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Taking Charge of Diabetes Today and Tomorrow

Decorative image for diabetes month.

I have diabetes and many people I know also have diabetes. Some have lived with this chronic condition for years, while others were recently diagnosed. Regardless of how long someone has lived with diabetes, I know from experience that focusing on taking care of oneself can be exhausting.

It helps to know that information and resources are available. Every November, we recognize National Diabetes Month and share information. This year’s theme is “Take Charge of Tomorrow.”

Diabetes affects about 37 million people in this country, including adults and youth. Diabetes can damage your eyes, kidneys, heart, and nerves. It’s also linked to some types of cancer.

Whether or not you are at risk for diabetes, the good news is that everyone can benefit from taking steps to live a healthier life:

  1. Manage your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. Sometimes this is referred to as the ABCs:
  • A stands for A1c, which is a blood test that measures average blood sugar over a period of three months. It is important to talk with your health care provider about regular blood glucose testing. If you don’t have a blood glucose monitor, ask your health care provider or pharmacist.
  • B stands for blood pressure. Know what your healthy blood pressure range is. Consider asking your health care provider what a normal range is for you. If you need a blood pressure monitoring device, ask your health care provider what type is recommended.
  • C stands for cholesterol. Having high cholesterol and high triglycerides places you at higher risk for heart disease. Choose healthier fats, like olive oil and avoid fats that are solid at room temperature like butter.
  1. Make lifestyle changes. These include getting adequate sleep and practicing sleep hygiene, focusing on eating healthy and balanced meals, staying physically active, or taking steps to increase your physical activity. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day. If you cannot do all 30 minutes at one time, consider breaking it into three 10-minute periods.
  2. Take medicines as prescribed and keep to a schedule. Sometimes when a person feels better, they might want to skip taking medicines; however, taking all prescribed medicines regularly is important. Avoid stopping or starting medicines without a health care provider’s recommendation.
  3. Aim to reach a healthy weight. Ask your health care provider what a healthy weight goal is for you.
  4. Take care of your mental health. Many people living with chronic conditions, including diabetes, feel overwhelmed and sometimes experience feelings of sadness and thoughts that everything is overwhelming. Know that you are not alone, and if the feelings continue, consider talking with your health care provider.

Taking charge of today can help you take charge of tomorrow.

When leading Diabetes Self-Management workshops, I like to say that “everyone can have one good minute, one good hour, or one good day.” Consider taking charge of your health to live a good lifetime!

Mary Pat O’Leary, RN, MSN, Aging and Disability ServicesContributor Mary Pat O’Leary, RN, BSN is a senior planner with Aging and Disability Services, the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle and King County. She leads chronic disease self-management program trainings. For information about diabetes education, e-mail