This holiday season I'm sharing the gift of tips -- real tips from real people living with diabetes.
Recently I was approached by a publisher to write a book of diabetes tips from medical professionals. Since those already exist, and most medical professionals don't live with diabetes, I thought how much better to gather tips from people who actually do.
Alas, the publisher disagreed, so there won't be a patient tips book, but here's my patient tips list. Some of these tips, and plenty more, are in my books. Each of these come from diabetes friends, colleagues, peers and me.
These tips are in no particular order, and they won't all apply to you. However, if you find one or two you can put into practice, your life and your health may vastly improve.
25 Tips for Living With Diabetes
- Keep your glucose meter always in the same place so you don't have to go looking for it. Mine is on my kitchen counter resting beside two small stuffed bunnies always smiling up at me.
- Get a dilated eye exam every year from an ophthalmologist. But here's what no one tells you: Lower the blinds in your house before you leave for your appointment and bring sunglasses -- even if it's raining.
- Lancing devices that allow you to check your blood sugar on your palm just below your thumb give you very similar numbers as your fingertips do.
- Use a 100-hour timer and set it to 72 hours to know when to change your insulin pump infusion site.
- Keep your glucose meter in a brightly-colored case, not the black one it came in. You'll find it quickly. It may also make you smile more.
- Simple carbohydrates spike your blood sugar, requiring more insulin. Insulin is a fat storage hormone. Cut down on refined carbs and watch your blood sugar spikes reduce as well as your waistline.
- Drop the idea that you're going to do this "diabetes thing" perfectly. It's impossible, and I'm a "recovering perfectionist."
- Exercise in the morning so you don't have time to talk yourself out of it. I take my hour walk after breakfast before the day becomes a 12-car pile up.
- If you use two insulin pens, wrap a rubber band or ribbon around one. It can prevent ending up in the hospital like countless others have who mixed up their pens.
- Take a full minute to look at your child/children before leaving the house. That's why it's worth taking care of your diabetes. Okay, you can look at your spouse or your dog too.
- Clear a path from your bed to the bathroom so when you get up in the middle of the night to pee you won't hurt yourself or wake up the neighbors.
- Opt for plain Greek yogurt instead of regular -- it has more protein, less carbohydrates and is way more fashionable.
- Use endive, cabbage and lettuce leaves as a scoop for dips and ditch the crackers and chips.
- Make two or three boxes of different flavored sugar-free Jello, pour 6-8 ounces into plastic cups and pop them into the refrigerator. When you need a snack, they're ready to go.
- Substitute almond meal for flour when making biscotti or many other cookie type confections. Sure, they crumble, but they taste great and have a LOT less carbs.
- Need more exercise? Get a dog.
- Replace the clothes on your stationary bike with a book rack. I don't care, Daily Devotional readings or Fifty Shades of Grey, just get on and pedal.
- To raise low blood sugar eat fast-acting carbs such as four glucose tabs or 2 Tbs of honey or a handful of Skittles or drink a glass of skim milk. Two slices of toast with raspberry preserves, three Oreos and a slice of pecan pie a la mode is a slow and -- once you've looked at the calories you've consumed -- painful method for raising blood sugar.
- Keep cans of soda at home, the office, your briefcase, your locker, in your car. It's okay to have a sugary drink when your low blood sugar's making the world a very fuzzy place.
- Join a diabetes social media site or make a diabetes friend. You need someone in your circle who "gets it."
- If you take insulin or a glucose-lowering medication, be prepared for lows. Keep glucose tablets or SweeTarts in all your jacket pockets, purses and bags -- and sneak them into your husband's too. Yes, personal experience.
- Ask your doctor to write scripts for your pills at twice the dose and cut them in half. Also, see if she'll give you some samples from that big closet in her office.
- If you need to cut down on fat and protein go the Latin way: less meat more rice -- brown of course -- and beans.
- See everything you try to manage your diabetes as an experiment and learn from it. Failure doesn't exist.
- Diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint. Learn everything you can and do the best you can. Then applaud yourself for everything you do and say three Hail Marys and one Jewish blessing that this year your son will marry a doctor.
Riva's latest book, Diabetes Dos & How-Tos, is available in print and Kindle, along with her other books, 50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life and the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It and The ABCs Of Loving Yourself With Diabetes. Riva speaks to patients and health care providers about flourishing with diabetes. Visit her websites DiabetesStories.com and DiabetesbyDesign.com.