When we think about New Year’s resolutions, losing those extra pounds you have gained over the last year comes to mind. Starting the exercise program that you have managed to put off for the last ten months since you set your last set of New Year’s resolutions may be a personal goal.
However, if you have diabetes, New Year’s Resolution can take on a whole different meaning. It’s not just about a few extra pounds or a few trips to the gym. It’s about getting your A1C back to less than 7 percent, and getting your blood sugars into a target range that means you are living healthy with diabetes, and avoiding the long range complications.
It means keeping your doctor’s appointments, seeing needed specialists, and setting goals that aim to keep you in control of your diabetes over the coming year. When you have diabetes, it’s not just something that you do for the first few months of the year. It’s a lifelong effort to eat healthy, stay active, and follow healthcare advice.
If you get down to it, someone with diabetes should be working on their New Year’s resolutions all year long. Seeing that no one is perfect, it’s likely that people with diabetes have some resolutions to make to help get them back on track. What better time than the New Year to set some goals and get back on track?
Richard asked for tips for New Year’s resolutions for diabetes
When Richard contacted TheDiabetesCouncil, he asked for suggestions for the New Year, and getting his self-management game back on track. Like many of us, Richard had slipped up during the holidays, and he was having a hard time getting back on track. To help Richard and others, let’s take a look at some resolutions that are specific to diabetes, and how they may differ from the “average Joe’s” New Year’s Resolutions.
New Year’s resolutions for diabetes are different than the “average Joe’s” New Year’s resolutions
After all, let’s face it, if you have diabetes you have more to think about and take care of than the person without diabetes. When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, you are trying to self-manage your diabetes on a regular basis, not just for a few months after the New Year. You need to sustain the changes you make throughout the year.
Still, New Year’s is a great time to get started on the right foot, and make some changes in your regimen that will add up to big benefits in the year to come. People without diabetes may wonder if their efforts are making that big of a difference in their health and life span. Those with diabetes know that what they do directly affects not only their current health, but their ability to avoid long term complications of diabetes, and have quality of life in the years to come.
Setting SMART goals for the New Year
SMART goals are specific, measurable, specify a particular action, are realistic, and completed in a certain amount of time. They say what you will do to reach your goal, what time frame that you will accomplish it in, and how long you will spend doing it.
A SMART goal should be realistic, in that you should be able to accomplish it. If you set a goal for yourself to run 5 miles every morning before work, but you have never been a runner and have to be at work at 7 am, it would be unlikely that you would accomplish the goal. It would be unrealistic.
To set a realistic goal, think about what you could legitimately accomplish. If it seems more likely that you would walk 30-45 minutes, 3 to 4 days out of the week, then think about setting your goal with a more reasonable and flexible approach. By saying that you will walk 3 to 4 days, for 30-45 minutes, you build in some flexibility so that if the week doesn’t go as you planned it, if you only get in 3 days and 30 minutes, you have still met your goal.
Examples of SMART goals for diabetes
Some other examples of SMART goals for diabetes might be:
- I will check my blood sugars 2 times per day by 01/31/2017
- I will cut down and give up regular soda by 02/28/2017
- I will check my feet every day, and ask my wife to remind me to check my feet every day by 02/28/2017
- I will add 2 vegetable servings to my meals per day by 01/31/2017
Now that you know how to set your own SMART goals, you can start to set them for the coming New Year. But what kinds of goals should you set for the New Year? Let’s take a look at what might be some good, solid goals to get you moving into the year 2017 with flying colors.
What are the things you should be doing related to your diabetes in the New Year?
First of all, it may be helpful to review what it is that a person with diabetes should be doing to improve their health in the New Year. People with diabetes have certain things that they need to take care of on a yearly basis. If you haven’t been doing all of these things, this is a great place to start for your New Year’s Resolutions. Chances are, even if you are a pretty good self-manager, you still could have missed a few of these.
See your provider 2-4 times per year
If your A1C is less than 7, your provider may decide that you only need to see him or her 2 times per year. If your A1C is greater than 7 percent, you most likely need to be seeing your provider four times per year, or once every 3 months.
Talk with your provider, and ask how often you should be coming to have your A1C drawn. Your A1C is the best indicator of your average blood glucose, and your number speaks to the amount of control you have managed to rein in over your own diabetes. At your check-up, your provider should take a look at your feet, monitor your blood pressure and weight, and give you prescription diabetes medications, if needed.
Write down all of your medications for your provider
Make sure that at your visit, you give your provider a current list of all of your medications, including over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements. You could bring the list, or if you have too many, you can bring the bottles along for the nurse to go through and reconcile your medications.
The reason that you should tell your provider about any herbal supplements that you use is due to some of them may affect blood glucose, interact with other medications, or harm your liver. For example, cinnamon has a blood glucose lowering affect.
Ask your provider for your numbers
You may surprise your provider when you ask for your numbers. Ask them for your A1C, your blood pressure, cholesterol numbers, including low density lipoproteins (LDL’s), and triglycerides, and your microalbumin.
Ask them what your numbers mean, if there are any numbers that need to be improved, and work on goals and a plan to get your numbers where they need to be if they are not already there. Your provider may have some good suggestions for you, and if medication is needed, they can write you a prescription. They will likely be impressed that you are taking such an active role in your own healthcare.
