses the sugar (glucose) in the food you eat so it doesn't build up in your blood. The more active you are, the more glucose your body uses. This helps lower your blood sugar and better control your diabetes.
"Some people get overwhelmed by the idea of having to start a vigorous exercise program. But you don't have to do that," O'Brien says. "Walking can work, but like everything else with diabetes, you need to monitor it and how it affects your blood sugar."
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