Tips for people living with diabetes.

A day in the life of diabetes.

Pulitzer Prize–winning photographer Jay Dickman volunteered his time and talent to photograph three individuals who are living with diabetes—giving us an up-close and personal glimpse into their daily lives and showing us what “A Day in the Life of Diabetes” means to them. See their stories.

10 important things to do if you have diabetes:

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 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 and 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 weakens your immune system. Get a flu shot every year, and possibly a pneumonia vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also currently recommends hepatitis B vaccination if you haven’t previously been vaccinated and you’re an adult ages 19 to 59 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. CDC guidelines advise vaccination as soon as possible after diagnosis with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you are age 60 or older, 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 with lotion, but not between the toes. 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 promptly on its own.

Control your blood pressure and cholesterol.

Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly can go a long way toward controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol. Medication may be needed, too.

Take care of your teeth.

Diabetes may leave you prone to serious gum infections including gingivitis, which causes irritation, swelling, and bleeding; and periodontitis, which destroys the bone around your teeth, causing them to move or loosen. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. And if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, schedule regular dental exams. Consult your dentist right away if your gums bleed or look red or swollen.

If you smoke or use other types of tobacco, quit, or get help quitting.

Smoking increases your risk of diabetes complications. Smokers who have diabetes are more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than are nonsmokers who have diabetes. Talk to your doctor about ways to stop smoking or to stop using other types of tobacco.

Get help quitting smoking

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—one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger—and always with food. Remember to include the carbohydrates from any alcohol you drink in your daily carbohydrate count. And check your blood sugar levels before going to bed.

Take stress seriously.

Bodily hormones produced in response to prolonged stress may prevent insulin from working properly, which will raise your blood sugar and stress you even more. Set limits for yourself. Prioritize your tasks. Learn relaxation techniques. And get plenty of sleep.

Managing stress and diabetes
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