In addition, commit to informing your provider about your health goals, and what you are trying to accomplish. If they understand that you are motivated to work on your diabetes, they will be more likely to offer referrals to other needed providers and self-management education classes. If you write down all of your questions before you visit your provider, you won’t forget to ask the questions that are most important to you. This way, you can get more out of your visit with your primary care provider.
Ask for referrals and get your needed vaccinations
When you see your primary care provider, ask for referrals to other needed sub-specialties. If you are having trouble with your diet, and can’t seem to get back on track after the holidays, ask to see a Registered Dietician and/or Certified Diabetes Educator. They can help you pin-point the problem, and get back on track with an eating plan for the New Year.
Make sure you get your needed vaccines while you are at it. You need an influenza vaccine every year, and people with diabetes may not know that they should also have a pneumonia vaccine. The immunization nurse at your local health department can tell you what shots you need, or you can ask the nurse at your doctor’s office.
The following is a list of some of the specialists that a person with diabetes should see in a given year, at least annually, if not more often:
A podiatrist is more commonly known as a “foot doctor.” They are able to perform your annual comprehensive foot exam. For this, they will ask you to close your eyes, and they will touch the bottom of your foot in different places with a 10 millimeter monofilament. A monofilament is a piece of plastic wire that is similar to a fishing line. It won’t hurt at all. It is used to test for sensation in the feet, due to people with diabetes can have neuropathy, and a loss of sensation in their feet. The podiatrist will also check your pulses, often with a Doppler machine. They will look for problems with your feet, including ingrown toenails, calluses, corns, or bunions. They will look for deformities such as Charcot’s foot. They can trim thickened toenails, remove calluses, and help to make sure your feet stay as healthy as possible.
- Ophthalmologist or optometrist
Every year, people with diabetes should have a vision examination. This is due to the increased incidence of vision problems and blindness for people with diabetes. It shouldn’t be just any vision examination. It should always be a dilated retinal exam (DRE). An ophthalmologist, or vision doctor, can perform this examination. You will have drops placed in your eyes to dilate the pupils, or the center part of your eye. This is so the doctor can look in the back of your eyes, specifically at the collection of blood vessels in the back of your eye.
An optometrist can also perform the examination. The doctor of ophthalmology may choose to take pictures of your retina, and the blood vessels leading to and from it. During your vision exam, you will need to make sure that your provider knows that you are a diabetic, so that you can get the appropriate evaluation.
If you are having trouble getting your diabetes under control, or you have read our article on How to Pick an Endocrinologist, you may want to get a referral to a local doctor with special training in the diseases of the endocrine system. This doctor will have special knowledge of diabetes, and he or she should know about all of the new medications coming on the market for diabetes. An endocrinologist may also have in-house certified diabetes educators. They can help you to set your SMART goals, and get back on track in the New Year.
You don’t have to get an endocrinologist, but they could become a very important part of your Diabetes Care Team. The choice to find one is up to you.
People with diabetes get more periodontal disease. Therefore, getting regular dental check-ups every six months in recommended. Make sure to tell your dentist that you have diabetes, and take care of your blood glucose before and during the appointment. It is a good idea to eat a meal or snack before you go, so that your blood glucose does not go too low during your cleaning.
Make a list, mark it on your calendar, and make a commitment to yourself
This New Year, make it a point to focus on resolutions that last a lifetime. Lifestyle changes, like getting a move on it, setting goals for your exercise, and marking it on your calendar will help you make a strong commitment to yourself. Find and surround yourself with the right people to help support you. Friends that are energetic and positive, and motivate you to find the energy within yourself from day to day are the best ones to have around.
You can find many of the right people to support you. Join a walking club, or a gym. Just get out there and move. Walking is great exercise, and you don’t need any special equipment, or an expensive gym membership to walk with a friend. While you are talking, the time will melt away.
Self-management New Year’s goals
So what can you do in the New Year related to the self-management of your diabetes besides seeing your doctor and specialists, setting goals, and working on nutrition and exercise? If you think about it and you are honest with yourself, there is probably something that sticks out in your mind as something that you know you are not quite doing as you should.
It could be self-monitoring of blood glucose. Maybe you haven’t checked your blood glucose twice per day like your doctor recommends. Possibly you are skipping a dose of medication, or even an insulin shot that was prescribed to you. If there is something that you know is not right or needs improvement with your self-management routine, discuss it with your provider or your certified diabetes educator.
Together, you can set a goal to make a change. The success of making a healthy change is enough within itself to hoist you toward a Happy New Year!!! Which brings me to this…
The New Year’s Eve party
This is one thing we should probably touch on. The bubbly will be flowing, and the carb-laden appetizers will be circulating through the room. So what do you do at the New Year’s Eve party? Do you have to stay home, or can you go enjoy the festivities?
Of course you should get out and enjoy the evening out on New Year’s Eve if you so choose. If you want to have some alcoholic drink, such as a glass of champagne at midnight, remember to check your blood glucose frequently, and drink alcohol with food to avoid a low blood glucose. Generally, you could substitute one carbohydrate serving for a glass of champagne. Keep it to one or two alcoholic drinks to be safe, and never drink and drive.
If you are worried about getting too many snacks and grazing too much, which can happen at parties where there are many appetizers, you could eat something before you go. Then just have one or two portions of an appetizer as a snack close to midnight to have with your champagne. At any rate, enjoy your New Year, and Happy New Year to you!!!
Over to you
If you have a New Year’s resolution for diabetes, please share it with us in the comments section below. Your goals in the New Year are important, and we wish you great success in achieving them this coming year.