Fall season is often a good time to look at your present health practices or lack of them. Most people who have health insurance have already met their yearly deductibles, and are more willing to schedule physician recommended tests and examinations. Let’s review some easy tips to consider while improving your health. The upcoming holiday season may seem less stressful and more enjoyable when you feel well.
- Keep all of your appointments. I have heard many excuses for canceling medical appointments while working in my office. Before committing to a specific time, try to look at what will easily fit into your schedule. Appointment times now offer increased flexibility, allowing patients to often choose evening or weekend time slots. This permits people to plan around their work schedule, which immediately reduces stress and actually gets you to the appointment.
- Be Active. Any daily movement is better than resting in your easy chair or bed. You should include aerobic activity – walking, climbing stairs, walking in the pool, swimming, swim aerobic classes, elliptical machines or rowing machines. Exercise for 30 minutes, 5 times a week. You can even break it into smaller intervals if time or endurance is an issue. The benefits are lasting – especially when you have diabetes. Add 2-3 days of light weight training or resistance bands to build muscle mass. If you remain consistent you will improve your flexibility, balance, endurance, bone health and strength. A daily 30 minute walk after dinner is a perfect way to lower evening blood sugars.
- Find your team. Today, medicine is working towards a “team approach” more than ever, so nothing gets over looked. Since diabetes involves multiple organ systems, it only makes sense for you to follow this trend. Use your internist/general practitioner as your “team captain”, offering you recommendations/referrals to other disciplines. This is different than getting a written referral to a specialist – which may be required by your insurance company (especially if you are in a HMO or advantage program). When physicians have an existing or established relationship, it helps everyone on your team stay in the loop. Problems occur when there is no communication between medical practices. Each person orders their own blood work or tests without making joint decisions. Remember to request an optometrist/ophthalmologist for your yearly eye exam, as well as a dentist/periodontist to check for mouth disease – including gum problems. Decide with your internist if you need a diabetes specialist (called an endocrinologist). Most internists are capable of treating people who have diabetes and are familiar with all of the latest medications and treatments. If you are not achieving control – or at least lowering your A1C within two to three A1C cycles (6-9 months) – you should have this discussion. Your internist can also give you names for a cardiologist, pulmonologist and other specialists you may require. Remember, you are more than “diabetes”, so keep up with your other tests: including colonoscopies, mammograms, yearly skin checks and all other appointments or tests recommended by your MD.
- Think about getting vaccinated. Every year in the fall I suggest you talk to your health care provider about certain vaccinations. Each year I have readers write in about the negative side effects of vaccinations. You should have the discussion about the risks and benefits with your physician, and decide how it will impact you. Your risk of pneumonia and flu increases simply because you have diabetes – because it is a chronic illness that can decrease the function of your immune system. Discuss the benefits and risks of the flu, pneumonia, and tetanus vaccines, along with shingles and Hepatitis B vaccines to make your decision. Most people get a minor irritation around the injection site or a low grade fever for one day. You decide as a team which you may need.
- Find a balanced food plan. Stop doing the “diet” which is temporary and difficult to stay on. Everyday I have a patient in the office who has failed on a diet plan due to cost, taste of pre-packaged foods, boredom or difficulty following a specific daily plan. Consider working with a registered dietitian if you have questions and no real answers. Practice a variation of the Mediterranean eating plan, because it works extremely well for people with diabetes and heart disease – since it decreases systemic inflammation. It includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains (in moderation), fish, nuts, beans and legumes along with olive oil and small amounts of wine (if desired and allowed). Whatever eating style or plan you choose, try to avoid sugars and all sweet beverages – including natural fruit juices. Also avoid trans-fats, limit your sodium intake, saturated fat and count your carbohydrates.
There are so many easy ways to become and stay healthy even with a chronic illness like diabetes. In the next newsletter we will explore additional ways to stay on top of your health. Get started today!
NOTE: Consult your Doctor first to make sure my recommendations fit your special health needs.