Diabetes can affect your body and health in numerous ways. It might be easy to think about issues like increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and blindness, but it’s important not to ignore issues that can develop in the feet. Specifically, diabetic neuropathy, Charcot foot, and ulcers are all serious problems for diabetic individuals.
This can certainly be a serious health issues, but the good news is that there are ways to care for your feet when you have diabetes that will reduce your risk of developing a major problem. Some of the lifestyle changes you should adopt include:
- Better eating. If you are afflicted with diabetes, you likely know the disease is caused by elevated blood sugar levels. Because of this, one of the key parts of managing diabetes is to create a healthy diet plan.
Before we start discussing what should be entailed with your plan, a quick tip you may want to keep in mind to find success is to avoid labeling food as “good” and “bad.” Instead, when you think and speak about your new dietary habits, do so in the context of “I am choosing to/not to eat [this food].” This is an empowering frame of reference and will avoid negative feelings towards your diet. Also, thinking about certain foods as being “bad” can potentially be the start of a downward spiral if you do eat something outside of your new meal plan.
With regards to your choices in foods and beverages, begin with choosing meals that include whole grains, legumes, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products (all of which is a smart dietary plan for anyone, even if you do not have diabetes). You should also choose to drink lots of water and unsweetened tea, while passing on sugary beverages. As long as you do not use sugary syrups, coffee is fine. If you enjoy getting coffee from a place like Starbucks, be sure to ask for sugar-free options.
- Exercise. It would be difficult to overstate exactly how important it is to exercise. The physical, emotional, and mental benefits are countless, and this includes managing a diabetic condition. The benefits to your cardiovascular system from regular exercise are especially necessary as you work to manage your diabetes and reduce the effects of poor blood flow.
Any kind of workout program must start with a consultation with your primary care physician and our office. This is especially true if it’s been a long time since you had last worked out. Medical professionals can determine if there are any potential or existing issues you need to know beforehand. We can also provide recommendations of exercises that will achieve your goals, and also keep you as safe as possible.
- Foot care. Diabetes can cause both nerve damage (neuropathy) and weakened blood flow (peripheral arterial disease). In turn, these medical issues can lead to dangerous complications for your feet, like Charcot foot and diabetic ulcers.
Damaged nerves can leave you unable to feel damage that has been sustained to your lower limbs – including cuts, scrapes, ingrown toenails, and calluses. These might be fairly minor problems for someone with healthy nerve and immune systems, but issues like these can break down, become infected, and lead to gangrene if you are unaware of them. Unfortunately, the only treatment for gangrene is amputation. A proper diabetic foot care plan is based on prevention and protection for your feet and toes. In part, this is achieved with daily inspection to catch issues early. If you would like assistance putting your foot care plan together, we will be glad to help.
- Regular appointments. If you aren’t doing this already, make sure you come in and see us every couple of months. Regular checkups are important so we can identify issues, like diabetic wounds, at their earliest, most-treatable stages. At these appointments, we can also review your daily foot inspection checklist and make sure everything is going well. This also gives you the opportunity to ask questions from a medical professional.
For additional information on diabetic foot care, the services we offer, or to request an appointment with our Berkeley, CA podiatrist office, give us a call at (510) 647-3744.