Margaret O’Brien is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Banner Health.
Question: What are the best ways to manage type 1 and type 2 diabetes?
Answer: The most important way to manage your diabetes, regardless of having type 1 or type 2, is to eat healthy, exercise, take your medicine as prescribed and monitor blood sugar levels. The first three are things that everyone should be doing to maintain a healthy lifestyle, so monitoring blood sugar levels should be the only addition to a diabetic’s daily activities.
One issue I’ve seen with diabetic patients is the struggle to maintain a routine. In the past, people took to managing diabetes with a strict schedule, but that’s not the case anymore. Finding the right routine is more about adapting diabetes to your lifestyle as best as you can. For some, it can even be as simple as taking medicine at the same time every day - something to maintain consistency.
Another issue, there seems to be a misconception with taking medication, especially insulin. For some diabetics, maintaining a healthy lifestyle is not enough, so the medicine serves to enhance and maintain health. It seems obvious, but it is much more important to take care of issues now with the help of insulin, than to face greater problems in the future.
Question: Is it more difficult for certain age groups to manage diabetes?
Answer: When it comes to type 1, children diagnosed early manage the disease well, since it’s easily incorporated into their lifestyle. It’s more difficult for those who get diagnosed in their early teens and up, because of the difficulty in finding a routine.
Type 2 is difficult because it can develop without warning and the symptoms are easily overlooked. This can be an issue with seniors, as constant thirst can be related to the heat outside, a frequent need to urinate can be related to medication effects, or blurry vision can related to a sign of aging.
In my opinion, diabetes is not an easy disease to understand, but it’s manageable. The key is to find a healthcare team to have conversations with to help you form an individualized strategy to manage this disease. Every diabetic should be treated on a case-by-case basis since the condition affects people differently.