How to Manage Diabetes? A Guide for Living Well

How to manage diabetes? Learn effective strategies for blood sugar control, insulin therapy, healthy diet, exercise, medication, and preventing complications.

Diabetes is a common health issue that messes with how our bodies handle sugar. Millions in the United States face its challenges.1 It’s key to manage diabetes right to stay healthy and avoid big problems. This guide dives into managing your blood sugar, using insulin, eating well, staying active, taking meds, and sidestepping issues. It’s for both the new and the seasoned diabetes fighters. It shares the info and tips you need to lead a full, healthy life.

Key Takeaways

  • Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects blood sugar regulation, requiring a multifaceted approach to management.
  • Effective blood sugar control, including through insulin therapy and a healthy diet, is essential for managing diabetes.
  • Regular physical activity and exercise provide numerous benefits for individuals with diabetes, including improved insulin sensitivity.
  • Diabetes medications, in addition to lifestyle changes, can help manage blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
  • Preventing complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and vision loss, is a crucial aspect of diabetes management.

What Is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a long-lasting health condition. It happens when the body can’t use or make enough insulin. Insulin controls how much sugar is in your blood. Without it working right, blood sugar goes too high.2

Understanding the Condition

It affects how your body turns food into energy. When insulin can’t do its job, your blood has too much sugar. This leads to problems in the long run.

Types of Diabetes

There are two types: type 1 and type 2. Type 1 is when your immune system mistakenly attacks the cells in the pancreas that make insulin. This means the body can’t produce insulin. Type 2 is more common. It’s when the body doesn’t use insulin properly or doesn’t make enough.3

Knowing what causes diabetes is key to controlling it and avoiding problems.

How to Manage Diabetes?

Managing diabetes effectively means using many different methods. These include:

Blood Sugar Control

Keeping blood sugar levels healthy is key for people with diabetes. This needs a mix of changes in how you live. For example, doing regular exercise2 and eating a balanced, low-carb diet2 is crucial. You might also need to use insulin or other meds.2

It’s very important to check your blood sugar often. Act fast if it gets too low (below 90 mg/dL)2 or too high. This is a must.

Insulin Therapy

Insulin is key for many fighting diabetes. Sometimes, diet and exercise aren’t enough. So, insulin and other meds help lower sugar levels.2

Your doctor will pick the right type and amount of insulin. This depends on how you respond to the treatment.

Healthy Diet for Diabetics

Eating right is very important for diabetes care. You should focus on foods that are rich in nutrients and low in sugars. These foods won’t cause big jumps in your sugar levels.2

It’s also important to control how much you eat. Use simple tricks, like a deck of cards, to guide your portion sizes. This is helpful for meats and other foods.2

Stay away from foods made with refined carbs. Things like white bread and sweet cereals can spike your sugar levels.2

Combine good eating, insulin therapy, and watching your sugar levels. This helps people with diabetes stay healthy and avoid problems.23

blood sugar control

Exercise for Diabetes Management

Working out regularly is crucial for fighting diabetes. It brings many good things for diabetics. Exercise makes insulin work better and lowers sugar in the blood. It helps keep off extra weight and reduces high blood pressure. It also makes your heart stronger, lessens the risk of heart disease, and cuts down on stress and worry. Plus, it eases falling asleep and sleeping well.4

Benefits of Exercise

Lots of research shows how great exercise is for diabetics. One big study found that exercise boosts heart and lung health in those with type 2 diabetes.5 Doing strength exercises at a hard pace has also been proven to make your body’s metabolism work better if you have type 2 diabetes.5 What’s more, short but intense aerobic exercise makes the body respond better to insulin in overweight people with type 2 diabetes.5

For people with type 2 diabetes, exercise can also fight inflammation and make insulin work better.5 Another big review found that very intense interval exercises make your blood sugar and how you react to insulin get better.5 It also stated that intense exercise improves how well your pancreas works in making insulin. This was seen in adults with type 2 diabetes.5

Just one workout boosts how well your body responds to insulin, especially if you work out hard.5 Exercise’s direct effect on certain muscles also makes them better at using sugar.5 And exercising makes your body use fat in your muscles better, no matter what you eat.5

Types of Exercise for Diabetics

Mixing up your exercises helps if you have diabetes. Try to be active in a moderate way for about 30 minutes daily.4 Australian guidelines suggest this is good for most days each week. They also say to do muscle workouts twice a week.4

For moderate exercise, aim for 150 to 300 minutes every week. For harder workouts, 75 to 150 minutes weekly is enough.4 Adding more intense exercises now and then is great for your health.4 As you get fitter, you should slowly work out for longer. Even 10-minute bursts in the beginning are beneficial.4 Make sure to do muscle-strengthening exercises as part of your routine.4

