Do Your Diabetes Homework

Learn the best ways to keep complications from turning into major concerns

In school, you probably dreaded homework. But what if your well-being—even your life—had depended on it? Perhaps you would've rushed home from the bus to get started rather than dragging your feet by watching TV, playing outside or (gasp!) cleaning your room.

Doing your diabetes homework can, in fact, affect your health and quality of life. Think of daily glucose monitoring as part of your course load; it's mandatory if you want a healthy grade, but there's still some homework to be done. And a big part of this homework is managing your ABCs: "A" relates to your A1c levels (average glucose over the past two to three months), "B" refers to your blood pressure, and "C" to cholesterol levels.

To help you ace your diabetes management, we're assigning some worthwhile homework—making note of things you should be doing daily beyond managing your blood glucose levels—to help keep diabetes complications from becoming major health problems.

Assignment: Show your feet some love.

Foot problems such as calluses are more common and develop more quickly in people who have type 2 diabetes. With daily foot care, you can keep calluses from building. Most experts recommend using a pumice stone right after showering and a good moisturizer to keep your feet soft, as well as keeping your toenails neatly clipped straight across to help prevent them from becoming ingrown.

Assignment: Keep your skin moisturized.

Dry skin is another unwanted side effect of high blood sugar. Resist the urge to scratch, which can cause sores and lead to infection. Apply a moisturizer to your skin while it's still damp from your shower or bath to help seal in moisture.

Assignment: Get to or stay at a healthy weight.

There is a connection between type 2 diabetes, heart disease and being overweight or obese. Dropping just a few pounds goes a long way to managing your ABCs. It lowers cholesterol, glucose and blood pressure in one fell swoop.

Assignment: Defend against the flu.

Individuals who have diabetes are at greater risk for flu complications, including hospitalization and death. The flu shot is an annual preventive measure and a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation. The CDC also recommends a pneumonia vaccine for people who have diabetes.

Assignment: Take your glucose medicine.

There are many different kinds of medications, designed to address the various reasons why blood glucose is out of control and insulin resistance is up, to get your glucose under control and keep it there. Experts recommend that you begin taking a blood-glucose-lowering medication that targets insulin resistance as soon as you're diagnosed.