The Most Common Mistakes People With Diabetes Make

Ignoring Symptoms Your health is important! If you’re thirsty, you drink water. If you’re hungry, you eat. Diabetics may not have the majorities luck with metabolizing… Austin Alan - March 30, 2023

With millions of people affected worldwide, diabetes is a chronic illness that poses significant health challenges. It arises when your body fails to generate or effectively use insulin, a hormone that manages blood sugar levels. To maintain healthy blood sugar levels, individuals with diabetes need to commit to lifelong healthy lifestyle choices such as regular exercise, medication, and a balanced diet. However, many diabetes patients unintentionally make avoidable errors that can have severe and long-lasting effects on their overall health and well-being.

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Not Testing Blood Sugar Levels Regularly

One of the first and most critical steps in managing diabetes is regularly testing your blood sugar levels. The Ames Reflectance Meter (ARM), the first blood glucose meter and self-monitoring system, was developed by Anton H. Clemens in 1970. The device used Dextrostix strips coated with enzymes to measure glucose levels in a drop of blood and was a significant advancement in diabetes management. Today, they allow you to track your blood sugar levels throughout the day and adjust your medication and diet accordingly. Though they are commonly owned by diabetics, many patients do not test their blood sugar levels as often as they should. This is the first and most important step in managing diabetes. If not monitored, it can lead to poorly managed blood sugar levels and increased complications risk. Try setting timers of when you should check it, such as before or after a meal.

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Skipping Meals

Maintaining a consistent eating schedule can be challenging, particularly during hectic days. However, it’s essential to avoid the common mistake of skipping meals, especially for those with diabetes. Ideally, one should consume meals with the same amount of carbohydrates and sugar every 3-4 hours, allowing for appropriate insulin dosing. Failing to eat can lead to a drop in blood sugar levels, potentially causing hypoglycemia, which may result in unpleasant symptoms like dizziness, confusion, or even fainting. Providing your body with balanced nutrition is crucial for maintaining overall health and well-being.

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Eating Too Many Carbohydrates

For some reason, carbs have gotten a bad rap in recent years and diet fads. Carbohydrates are a crucial source of energy for the body, but their impact on blood sugar levels is a concern. While it is okay to consume foods high in carbohydrates in moderation, managing them can be particularly challenging for those with diabetes. Eating too many carbohydrates, particularly simple carbohydrates like sugar and white bread, can cause a rapid rise in blood sugar levels, leading to insulin resistance and potential health complications over time. However, it is essential to note that consuming carbohydrates is not inherently bad, and it is crucial to monitor your intake. Eating bread is not a sin, but it’s essential to be mindful of how much you consume to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

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Not Exercising Regularly

Exercise can be very difficult to commit to, but it doesn’t have to be at a gym or running. Find something you enjoy doing so it’s easier to stick to, like hiking, walking, mowing or even household chores. Regular exercise is important for diabetes. Exercise can improve insulin sensitivity, lower blood sugar levels, and reduce bad cholesterol levels. Many people with diabetes do not exercise regularly, which can lead to poorly managed blood sugar levels and an increased risk of complications. Just get 30 minutes of exercise a day doing something that makes you feel a little out of breath, it will also help your mental health.

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Not Taking Medication as Prescribed

Diabetes management requires medication. This should be a no-brainer. The pancreas can’t metabolize sugar properly and the liver releases too much sugar that wasn’t processed. Despite this, many patients with diabetes fail to take their prescribed medications according to their prescriptions. Quick-acting insulin – Humalog – does its job in 15 minutes, but diabetics tend to take too much in an effort to lower blood sugar quicker. Consequently, blood sugar levels can become poorly managed, and the risk of complications may be increased as a result. It’s best to balance your meals and take a small amount of insulin at first, you can always take more later.

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Ignoring Symptoms

Your health is important! If you’re thirsty, you drink water. If you’re hungry, you eat. Diabetics may not have the majorities luck with metabolizing sugar, but that doesn’t mean your symptoms should go untreated. Ignoring diabetes symptoms can be dangerous. If you experience symptoms such as frequent urination, increased thirst, or blurred vision, it is imperative to consult with your healthcare provider. Ignoring symptoms can lead to poorly managed blood sugar levels and increased complications risk. So don’t be afraid to take a break from what you’re doing to help yourself.

