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Five things you should know about diabetes

Living with diabetes can be a mind game. What should I eat? What are my blood sugar levels? Yet, besides the day-to-day issues, major questions constantly hover in the background. Will I develop complications? What do I do when I feel guilty or hopeless? Here are five tips from Riva Greenberg--a national speaker and author of two books about the disease, who has lived with type 1 diabetes for 39 years--that can keep diabetes from psyching you out and winning the mind game.

Living with diabetes: 5 tips for a healthier, happier you

1. Hope is a powerful tool

"If you take good care of your diabetes, you reduce the risk significantly of complications," says Greenberg. "Worry is a useless emotion. Instead, take care of your diabetes and be hopeful. Hope can inspire you to take positive action and it feels a lot better than worry," she notes.

2. Healthier habits are possible

Living with diabetes means eating correctly, exercising and taking care of yourself. Choosing wheat bread instead of white or carrot sticks instead of cheese curls can be challenging.

"Making changes is hard, but it's easier when you're moving in the direction of something you want rather than making efforts to avoid what you don't want," says Greenberg. "Think about how much better you'll feel or look after making healthier food choices, rather than thinking, 'I have diabetes, so I can never eat a doughnut again.'"

3. Building a support team is beneficial

There are many ways to connect with other people with diabetes, both online and off. "Diabetes is particularly hard to do by yourself, and there's no doubt we all do better with support," Greenberg points out. "Having others in my life with diabetes, who understand the unique challenges and are there to lend an ear or a few units of insulin when I need it--it's made my life so rich."

Greenberg also stresses you should be clear with your family and friends about what you need from them to help you best manage your diabetes.

4. Learning how to handle emotions is vital

While living with diabetes, it is common to feel guilt ("Why did I eat that?"), sadness ("When will I ever feel good again?"), or depression ("I'll never have great blood glucose control so why bother?").

"Most patients feel their doctors are only concerned about their numbers such as blood sugar, cholesterol or blood pressure levels, and are almost ignorant that the emotions of managing diabetes is a huge part of our well-being," Greenberg notes. Seek a mental health professional if you feel this way often, and look for books, such as Greenberg's, The ABCs of Loving Yourself With Diabetes, to learn how to handle such feelings on your own.

5. Knowledge is power

Health care professionals learn more about treating diabetes with each passing year. "There are so many advances in technology and medicine that will help you better manage diabetes and live a longer, healthier life," Greenberg says, who saw her first certified diabetes educator after living with diabetes for 32 years. After learning more about different insulin regimens, downloadable blood glucose meters and continuous glucose monitors, Greenberg has been able to better spot patterns and fine-tune her diabetes control.

You owe it to yourself to learn all you can about the latest tools that can help you manage your diabetes. "You're cheating yourself if you don't know about them," Greenberg stresses.

"Knowledge is powerful medicine."

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