There are different energy levels needed for various exercises. For instance, slowly walking costs less energy (3 METs) than running up stairs (4.7 METs).6 But running uses more energy than brisk walking (5.4 METs). Other workouts like biking or playing hockey also count.6 Doctors use walk tests to check how fit you are, like the 6-minute walk test if you’re at risk or the 400-meter walk for the elderly.6

Diabetes Medication

Many people with diabetes need medication. It helps control their condition along with lifestyle changes. The kind of medication depends on the type of diabetes and how it affects the person.7

If you have type 1 diabetes, you usually take insulin. There are over five classes of insulin in the United States. These include insulins that work fast, or over a longer time. Some combine different types.7 Additionally, pramlintide is an injectable used to control blood sugar.7

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For those with type 2 diabetes, you often start with pills. Sometimes, insulin or other injections are needed. Metformin is usually the first pill given.7 Other pills and injectables include dopamine-2 agonists and DPP-4 inhibitors. These help lower blood sugar in different ways.7 GLP-1 receptor agonists are given to help regulate blood sugar along with diet and exercise.7

Working closely with your doctor is key. Together, you’ll find the best diabetes medication for you. This is crucial for managing your blood sugar levels and preventing problems.8

Monitoring Blood Sugar Levels

Keeping track of your blood sugar levels is key for9 diabetes care. It lets you:

  • See how your body reacts to various foods, activities, and medicines9
  • Make smart choices every day to handle your diabetes well9
  • Notice any trends in your blood sugar, which helps adjust your treatment with your doctor’s help9

Importance of Regular Monitoring

For proper diabetes control, checking your blood sugar often is a must. Those with10 type 1 diabetes might need to check up to 10 times a day.10 If you have10 type 2 and use insulin, it’s necessary to test regularly, especially before meals and before sleep. The number of tests depends on your insulin type and dose.10

The American Diabetes Association suggests aiming for 80-130 mg/dL before meals and under 180 mg/dL after eating.10 But, these goals might be higher if you’re over 60 or have other health issues.10

Tools for Monitoring

To check your blood sugar at home, you can use a9 glucose meter that requires a blood drop, or try9 continuous glucose monitors (CGMs). Glucose meters give a one-time reading.9 CGMs, on the other hand, monitor sugar levels around the clock and show your blood sugar changes on a graph. This can help you stay ahead.9

Always note your sugar levels and include the time tested, what medicines you used, and your diet and exercise. This keeps you on track and helps your doctors.10 Use your blood sugar meter properly, and remember to follow its care instructions closely for accurate results.10

Although CGMs are very helpful, they might not always be 100% accurate. So, don’t forget to do finger sticks once in a while even if you use a CGM.9 Your glucose readings from a meter can be managed using apps or by writing in a logbook. CGM systems store your data automatically for your healthcare team.9

Preventing Diabetes Complications

Keeping diabetes under control is crucial to avoid serious health issues. High blood sugar harms the body over time. Some common problems from diabetes are:

Common Complications

Diabetes makes people more likely to get sick. They need to get their shots to stay healthy.11 It can also mess with the blood flow and harm nerves in the feet. These can lead to serious foot problems.11

People with diabetes are at a big risk for heart problems. Heart disease is actually the top killer among them.12 They need to check their eyes often. This helps catch eye problems like diabetic retinopathy early.12 Foot issues are also really common. Things like nerve damage and ulcers happen a lot because of poor blood flow.

Strategies for Prevention

People with diabetes and more heart disease risks may take aspirin daily. This could lower the chances of heart attacks and strokes.11 Drinking too much alcohol is bad for people with diabetes. They should be careful.11 Managing stress is very important. Stress makes it easy to forget about your health, which you can’t do with diabetes.11

It’s also key to keep an eye on your blood pressure and cholesterol. This helps reduce the risk of heart problems.12

Lifestyle Changes for Diabetes Management

Changing lifestyle habits is key to managing diabetes well. It’s important to live healthily and find ways to reduce stress.13 These steps are vital alongside medical treatments.

Adopting a Healthy Lifestyle

Maintaining a good lifestyle is vital for those with diabetes. It’s crucial to reach and keep a healthy weight.14 This is because extra weight can make Type 2 diabetes hard to control. Also, if overweight people can lose 7% of their body weight, they cut over half of their diabetes risk.14

It’s also important to be active regularly. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. For those who prefer intense workouts, 75 minutes a week is enough.14 If you have diabetes, watching how many carbs you eat can keep your blood sugar in check. This is especially true if you use insulin or similar drugs. Plus, try to cut back on alcohol and salt to help with diabetes care.14

Stress Management Techniques

Managing stress is key for those with diabetes. Stress raises blood sugar levels, which is bad for diabetes control.13 To keep stress low, try mindfulness, yoga, or meditation. These activities can make a big difference in managing your diabetes. Also, exercising regularly can lower stress and help your body use insulin better.2

By living well and managing stress effectively, it’s possible to control and live better with diabetes. These steps can boost your health and happiness in the long run.