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Not Eating Breakfast

Considered to be the most important meal of the day, breakfast is proven to help you throughout the day. For diabetics, this is especially true. As a result of eating breakfast, blood sugar metabolism is regulated, and regular meals control insulin levels. It kickstarts metabolism and allows the body to process glucose from food. Skipping breakfast can drop blood sugar levels, leading to hypoglycemia. It can help manage appetite throughout the day, making it less likely for diabetics to overeat or make poor food choices later in the day. It can be hard to find time to eat breakfast, but at least find yourself something that will help you when you do get a chance to breathe.

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Neglecting Your Fiber Intake

Fiber is a critical nutrient that offers a range of benefits, including balancing cholesterol, supporting the growth of good bacteria in the gut, and even aiding in the management of diabetes. For individuals with diabetes, consuming carbohydrates with fiber is particularly advantageous. Unlike simple carbohydrates, fiber-containing carbohydrates are digested and absorbed more slowly, helping to maintain stable blood sugar levels between meals instead of experiencing spikes and crashes. Excellent carbohydrate options with fiber include whole-wheat foods, sweet potatoes, squash, lentils, brown rice, beans, and quinoa. Incorporating these fiber-rich foods into your diet can be an effective way to manage your blood sugar levels and maintain good health.

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No Schedule For Injections

Schedules can be a tricky thing to stick to, whether it’s exercise or a meal plan, you’ll find yourself buried in things you’ve fallen behind on. Having an injection schedule regulates blood sugar. Taking too much insulin all at once will cause blood sugar to drop drastically. Not taking enough can cause dizziness and nausea. A schedule allows you to stay healthy and not starve or overeat to manage diabetes. Balancing your diet and taking the amount of insulin you know will keep your blood sugar in the green will be the key in a long and healthy life.

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Regularly Brushing Your Teeth

Maintaining good oral hygiene is essential for everyone, but it is especially critical for individuals with diabetes. Some medications used to treat diabetes can cause a reduction in the production of saliva, leading to a dry mouth. Saliva plays a vital role in breaking down food particles and neutralizing harmful bacteria in the mouth. Without enough saliva, food particles can remain trapped in the mouth, leading to an increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease. Furthermore, individuals with diabetes may have higher glucose levels in their saliva due to the pancreas not processing sugar efficiently, creating an ideal environment for bacteria to grow and thrive. This can lead to a higher risk of oral infections and other complications. Individuals with diabetes must maintain good oral hygiene habits, including brushing twice daily, flossing regularly, and visiting the dentist regularly.

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Not Rotating Injection Sites

It’s easy to become used to injecting a certain spot on your body. However, this can have negative long-term effects. This can cause a condition known as lipohypertrophy. Lipohypertrophy is when fat deposits, scar tissue, and protein build up under the dermal layer, making insulin absorption less effective. You may forget where you injected yourself at lunchtime, but if you’re ever unsure, just move your insulin up or down a few inches. By mixing up your injection sites between your thighs, arms and stomach each day, it will allow your body to break down the build-up and make treatment more effective.

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Not Properly Washing Hands

We use our hands every day, even for mundane tasks. So it goes without saying that you need to wash your hands to prevent germs from building up when wiping your mouth. For diabetics, it’s a must to have clean hands before testing their blood sugar, as dirt and sugar can give inaccurate readings on a glucometer. Just using rubbing alcohol on your chosen finger won’t cut it either, as that can tamper with your readings. Just wash your hands for 15 seconds with antibacterial soap and warm water, as that can even help with circulation. In turn, this will increase the accuracy of all of your readings.

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Using Expired Test Strips

While they last longer than grocery store produce, test strips can expire. These small plastic strips are a crucial key to diabetic care, as the chemical known as glucose oxidase turns your blood into gluconic acid and turns your sugar into electricity. The algorithm then works out the blood sugar levels by reading the difference in current. It’s imperative to date when they were opened and keep an eye on the expiration date. When they expire or have become damaged, they will give false readings that will cause you to over-treat or under-treat your blood sugar. Store your glucose strips as directed on the vial and avoid shaking them around.

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Over-Treating Low Blood Sugar

When you notice that your glucose levels are low, it’s tempting to reach for a sugary treat to quickly raise your blood sugar levels. While it’s alright to indulge in a tasty snack occasionally, overeating to treat low blood sugar can cause a rapid spike in blood sugar levels. As always, it’s important to maintain a balanced diet and eat appropriate portion sizes. It may take some trial and error to determine the ideal amount of food required to stabilize your blood sugar levels, but it’s worth experimenting with different options. Opting for starchy or fiber-rich carbohydrates is another way to help your body process the food more gradually throughout the day. By being mindful of your food choices and portion sizes, you can effectively manage your blood sugar levels and promote better health in the long run.

