Diabetes Self Care, Your Guide to Diabetes Self Management

diabetes self care

Importance of diabetes self care

Diabetes mellitus is a condition that occurs when there are high levels of blood glucose in the body which occurs over a prolonged period of time. Blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is your body’s main source of energy and comes from the food that you eat.  Your body digests the food you consume and converts it into sugar or glucose which circulates in the bloodstream. With the prevalence of diabetes rising in North America and the severity of its symptoms, it is important to engage in diabetes self care. Using a health app for this can greatly assist patients who are looking to maintain healthy habits and adhere to their prescribed treatment plans. 

Role of insulin in diabetes

Insulin is a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels and the organ that produces insulin is called the pancreas. Located just behind the stomach in the abdomen, the pancreas also produces digestive enzymes that aid the breakdown of food. Within the pancreas, there are structures known as Islet of Langerhans that hold beta cells, and these cells are responsible for the production of insulin. 

When you consume food, your body breaks it down into different components for absorption. These include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and other nutrients. Carbohydrates have the greatest impact on your blood glucose levels. 

Insulin helps the body use carbohydrates in food for energy, digest and transport glucose from the blood into the body’s cells. Glucose is a crucial source of energy for the cells that make up your muscles and tissues. 

Hyperglycaemia

The carbohydrates you consume are converted into sugars that are absorbed into your bloodstream to be delivered to your cells. Your blood sugar levels rise in correlation to the amount of carbohydrates you consume. The more carbohydrates you eat, the higher the levels of sugar produced in your blood as you digest your food.

diabetes self management

Diabetes is characterized by high blood sugar, resulting from insufficient insulin production or function. If the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin or does not make use of it, it can lead to a buildup of glucose in the bloodstream, a condition known as hyperglycaemia. Some symptoms of hyperglycaemia include thirst, nausea and shortness of breath. If left untreated, it can lead to serious damage to the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys and nerves. 

Symptoms of hyperglycaemia can become severe, therefore it is important to engage in diabetes self care and consistently monitor your health.

Signs and symptoms of hyperglycaemia

  • Sudden weight loss
  • Increased urination (polyuria)
  • Increased thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Blurred vision
  • Slow healing wounds or cuts
  • Vision changes
  • Dry skin
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Fatigue

Types of diabetes

There are three major types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 (Juvenile-Onset Diabetes)
  • Type 2 (Adult-Onset Diabetes) 
  • Gestational Diabetes

Type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes, previously known as insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (IDDM) occurs when the body is unable to produce insulin. It is an auto-immune disease, which means that the body is attacking its own immune system. This directly affects the insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Therefore, without the beta cells producing insulin in the pancreas, glucose is unable to enter the cells, causing your blood glucose levels to rise.

Type 1 diabetes makes up 5% to 10% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. The cause of type 1 diabetes is unknown, however scientists believe the causes include a combination of both genetic and environmental factors. Physical symptoms of type 1 diabetes include increased hunger and thirst, increased urination, fatigue and weight loss. Onset can occur suddenly, affecting anyone at any age although it is more common in children and young adults. 

diabetes self management type 1

Treatment for type 1 diabetes

Type 1 diabetes is not currently preventable, as it is an auto-immune disorder. Individuals with type 1 diabetes are insulin-dependent. Therefore for treatment, an individual with type 1 diabetes will need to intake artificial insulin daily. Different types of insulin work at different speeds and last different lengths of time. The individual can take insulin through a number of ways, such as with a needle and syringe, insulin pen or pump. Along with insulin and other medications, individuals can manage their diabetes by staying physically active, checking their blood glucose levels and following a diabetes meal plan. 

Type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes, also known as non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) or adult onset diabetes, is the most common type of diabetes. In this subtype, your pancreas is still functioning normally to produce insulin, sometimes even at higher than normal capacity. However, the body develops resistance to the effects of insulin, and thus there is not enough insulin to meet the body’s needs. There is excess glucose in the blood, thus increasing your blood glucose levels.  It accounts for 90% to 95% of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. 

diabetes self management type2

Diabetes type 1 vs type 2

Unlike Type 1, Type 2 diabetes is preventable. Type 2 diabetes is caused by a combination of environmental, genetic, and lifestyle factors. Individuals can develop Type 2 diabetes at any age. However, it is more common in middle to older aged people. 

