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The ABCs of managing diabetes

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Jul 26, 2019

If only receiving a diabetes diagnosis was as easy as learning the ABCs.  Actually, it can be.  Anyone with diabetes should know three key steps – the ABCs of diabetes control – to better manage their disease lowering their risk of serious complications.

Having diabetes is not easy.  When first diagnosed, individuals may feel overwhelmed questioning how this will change their life. Learning about the possibility of health complications they may face, only adds to their feeling of being immersed into a world of unknowns.

Diabetes is a chronic disease raising a person’s risk for other chronic diseases affecting their wellbeing. To avoid the complications of diabetes, individual with this disease will need to make lifestyle changes. That’s because the responsibility of personal self-care is a major player in managing diabetes.

Prevention is key

Effectively dealing with diabetes may seem impossible at times when trying to control different aspects of this disease.  While it may feel like a juggling act at times, it is very important for those with diabetes to gain control of their situation and their health.

The best way to prevent complications of diabetes is with prevention.  That’s why the saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies to diabetes. Those who wisely practice preventative steps will be more successful at preventing future complications.

This is where the ABC’s of diabetes control are important for guarding against the complications diabetes may bring – heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease, nerve damage and amputations.

ABC goals for diabetes

When a person with diabetes knows and pays close attention to their “ABCs of diabetes control,” they will be ahead of the game in reducing their risk of chronic conditions and living a much healthier life.   This is why knowing your “ABCs” is important:

AHemoglobin A1C

  • This test is conducted at a doctor’s office and measures a person’s average blood sugar levels over the past 3 months
  • It can tell if blood glucose levels are under control or not
  • Controlling blood glucose will help prevent complications
  • Get this test at least twice a year or as often as your doctor recommends
  • HbA1C should be less than 7 % but this will also depend on a person’s age and other medical conditions. Patients should work with their doctor to set individual A1C goals.

BBlood pressure 

  • Blood pressure should be less than 130/80 mm Hg
  • The higher blood pressure is, the harder the heart has to work
  • Blood pressure should be measured at every doctor’s visit

C Cholesterol

  • Maintain a normal cholesterol level under 200 mg/dl
  • HDL (good ) cholesterol should be 40 mg/dl or higher for men and 50 mg/dl or higher for women
  • Triglyceride should be 150 mg/dl or lower
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol should be below 100 mg/dl.
  • Have cholesterol tested once a year

Unfortunately, many of those with diabetes either do not know their “ABCs” or do not have them under control.  Here are the statistics on this:

  • 55% have an HbA1c equal or greater than 7%
  • 29% have blood pressure equal or greater than 140/90 mm Hg
  • 58% have elevated cholesterol numbers

Managing diabetes with the ABCs

The better a person can control their HbA1c by keeping it 7% or less, this reduces the risk of neuropathy or nerve damage, eye problems, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and kidney disease. When blood pressure is 130/80 or less, this reduces the risk of kidney disease, heart attack and stroke. Keeping cholesterol numbers within a healthy range can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Here are the steps to manage diabetes with the ABCs:

A – While the hemoglobin A1C test is a test done at the doctor’s office, anyone with diabetes can monitor their blood glucose daily or several times a week at home with a blood glucose monitor.  This allows someone with diabetes to keep tabs on their glucose levels in between doctor’s visits making the necessary adjustments by following a carbohydrate controlled meal plan, exercise, or medications.

B – Blood pressure can either be monitored with visits to the doctor’s office or by using a home blood pressure kit.  Following a low-sodium diet like the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), losing weight if needed, exercise and not smoking are important self-care habits to help control blood pressure.

C – Cholesterol and triglycerides levels are monitored through a doctor’s office and can be controlled with diet, exercise and medication.  Choose heart-healthy foods and reduce sugar consumption and foods high in saturated and trans fats.

Use a team approach

Being successful at controlling diabetes is a team effort from the person with the disease to a multidisciplinary team made up of a doctor, nurse, dietitian, and pharmacist.  All play their specific roles in guiding and teaching patients with diabetes how to manage their disease to the best of their ability.  Working with a certified diabetes educator (CDE) can make a huge difference in working with a patient on their eating, exercise and medication management.  The more support an individual with diabetes has, the better they can beat the odds avoiding serious complications and instead enjoy a long, healthy life.

For more information on diabetes and healthy recipes to enjoy, visit

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in Dietetics and Nutrition from the University of Kansas and a bachelor’s degree in Dietetics and Institutional Management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

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