THE BLOG
10/17/2014 11:41 am ET Updated Dec 17, 2014

Top 5 Tips for Managing Your Diabetes

Hispanics continue to be challenged by high rates of diabetes. According to national examination surveys, Hispanics are almost twice as likely as non-Hispanics to be diagnosed with diabetes by a physician. Hispanics also have higher rates of end-stage renal disease as a complication of diabetes and are 50 percent more likely to die from diabetes than non-Hispanics.

Diabetes is a common disease, and while it can be effectively managed, it also often requires significant lifestyle changes and can present unique challenges. Recently, my uncle was taken to the hospital after suffering a severe hypoglycemic reaction. Knowing I am a health professional, my family members asked for my advice, and I shared the following tips with them.

Managing diabetes requires day-to-day care, but it doesn't have to be complicated. Learning the basics, getting advice and support from health professionals like your physician, certified diabetes educator and registered dietitian, and doing a little planning can help you live well with diabetes.

1. Manage your weight
If you are overweight, losing just 5 percent to 7 percent of your body weight -- a weight loss of 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person -- can prevent or delay the onset of diabetes or, if you have diabetes, can help you better manage the disease and reduce your risk of other health problems, including heart disease.

2. Check your blood sugar frequently
Checking your blood sugar before and after meals as well as before and after you exercise is an important way to monitor your diabetes control and notice improvements in your blood sugar levels as they get closer to your target.

3. Keep daily records
It is critical that you keep a record of the date and the amount and type of physical activity, as well as your blood sugar level before and immediately after you exercise, as well as before and after your meals. This log will help you track the changes in blood sugar levels, and gives your healthcare provider an understanding of how you are responding to your care plan. Below are two examples of simple charts that can help you keep track of your blood sugar levels.

Example 1: Exercise Log
Date Blood Sugar before exercise Blood Sugar after exercise Blood Sugar change
Example 2: Meal Log
Date Meal (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) Blood Sugar before meal Blood Sugar after meal Blood Sugar change

4. Engage in daily physical activity
Exercise has many benefits, but most importantly it can help you take better control of your blood sugar level as well as have other beneficial effects such as lowering blood pressure, improving your mood, improving the quality of your sleep and giving you more energy. Start by choosing an activity you will be willing to commit to for at least five days. Choose something you enjoy, like walking, dancing, swimming or bicycling. Be sure to check with your health care provider before starting an exercise plan or making big changes in your current regimen.

5. Eat balanced meals with a variety of healthy foods from all food groups
Eating a healthy diet that focuses on nutrient-rich foods and balances calories to manage weight is important for the health and well-being of all Americans -- including people with diabetes. For someone with diabetes, your food needs to be balanced with medications and exercise to help manage your blood sugar levels, and a good diabetes meal plan should be individualized to fit in with your schedule and eating habits. A diabetes meal plan also provides a guide of how much and what kinds of food to choose at meals and snack occasions. People with diabetes can enjoy the same foods as family members and with proper planning, you can fit your favorite foods into your meal plan.

Some foods, like beans, whole grains, fat-free dairy, nuts and berries are diabetes "superfoods" because they have a low glycemic index (GI) and are rich in key nutrients lacking in the typical American diet, like potassium, fiber, vitamins C , A and E, calcium and magnesium. For example, California strawberries are naturally low in sugar with only 7 grams per serving (about 8 strawberries, or 1 cup), and are an excellent source of vitamin C -- with more vitamin C than an orange -- and a good source of dietary fiber, making them an ideal fit for a diabetes meal plan.

Most of all, remember that you are important to your family, and it is up to you to commit to living a healthy lifestyle and take control of your diabetes.