Risk factors for Type 2 diabetes include obesity (high body mass index), lack of physical activity, older age, family history of diabetes or gestational diabetes, stress and race/ethnicity. Studies show that African Americans, Latino Americans and American Indians are at particularly high risk for type 2 diabetes. Dietary factors also affect the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Over-consumption of foods high in sugar and saturated fats, can lead to a higher risk for developing diabetes. Foods high in carbohydrates include white rice, pasta, white bread, etc. Smoking can also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes. 

Cost of type 2 diabetes

In 2015, there were approximately 30.3 million Americans diagnosed with diabetes and a further 7.3 million Americans left undiagnosed. The continued prevalence of diabetes is increasing as Americans live longer, suffer from higher rates of obesity and more. 

Not only does diabetes cause substantial harm and burden on the patients who have to live with the condition, but it also causes immense strain and burden on society in an economic sense. Medication and different forms of therapy can decrease costs through improving a patient’s glycemic control and preventing worsening  of outcomes. However, this does not come without a hefty price tag. 

The cost of treating diabetes increased in 2007 from $174 billion per year to around $245 billion per year in 2012. This increase has been attributed to more cases of diagnosed diabetes and the rising costs of diabetes care. When this figure was broken down, it was identified that $176 billion of the $245 billion were costs directly related to medical treatment. Another $69 billion can be linked directly to reduced productivity (R)

Medication costs can be upwards of 2.3 times higher for patients who have been diagnosed with diabetes compared to those without diabetes. Indirect costs for patients with diabetes include more absenteeism at work, reduced productivity, diabetes-related disability, lack of productive capability and higher mortality rates. 

Diabetes is a continued and substantial burden on society as a whole and it’s important that both healthcare providers and health systems focus on ways to make care more affordable. It is essential that we find better and sustainable ways for preventing, monitoring and living with diabetes.

Treatment for type 2 diabetes

Unlike Type 1, Type 2 is largely preventable through staying physically active, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy diet. Carbohydrates have the greatest impact on your blood glucose levels. Managing your daily intake and portion control is essential, and adding and mixing meals can aid the digestion of carbohydrates. Proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals do not contain carbohydrates, and thus can reduce spikes in your blood glucose levels, particularly after meals. 

  • A diet high in nutritious foods, including whole grains, fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy
  • Avoiding high sugar foods or overly processed foods 
  • Refraining from drinking excessive amounts of alcohol 
  • Engaging in at least 30 minutes of exercise daily
  • Keeping tracks of physical signs of low blood sugar

Gestational diabetes

Gestational diabetes is a form of diabetes that is similar to Type 2 diabetes, however it can only occur in women during pregnancy. When women are pregnant, their bodies are more vulnerable and become less sensitive to insulin. Gestational diabetes usually has no symptoms, and if they show they are quite mild. Examples include being thirstier than normal or having to urinate more frequently. Becoming less sensitive to insulin is sometimes related to the hormonal changes that women go through during pregnancy. Genetics and environmental factors also play a role. Monitoring your nutrition can become very important, thus a gestational diabetes food tracker may be useful. 

Your doctor will evaluate the risk factors for gestational diabetes early on in the pregnancy. If your doctor believes that you are at an average risk for developing gestational diabetes, they will provide you with a screening test for gestational diabetes typically between the 24th or 28th week of pregnancy. If your doctor believes that you have a high risk for developing gestational diabetes, for example if you have family history of diabetes, they will test you earlier on in the pregnancy. The tests include the glucose challenge test and the oral glucose tolerance test. The glucose challenge test is usually the first test done. If the results indicate you are at risk for diabetes, you must return for the oral glucose tolerance test. 

Treatment for gestational diabetes

Treatment for gestational diabetes can include following a healthy eating plan and staying physically active, taking vitamins and taking extra care of yourself. Gestational diabetes does not occur in all women, and usually is resolved after giving birth. Working with your primary care physician to ensure that your blood sugar levels remain in the normal range with special meal plans and physical activity will help you maintain a healthy pregnancy. If the physical activity and meal plans are not able to keep your blood sugar level at your target, you may need to add daily blood sugar testing and insulin injections to your treatment plan. 

Tests for diabetes

Glycated hemoglobin test (A1C)

This type of blood test measures the percentage of blood sugar attached to hemoglobin, the oxygen carrying protein in the body’s red blood cells. It provides a measure for your body’s average blood sugar level for the past couple weeks to months. The higher your blood sugar levels are, the more hemoglobin that will be attached with the sugar. An A1C level of 6.5% or higher is an indicator that you could have diabetes. An A1C level between 5.7% to 6.4% indicates pre-diabetes, and a figure below 5.7% is normal. 

Random blood sugar test

In this test, your healthcare professional takes a blood sample. A blood sugar level of 200mg/dL or higher suggests diabetes. 