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Not Factoring In The Impact Of Stress

Stress is a pervasive and challenging emotion to manage, particularly in today’s uncertain and demanding environment. This sensation can trigger the release of hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which can impede the effectiveness of insulin. Stress can increase blood sugar levels, but studies have also indicated that these hormones make it more difficult for the pancreas to produce natural insulin, further contributing to type 2 diabetes. Given this, it’s crucial to take steps to manage stress as part of your diabetes management plan. While it’s easier said than done, it’s essential to prioritize self-care and give yourself a break from stressors when possible. Engaging in relaxation techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and yoga can help manage stress levels. In addition, finding time for exercise, enjoyable activities, and social support can also have a positive impact on both your physical and emotional well-being.

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Not Getting Regular Eye Exams

No one likes going to the eye doctor. Having dilating drops put in your eyes is never a fun experience and treating eyeglasses as a prized possession is demanding work. For diabetics, this is especially pertinent, as they are at risk for diabetic retinopathy. It affects retinal blood vessels and causes vision loss. Though it won’t happen quickly, if left untreated, it will eventually cause blindness. Take extra care when managing diabetes, take supplements or eat nutrient-rich foods, and get to an optometrist once a year for a check-up.

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Not Replacing Lancets Regularly

Lancets are the needle that pokes out of a glucometer. While it can be frustrating to deal with, replacing them regularly can help you accurately treat diabetes. When getting a reading from a lancet you’ve previously used, it could have dried blood and bacteria on it. This could cause an inaccurate reading and infection. Dull lancets can also cause pain and discomfort when testing blood sugar. Keep them disinfected with an alcohol wipe and replace them when needed. It’s also important to calibrate your glucometer regularly to ensure accurate readings. Check the user manual or consult with your healthcare provider for instructions on how often to calibrate your device.

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Not Adjusting Insulin Dosage For Physical Activity

It’s essential to exercise to manage diabetes, but it is also essential to keep an eye on your levels before exercising. Working out when your blood sugar is low can cause fatigue and dizziness, so eat a small snack. If it’s too high, take insulin to regulate it. If you don’t, being out for too long with high blood sugar can cause ketoacidosis. This is a process your liver does to fuel your body for energy, but if too many ketones are produced, your blood becomes too acidic. This happens quickly and can be life-threatening if not dealt with.

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Not Getting Enough Sleep

In addition to the direct effects on blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, lack of sleep can also lead to increased stress levels and impaired cognitive function, making it more challenging to manage diabetes effectively. Research has shown that getting sufficient sleep can improve insulin sensitivity, reduce inflammation, and lower the risk of developing complications related to diabetes. Developing healthy sleep habits can be beneficial for individuals with diabetes. This includes establishing a regular sleep schedule, avoiding stimulating activities before bedtime, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and limiting caffeine and alcohol intake. It’s also essential to address any underlying sleep disorders, such as sleep apnea, which can significantly impact blood sugar levels.

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Ignoring Foot Care

We stand on them, walk on them, and use them to judge diabetes management. Foot problems are a serious concern for people with diabetes, as nerve damage can lead to a loss of sensation in the feet, making it difficult to detect cuts, blisters, or sores. These wounds can quickly become infected and even develop into ulcers or gangrene, which can ultimately lead to amputation. In fact, according to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes is the leading cause of non-traumatic lower extremity amputations in the United States. That’s why it’s important for diabetes patients to regularly check their feet for any signs of damage or injury. This can include inspecting the soles of the feet, between the toes, and around the nails. If you notice any cuts, blisters, or sores, it’s crucial to seek medical attention right away.

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Large Gaps Between Meals

In addition to setting a timer for regular meals and snacks, other strategies can help regulate blood sugar levels throughout the day. For example, spreading out carbohydrate intake throughout the day can help prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes. This can be achieved by having smaller, more frequent meals or snacks that include a balance of carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Another helpful strategy is to keep healthy snacks on hand, such as raw vegetables, nuts, or low-sugar fruit, to help prevent the temptation to reach for less healthy options when hunger strikes. It’s also important to stay hydrated throughout the day, as dehydration can cause blood sugar levels to rise. It’s worth noting that everyone’s body is different and may have varying needs for managing blood sugar levels. Consulting with a healthcare provider or registered dietitian can provide personalized recommendations and support for diabetes management.