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5 Must-Do Actions When Living with Neuropathy

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How to Prevent Diabetic Neuropathy Damage
By Ginger Vieira

Diabetic neuropathy is a condition that develops in people with diabetes, usually in combination with higher blood sugars, in which the nerves in your feet, toes, finger, eyes and other organs become damaged. The most common symptoms are burning, sharp shooting pain, freezing, numbness and tingling in the feet and hands.

While living with neuropathy can be hard, the good news is, after you’re diagnosed, there are several things you can do to protect your feet from further damage, and also to prevent your neuropathy from progressing.

Check your feet—every night. This is no joke, because even a small cut or scrape or splinter in the foot could lead to an infection. If that infection isn’t noticed soon enough, it can lead to bigger problems, such as amputation. So, sitting down to actually inspect and check for any cuts in your feet is crucial also because you might not actually feel those cuts because of the numbness and tingling. If you need to, ask a loved-one to help you get a closer look at the bottoms of your feet and between your toes!

Get the right socks and shoes. You’ve probably seen those “diabetic socks” in magazines and figured they were just another sales gimmick. But many are actually made with a variety of material that lessen the amount of dampness and sweating your foot will experience over the course of a day, promoting a healthy environment for vulnerable feet. Getting the right shoes is important for the sake of preventing any blisters or rubbing. If your shoes are too tight or uncomfortable, it’s worth your while to have someone at a shoe store fit your feet for the best sneaker!

Quit smoking. After being diagnosed with neuropathy, you have a big opportunity to change a few things in your life to truly prevent that neuropathy from progressing — and quitting smoking is one of those things. Because smoking narrows your arteries, limiting and reducing blood flow, it can further limit the amount of blood that flows to those vulnerable areas such as your feet and fingers. Quitting smoking can also help reduce some of the more painful symptoms.

Check your blood sugar more often. While neuropathy can develop in people without diabetes, it is most common associated with diabetics who have higher blood sugars over extended periods of time. Checking your blood sugar more often, especially after meals, is a great way to get your numbers down and reduce the chances of your neuropathy progressing. Improved blood sugars can also help reduce the more painful symptoms.

Reduce your A1C. Last but not least, and directly connected to No. 4 above, reducing your A1C, which is an overall impression of your blood sugars from the previous three months, is a crucial part of reducing symptoms and preventing progression. Aiming for an A1C under eight percent is a great start. Next, aiming for under seven precent will help prevent other diabetes-related complications. Talk to your diabetes team about making adjustments in your medications and nutrition to help you achieve your goals!

Savvy Food Strategies for Diabetics

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When you have diabetes, you know the choices you make each day will affect how you feel. They also play a significant role in whether you come down with common complications, like eye damage and heart disease. But figuring out the right lifestyle changes to make can be confusing.

Follow these dietary do’s and don’ts. Eating right is a key part of promoting healthy blood sugar levels. But adjusting your habits doesn’t have to be hard. Use these simple tips to stay on track.

Do: Eat plenty of vegetables and legumes (beans, peanuts, peas). Eat lean protein, such as fish, poultry or tofu. Eat healthful fats, which are found in coldwater fish, raw nuts and seeds, and extra-virgin olive oil. Eat modest amounts of fruit (1-2 servings per day).

Don’t: Eat too many processed foods. Eat a lot of red meat (limit to 1 serving per week). Eat carbohydrate-dense, starchy foods, such as pasta, cereals and other grain-based foods. Use sugar or artificial sweeteners to enhance the flavor of food or consume products containing these ingredients.

Watch your portions. Quantity is just as important as quality. Overeating often leads to weight gain, and excess pounds are a known factor in insulin resistance. Here are some general rules about serving sizes to help you choose a healthy amount of food at every meal.

Protein Fish, chicken or meat: 3-4 ounces, about the size of a standard deck of playing cards Egg whites: 4-6 (or about 1/2 cup liquid egg whites from a carton) Cheese: 1 ounce, about the size of a domino

Cooked pasta, rice and beans 1/2 cup, or the size of half a baseball

Vegetables Raw: 1 cup, or the size of a baseball Cooked: 1/2 cup