Fasting blood sugar test

In this test, your healthcare professional takes a blood sample after an overnight fast. A fasting blood sugar level less than 100mg/dL falls within the “normal” range. A measured level between 100 to 125mg/dL is falls under the pre-diabetes category. A fasting blood sugar level of 126mg/dL or higher strongly indicates diabetes. 

Oral glucose tolerance test

During this test, the individual must fast overnight and their doctor measures their fasting blood sugar level. Patients drink a sugary liquid and their doctor measures their blood sugar level over the next two hours. A blood sugar level that falls within 140mg/dL or lower is considered normal. A level of 140 to 199mg/dL indicates pre-diabetes. Blood sugar levels of 200mg/dL or more after two hours strongly indicates diabetes. 

Glucose challenge test (gestational diabetes)

This test is also known as the glucose screening test. For this test, a healthcare professional will be drawing your blood after drinking a sugary liquid containing glucose. If the results indicate that you are pre-diabetic or if your figures range from 135mg/dL to 140mg/dL or higher, you must return for an oral glucose tolerance test while fasting. 

Using technology (Apps) for diabetes self management

Prioritizing and tracking your health has never been more important. Apps can play a role in tracking and managing diabetes especially with the incidence of diabetes continuously rising. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with underlying conditions like diabetes are at a higher risk of suffering from COVID-19. Research has revealed that using an app for diabetes can improve your health. Research published in March 2018 in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism revealed that after using Type-2 diabetes geared apps, patients experienced a drop in their Hemoglobin A1C (R). 

An analysis of 14 randomly selected diabetes app control tests published by Obesity in January 2020 also revealed that diabetes apps actually help patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes with weight reduction, waist circumference reduction and improved engagement from patients. 

Apps tracking diabetes are very helpful because they can help patients suffering from Type 2 diabetes in predicting their A1C. This way, patients can make changes in order to improve treatment outcomes. It has been recommended by experts that newly diagnosed patients should stick to apps that are simple to use and are easy to pick-up. 

Getting started with Diabetes self-care

There are a wealth of different health apps on the market catered directly for patients suffering from diabetes. However, it’s important to consider one’s overall comfort level with integrating technology into their daily life. Users may wish to approach an app that is simpler to pick up and navigate in the beginning. There may be other users who hope to use a more comprehensive app with data reports generated from daily input. This is often because users hope to view their health progress and changes in their symptoms over time.

There are some diabetes apps which sync information from glucose monitors and insulin pumps directly to your mobile phone. This integration between two devices can be very useful.

CareClinic, tool for diabetes self carediabetes self management tracker

CareClinic is one of the top-ranked health and wellness apps available on the market. The app allows for users to take into account the various risk factors for Type 2 Diabetes, including the importance of avoiding over consumption of foods high in sugars, saturated fats and carbohydrates. It is an excellent diabetes food tracker app, and more specifically, a great gestational diabetes food tracker.

The platform has a number of reasons for being a go-to app for diabetes patients who are looking to continuously monitor their health. It allows the creation of care plans. You can add different drugs, medications, vitamins and fitness and nutrition plans in order to manage treatment and pill intake. CareClinic is the best pill tracker app and interaction tracker, allowing you to manage complex medication regimens. You can schedule your medication and set up reminders, engage in pill tracking and generate reports outlining your treatment progress. The app also offers the Health Diary for tracking your mood, blood pressure, hours of sleep, pain logs and etc. Keeping a diary of your health is essential for diabetes self care. 

Most importantly, Apple Health can directly sync with the app, thus all of your health information and data can be fully integrated on the platform. The app also provides a complete Health Planner in order to track food and drink, mood-tracking, pain-tracking, allergy, stool, urine, symptoms. 

 

 

Check out our 2 minute video about diabetes management and how CareClinic can help with this!

Tracker for diabetes self care

All of these features rank CareClinic as one of the top free to use diabetes management apps available for iOS, Android and on the Web. As the best pill tracker app and synergy and interaction tracker, doctors and pharmacists highly recommend CareClinic and its ability to successfully integrate information from various platforms.

The premium upgrade for a mere $9.99 monthly allows for further access to communities, custom care-plans, custom diet plans, custom workouts, access to advanced reminders and more. You are able to contact your healthcare professional or caregiver at any time and place through the app, as well as share your progress reports with them. CareClinic makes diabetes self care easy and convenient, as it can act as your all in one health management tool.  

Download CareClinic Pill & Symptom Tracker App
Alexandra V.