Diabetes treatment plan: A step-by-step guide

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Diabetes affected  34.2 million Americans in 2018, according to the American Diabetes Association. While 210,000 Americans under 20 are estimated to have diabetes, the nonprofit reports there are 14.3 million Americans age 65 or older who have diagnosed and undiagnosed diabetes. Those numbers mean many people may need to begin a treatment plan for the disease, or reexamine an existing one.

CNN has compiled an eight-step guide from experts so you can begin the journey toward improved health. Read below for the tips.

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Educate yourself

Diabetes classes are available online and — when the time is right — locally. Some can be found through the Georgia Department of Health. CNN reported instructors can provide tips on healthy eating and exercise as well as how to monitor your blood sugar.

Round up a “dream team”

In addition to yourself and your primary care physician, you can include specialists such as an endocrinologist, a nutritionist, an eye doctor and a certified diabetes educator in your team of people from whom you can seek treatment. According to CNN, it’s also important to have updated contact information for each professional, even if you don’t necessarily see them regularly.

"Whether it's the dietitian, the primary-care physician, or the endocrinologist, we're all here to help patients achieve good care," Eileen Sturner, manager of diabetes and outpatient nutrition at Abington Jefferson Health in Pennsylvania, told Everyday Health. "So even if from the patient's perspective they are not achieving what they want to achieve, going to appointments are an opportunity to brainstorm with the practitioner on how to tweak their plan so they feel better each day."

Get familiar with your numbers

It’s important to know where your blood sugar, or glucose, numbers are compared to where they should be, CNN reported.

The American Diabetes Association suggests that for nonpregnant individuals your blood sugar before a meal be 80–130 mg/dl. It's recommended that between 1-2 hours after the beginning of a meal, levels are less than 180 mg/dl.

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Lose weight

If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight can improve blood sugar and general health, according to CNN. Being overweight or obese is a risk factor for not only diabetes but heart disease and stroke. Go at a slow pace and discuss a long-term weight loss plan with a nutritionist.

"A good diet — that is, a healthy lifestyle — causes weight loss and will improve blood sugar control, lower blood pressure and lower blood cholesterol," Dr. John Crouse told Heart.org. "So remember, it's not about diet — it's about behavior change."

Make your plate colorful

Ensuring that you have a variety of colorful foods on your plate in the form of vegetables can aid in weight loss, according to CNN. Exchange starchy vegetables such as potatoes for non-starchy ones in the form of  cucumbers, leafy greens like romaine, carrots, mushrooms and broccoli — and make them cover half your plate. Starchy foods or whole grains like rice or beans can fill one-quarter of the plate while the other quarter can go toward protein the form or fish or tofu.

Get moving

CNN reported exercise can be helpful and it doesn't have to be a high-intensity one to result in lower glucose levels and improved heart health. It's a good idea to consult your doctor before beginning an exercise regimen and when you do, you can use a device such as a FitBit to track your progress. Studies have also shown being active can lower your risk of diabetes altogether.

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Have regular check-ups

Even though you may have been managing your diabetes for years, things can change. Because of that, CNN reported it’s important to check in with your doctor regularly. Your physician can manage your medication at that time or see whether or not you need it.

Anticipate what could occur

Unexpected things can happen, so it’s good to stay on your toes. CNN reports it’s good to take stock of the situation if you have a bad day. For example, if you’re feeling stressed, seek ways you can relieve it.

"Pay attention to your body's cues of heightened stress and practice relaxation techniques," psychiatric nurse practitioner Connie Yip told TheDiabetesCouncil.com. "When anxious or stressed, we tend to take shallower breaths and have tightened muscles in our neck, shoulders, or other places in our bodies. Take advantage of available apps, some free to download, and practice calming your body, which can help regulate your blood sugar!"

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