Control diabetes by knowing your ABCs


Control diabetes by knowing your ABCs

If only receiving a diagnosis of diabetes was as easy as learning the ABCs.  Actually, it can be.  Anyone with diabetes needs to be aware of three key steps – the ABCs of diabetes control – helping them better manage their disease to lower their risk of serious complications of this condition. 

Having diabetes is not easy.  When first diagnosed, a person is bombarded with the news not knowing exactly how this will change their life. Then when learning about the possibility of health complications they may face, it 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 lives. In order to avoid the many complications they are at risk for, it depends a great deal on how the individual takes care of themselves.  This can put a lot of pressure on someone with diabetes making them feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of self-care. 

Prevention is key

Effectively dealing with diabetes may seem impossible in trying to control different aspects of health and well-being.  Even though 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 old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” certainly applies to diabetes. Taking care of all aspects of diabetes may not seem to make a difference at first but when a person does so it all works together to help prevent future complications.

The best way to prevent complications of diabetes is with prevention.  This is where the ABC’s of diabetes control can guard against the complications of heart disease, eye disease, kidney disease, nerve disease and amputations.

When a person with diabetes pays close attention to certain health factors, they play a major role in reducing their risk of other chronic conditions.    These factors are referred to as the “ABCs of diabetes control.”

ABC goals for diabetes

A - Hemoglobin A1C (HbA1C) blood sugar test

·      This test shows what a person’s blood glucose has been over the last 3 months

·      It can tell if blood glucose level is under control

·      Controlling blood glucose will help prevent complications

·      Get this test at least twice a year

·      HbA1C should be less than 7 %


B - Blood pressure


·      Blood pressure should be less than 130/80 mm Hg

·      The higher the 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.

The better a person can control their blood pressure by keeping it 130/80 or less, this reduces the risk of kidney disease, heart attack and stroke.

The better a person can control their cholesterol numbers, this reduces the risk of cardiovascular and stroke. 

The hemoglobin A1C is best monitored daily with a home blood glucose monitor.  This allows someone with diabetes to keep tabs on their glucose levels making the necessary adjustments by following a carbohydrate controlled meal plan, exercise, or medications.

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), exercise and not smoking are important self-care habits to help control blood pressure. 

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.