Lifestyle and home remedies
Careful management of type 1 diabetes can reduce your risk of serious — even life-threatening — complications. Consider these tips:
- Make a commitment to manage your diabetes. Take your medications as recommended. Learn all you can about type 1 diabetes. Make healthy eating and physical activity part of your daily routine. Establish a relationship with a diabetes educator, and ask your health care team for help.
- Identify yourself. Wear a tag or bracelet that says you have diabetes. Keep a glucagon kit nearby in case of a low blood sugar emergency — and make sure your friends and loved ones know how to use it.
- Schedule a yearly physical exam and regular eye exams. Your regular diabetes checkups aren't meant to replace yearly physicals or routine eye exams. During the physical, your doctor will look for any diabetes-related complications, as well as screen for other medical problems. Your eye care specialist will check for signs of retinal damage, cataracts and glaucoma.
Keep your vaccinations up to date. High blood sugar can weaken your immune system. Get a flu shot every year. Your doctor will likely recommend the pneumonia vaccine, as well.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends hepatitis B vaccination if you haven't previously been vaccinated against hepatitis B and you're an adult ages 19 to 59 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The CDC advises vaccination as soon as possible after diagnosis with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you are age 60 or older and have diabetes and haven't previously received the vaccine, talk to your doctor about whether it's right for you.
- Pay attention to your feet. Wash your feet daily in lukewarm water. Dry them gently, especially between the toes. Moisturize your feet with lotion. Check your feet every day for blisters, cuts, sores, redness or swelling. Consult your doctor if you have a sore or other foot problem that doesn't heal.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly can go a long way toward controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol. Medication may be needed, too.
- If you smoke or use other forms of tobacco, ask your doctor to help you quit. Smoking increases your risk of diabetes complications, including heart attack, stroke, nerve damage and kidney disease. Talk to your doctor about ways to stop smoking or to stop using other types of tobacco.
- If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. Alcohol can cause either high or low blood sugar, depending on how much you drink and if you eat at the same time. If you choose to drink, do so only in moderation and always with a meal. Check your blood sugar levels before going to sleep.
- Take stress seriously. The hormones your body may produce in response to prolonged stress may prevent insulin from working properly, which can stress and frustrate you even more. Take a step back, and set some limits. Prioritize your tasks. Learn relaxation techniques. Get plenty of sleep.
Coping and support
Diabetes can affect your emotions both directly and indirectly. Poorly controlled blood sugar can directly affect your emotions by causing behavior changes, such as irritability. There may be times you feel resentful about your diabetes.
People with diabetes have an increased risk of depression and diabetes-related distress, which may be why many diabetes specialists regularly include a social worker or psychologist as part of their diabetes care team.
You may find that talking to other people with type 1 diabetes is helpful. Support groups are available both online and in person. Group members often know about the latest treatments and tend to share their own experiences or helpful information, such as where to find carbohydrate counts for your favorite takeout restaurant.
If you're interested in a support group, your doctor may be able to recommend one in your area. Or you can visit the websites of the American Diabetes Association (ADA) or the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) for support group information and to check out local activities for people with type 1 diabetes. You can also reach the ADA at 800-DIABETES (800-342-2383) or JDRF at 800-533-CURE (800-533-2873).
There's no known way to prevent type 1 diabetes. But researchers are working on preventing the disease or further destruction of the islet cells in people who are newly diagnosed.
Ask your doctor if you might be eligible for one of these clinical trials, but carefully weigh the risks and benefits of any treatment available in a trial.