Buy a tablet organiser.
Many people who have diabetes take eight to twelve different medications, vitamins and other supplements a day. Keeping track of that many pills is difficult, as is remembering which ones you have already taken, and what still needs to be swallowed. Pick up a tablet organiser that has flip-top compartments to contain all your tablets for each day of the week. You’ll fill it up once a week and then be able to tell at a glance what you have and haven’t taken. Your pharmacist will be able to advise you on the different types available.
Buy several bottles or packs of glucose.
You’ll find small and large bottles of glucose drinks and several varieties of glucose tablets on the pharmacy shelves. These products are made of glucose for treating low blood glucose. If you are on medication that can cause low blood-glucose episodes (insulin and some types of diabetes tablets), it’s a good idea to have several bottles or packets – one for the car, your desk at work, at home, and one packed in your suitcase when travelling. Throw a few tablets into a zip-lock bag to carry in your handbag or pocket when you are going out for an evening, a family picnic or other outdoor event.
Consider a home blood pressure monitor.
If you struggle with high blood pressure, tracking your levels at home can help you to keep track of your levels between clinic appointments and maybe even to lower those levels. Home tests may even provide truer results than a test at a clinic if you’re one of those people who gets nervous in a consultation room. It’s easiest to use a fully automatic monitor and best to choose one with a cuff that measures your blood pressure at your upper arm, rather than at your wrist or finger, as these usually give the most accurate readings. As the accuracy of home monitors can vary widely, the Heart Foundation recommends choosing brand names that are familiar to you and your doctor. Ask the pharmacist to tell you the cuff size you need for your arm as your readings will be wrong if the cuff size is incorrect.
Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and make sure you can read the numbers on the monitor. It is recommended that you calibrate it against your doctor’s mercury sphygmomanometer every six months.
Dispose of your syringes and sharps responsibly.
Used syringes, pen needles and lancets must be disposed of in a safety standards approved sharps container which is puncture-proof and has a secure lid. These are stocked by most pharmacies, so, if you are not already using an approved sharps container, talk to your health professional for advice about the recommended brand and pick one up next time you visit your pharmacy. It is then important to dispose of your filled sharps container in the appropriate way. As procedures vary from state to state and country to country, check with your State Department of Health or local council for information and advice.
Pick up a tape measure.
It’s one of the easiest ways to keep tabs on your heart health and to keep diabetes complications under control. Research shows that a waistline bigger than 88cm for women and 102cm for men increases your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Measure your ankles, too; if they are swollen it’s a sign that you are retaining water, and your doctor should be notified. Water retention is a side effect of some diabetes drugs.
Keep feet happy with seam-free socks.
Your pharmacy may stock socks for people with nerve damage or loss of sensation in their feet. These socks fit comfortably, but not too tightly, and they don’t have any seams that could cause sore spots or blisters. People with loss of sensation in their feet may not notice chafing from ordinary socks, and chafing could lead to blisters and infection.
Pamper your feet and reap the benefits.
Being kind to your feet will help to avoid problems related to symptoms of diabetes. Wash them every day using warm water and soap, dry them carefully, especially between your toes, then rub in a moisturising cream especially formulated for the feet. Ask your diabetes educator or pharmacist about an appropriate mild soap and a foot cream. Ask also about a pair of nail scissors that will help you to cut your toenails straight across and a file to smooth any sharp edges.
Buy – and use – a good body moisturiser.
High blood glucose can contribute to dry skin, which in turn can lead to cracks that can lead to infection – and then you’re in trouble. So make a commitment to use a body moisturiser ever day. While you might see special moisturisers labelled for people with diabetes, don’t feel limited to these, which often cost more. Any moisturiser that’s thick enough to stay put and that doesn’t irritate your skin will do.
Don’t use deodorant soaps.
These tend to be drying and irritating to the skin, making it more likely to crack and become vulnerable to infection. It is better to choose moisturising soaps and wash lotions instead.
Take steps to improve your health.
It is recommended we take 10,000-15,000 steps each day. Although this may seem a lot, you may be surprised when you learn just how many steps you already take as part of your regular daily physical activity and busy lifestyle. Most pharmacies stock a range of pedometers, which count the number of steps you take as well as adjust step sensitivity for more precise step counts. Once you know how many steps you actually take, you may be motivated to improve your daily tally and so gradually increase your level of physical activity.
Buy the most protective sunscreen.
Certain diabetes drugs and blood-pressure drugs make the skin more sensitive to the sun, so it’s especially important that you protect yourself. A bad sunburn can even raise your blood glucose and may take longer to heal than for someone without diabetes. Choose a sunscreen that has at least an SPF of 30 and look for a ‘broad-spectrum’ brand that protects against both UVA and UVB light. Use plenty of sunscreen on all areas of exposed skin and apply it at least half an hour before heading out into the sun to give your skin a chance to absorb it. Reapply every 2 hours.
Throw out old sunscreen.
If you’ve had a bottle that’s been lying around for several years or has been living in the glove box of a hot car, buy a new bottle – the old one has undoubtedly lost strength and will no longer be effective.
Stock up on dental-care items.
Because people with diabetes are more susceptible to gum disease, good oral hygiene is essential. Make sure you have plenty of floss and check with your dentist for the best type to use – especially if you have bridges. You can also buy small disposable brushes that help you to clean between your teeth. Fluoride toothpaste will help to protect your teeth and your dentist may also recommend an anti-bacterial oral mouthwash.
Replace your toothbrush every three months.
If the bristles are frayed or bent outwards, replace more frequently. Otherwise, your brush won’t get your teeth clean, and you’ll be transferring a lot of bacteria to your mouth. Look for a brush with soft bristles so you don’t bruise your gums, and while you’re in the toothbrush aisle, pick up some floss, too – then use it.
Consider buying an electric toothbrush.
Studies show that they remove plaque better than manual toothbrushes and some models now have a built-in 2-minute timer.