Take Five for Better Health

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Raise your hand if you find yourself saying, “I’m just too busy” or “I don’t have time!” We’re a busy bunch, that’s for sure, and there never seems to be enough time. If only there were more than 24 hours in a day.

Feeling a time crunch can also impact your health and affect the way you take care of your diabetes. It’s a fact that managing diabetes, on top of doing everything else that life throws your way, can stretch your schedule to its limits. On the other hand, you’d be surprised at the small but meaningful things you can do in a matter of minutes to improve your health, make you feel better, and maybe even help your diabetes, all at the same time.

Know your numbers

I’ve written about this before, but it’s worth repeating: Make sure you know what your A1C, blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure, and microalbumin “numbers” are. In fact, know two things about these numbers — what they are, and what they should be. If you’re not sure about either of these, call up your doctor (or e-mail, if that’s an option) and ask for them or request that they be sent to you. Keep a record of the numbers so that you’ll see how you’re doing over time.

Eat a healthy breakfast

Yes, you have time. Scramble an egg. Sprinkle some part-skim mozzarella cheese on it. Place the egg in a whole-wheat tortilla. Top it with some salsa, fresh tomato, or avocado — or all three! Fold up the tortilla and, if you’re rushing out the door, wrap it in foil and eat it on the way.

Take a vitamin D supplement

Unless you’re in a sunny climate all winter long, chances are, you’re not going to be soaking up the sunshine this winter. Vitamin D is needed for a lot of things, including bone health, and possibly protecting against high blood pressure, cancer, and other diseases. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults is 600 for most adults through age 70 and 800 IU for folks over age 70, although some health experts believe people need much more. If you decide to take a supplement, look for the “D3” form of vitamin D rather than the “D2” form, as the D3 form does a better job at increasing blood levels of this vitamin.

Check your feet

No, not just to make sure that your socks match. Get into the habit of looking at your feet every day. Check for cuts, sores, redness, and warm spots. If a cut isn’t healing or if anything looks strange or concerning, call your doctor. A little cut can quickly balloon into a big problem (meaning, infection) if it’s not caught and treated early on, especially if your diabetes isn’t in tip-top form.


Don’t use lack of time as an excuse not to burn some calories and tone your muscles (and help your blood sugars, too). Take five minutes and do some kind of activity: Walk. Climb stairs. Do jumping jacks. Do sit-ups. Jump rope. Dance. March in place. And think about this: What if you took advantage this way of the various chunks of five free minutes that you have in your day (and you have them!)?

Floss your teeth

For some strange reason, people often skip this important part of a healthy dental routine. Flossing helps clean your teeth, banishes bad breath, and most importantly, can help prevent against tooth loss (which is more common in people with diabetes) by removing bacteria and plaque that lurk between your teeth.

Drink a cup of green or black tea

Tea has numerous health benefits, ranging from protecting against a heart attack to strengthening bones to giving your immune system a boost. Skip the sweetened varieties and brew your own.

Check your medicines and diabetes supplies

Do a quick inventory and make sure that you’re not running out of anything, that nothing has expired, and that everything is working as it should (such as your meter and your lancing device, for example).

Log your meals

Keeping food records is about as fun as going to a mall the day before Christmas. But there’s a reason for doing it: Food logs help you (and your dietitian) see what and how much you’re eating, as well as certain patterns to your eating, and how your food intake might be affecting your blood sugars. When you really take a look at your logs, you can gain some serious insight into your food intake and then think about what you might need to do to make improvements. Hate logging on paper? Try an app, like MyFitnessPal or MyNetDiary.

Chill out

Busy people rarely take the time to destress and decompress. We all need some time in our day to relax and clear our minds. Some people prefer to sit quietly and reflect on the day. Others like to meditate. Going for a walk can help, as can putting your feet up and listening to some music. Whatever works for you, take five minutes for yourself each and every day. You’re worth it!

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Interested in learning more about integrating health-promoting practices into your life? Read “Adopting Healthy Habits: How to Get Started and Follow Through,” by dietitian and diabetes educator Rita Carey Rubin and psychotherapist Bill Rubin.

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