Diabetes Basics: The ABCs of Diabetes


Do You Know The ABCs of Diabetes?

A: A1C & Aspirin
The HbA1C is a significant part of your diabetes plan. The HbA1C blood test helps you monitor how well your blood sugar is controlled. In terms of diabetes basics, the HbA1C measures your average blood sugar over the last 2-3 months. Your doctor will check your HbA1C at least 2 times per year. The lower your HbA1C the lower your risk of complications from diabetes. The HbA1C test will form the basics of diabetes monitoring for your long term control.

Depending on your risk factors, you may need to be taking aspirin. Not every diabetic needs to be on aspirin as in the past. The more risk factors you have the more likely you may need an aspirin a day.

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B: Blood Pressure

Keeping your blood pressure under control is an important part of your diabetes ABCs. Poorly controlled blood pressure leads to both complications such as:

  • Eye Problems
  •  Kidney Problems
  •  Heart Problems

Your doctor should measure your blood pressure at every visit. You can also check your blood pressure at home with simple monitoring devices or at many local places such as a pharmacy.

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What Should My Blood Pressure Be?

C: Cholesterol

If you have diabetes, you are more likely to have an elevated cholesterol. Your cholesterol levels are another important part of the ABCs of of diabetes. Elevated cholesterol increases your risk of heart attack and stroke. Treatment of elevated cholesterol in diabetics will attempt to lower your LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol and elevate your HDL or ‘good cholesterol. Additionally, if your triglycerides are elevated, your doctor will likely try to lower this as well.

•    Your goal LDL should be less than 100 mg/ dl.
•    Your goal for triglycerides should be less than 150 mg/dl.
•    Your goal HDL cholesterol should be > 40 mg/dl.

Knowing your cholesterol and how you can manage it is another key to preventing complications and understanding the basics of diabetes.

D: Diabetes Education and Diabetes Educators

Patients often want a pill to fix their problems, but education is one of the most important diabetes ABCs. Appropriate education is essential to prevent diabetes complications. Diabetes requires significant amounts of self management to get your diabetes under good control. The only way to accomplish this is to arm yourself with appropriate knowledge. Through education you will learn how your diet and activity lead to changes in your diabetes control.

A diabetic educator is a person that has had significant training in the prevention and treatment of diabetes. This person can provide you with self-management skills and provide you with support as you begin your diabetes ABCs.

E: Eye Exam

This letter in  the diabetes ABCs reminds you to get your eye exam to prevent diabetes complications of the eye such as blindness. Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. and is totally preventable with good diabetic care and regular eye exams. The type of diabetes you have will determine the frequency and when you should have your first diabetes eye exam.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you need to have a dilated eye exam 3-5 years after your initial diagnosis, while patients with type 2 diabetes should see the eye doctor shortly after being diagnosed. Both should then see the eye doctor annually.

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  • Eye Exam

F: Foot Exam

The foot exam is another important part of your diabetes basics. This one of the ABCs of diabetes reminds you that you need a foot exam at least annually. Good foot care can prevent ulcers and other complications. The foot exam will alert your doctor to the potential for complications and will provide an opportunity to educate you on how to prevent diabetic foot problems.

G: Glucose control

Self monitoring of blood glucose is a very important part of your diabetic plan. Depending on whether you are type I or type II and how your control has been, your monitoring plan will be different. If you are type 1, you will probably be testing at least 3 times per day, while testing for type 2 will vary based on your goals.

H: Health Maintenance

There are many things we can do to improve our health, especially when you have diabetes. In the ABCs of diabetes, H is for health maintenance, specifically immunizations. If you have diabetes you need to make sure you get vaccinated against the flu virus and the bacteria associated with a common type of pneumonia.

Every diabetic over the age of 6 months should receive the flu vaccine every year. Diabetics should also receive the “pneumonia vaccine” at least once as an adult. If you were vaccinated before age 65, you should receive a second vaccine dose 5 years after your your 1st “pneumonia vaccine”.


Samuel Abbate. Expanded ABCs of Diabetes. Clinical Diabetes 2009 21:128-132.

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