Diabetes and Mental Health

Diabetes affects more than just physical health. It can take a heavy toll on mental well-being. People with type 1 or type 2 diabetes often face depression, anxiety, and eating issues.15 Rates of depression are much higher among those with diabetes.15 And about half of people with type 1 diabetes might cope with disordered eating habits. This includes eating disorders like bulimia. Women with type 2 diabetes are more prone to binge eating.15

The experience of managing diabetes is very stressful. This, along with the fear of complications, leads to more mental health worries. Up to half of those with diabetes find themselves in a state of diabetes distress.15 Feeling burnt out by diabetes can make everything harder. It can sap your emotional energy, making dealing with the illness less effective.16 Studies also show a link between diabetes and anger. Managing anger well is key to avoiding depression and more stress.16 Overcoming denial about the illness is critical because it can stop you from taking the steps needed to manage your condition.16

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Support Resources

It’s sad that nearly half of the time, mental health problems in people with diabetes go unnoticed.15 Only a third of these cases get diagnosed and treated well.15 But there is hope. For those with diabetes, taking antidepressants might greatly help in controlling blood pressure.15 Yet, the stress of a diabetes diagnosis can spike blood sugars and make following treatment plans harder.15

Recognizing the link between diabetes and mental health is a major step. Getting help and support for mental health can greatly improve how people handle their diabetes. This, in turn, enhances their overall health and happiness.

Diabetes Management During Illness

When you’re sick, dealing with diabetes can be harder. Illness affects your blood sugar levels and how your body reacts to insulin or medicines.17 Having a plan to manage your diabetes when you’re ill is key.

Sick Day Management

Sickness and stress can make your blood sugar levels go up. If you have diabetes, catching colds or the flu can be more serious.17 Staying well-hydrated is very important when you’re sick. And, getting a flu shot every year lowers your flu risk.17

If you feel a bit sick, reach for easy carbs like regular soda, Jell-O, or popsicles.17 Remember, check for ketones every four to six hours. Symptoms of DKA include very high blood sugar, high ketones, thirst, peeing often, tiredness, dry skin, feeling sick, and throwing up.17 Catching DKA early and treating it is critical to avoid coma or death.17

It’s vital to make a sick-day plan with your healthcare team.17 This should have advice on how to check your blood sugar, adjust your medications, test for ketones, what to eat, and which over-the-counter drugs are safe.17 And, always keep contacts for emergencies, your meds list, and insurance handy.17

Call your doctor if you get really bad symptoms, like a lot of vomiting, diarrhea, or a high fever.17 A Sick-Day Kit can make it easier to manage your diabetes when you’re sick. Include items like a glucose meter, extra batteries, insulin, ketone strips, diabetes meds, and fast-acting glucose. Add diabetes-safe cold and flu meds to your kit too.17

Diabetes and Travel

Traveling with diabetes needs good planning and prep. But, it can be a fun experience too. With the right steps, people with diabetes can travel safely and confidently.18

Planning for Travel

For a trip, pack more medicine and test supplies than expected. Keep most in your carry-on.18 Ask for a special low sugar, fat, and cholesterol meal at least 48 hours before your flight.18

Plan to take 2-3 times your daily insulin or meds on trips. This ensures you’re ready for any delays or issues.19

Tips for Traveling with Diabetes

Managing diabetes while traveling needs careful thought. For crossing time zones, know you might need more insulin going west and less going east.18

It’s important to adjust insulin doses for time zone changes. Going east may need less insulin, while going west may need more.19 Keep insulin cool in hot weather to avoid damage. Look out for any changes in the insulin’s color or cloudiness, which means it shouldn’t be used.19

Flying with certain diabetes tools is safe, with help available from the makers.19 Always keep insulin and supplies in your hand luggage. The hold can be too cold for insulin, leading to damage.19 Make sure your travel insurance handles diabetes-related emergencies, like covering medical costs and a safe trip back home.19

Taking the right steps before and during your trip lets those with diabetes enjoy their travels without worry. Managing diabetes well makes travel smoother.

Technological Advancements in Diabetes Management

Technology has changed the way people deal with diabetes. Now, devices like continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and insulin pumps are making a big difference.

Continuous Glucose Monitoring

CGM systems keep track of blood sugar levels in real time.20 They can show levels every five minutes all day. Plus, they warn about high or low blood sugar.20 This is key for those struggling to keep their blood sugar in check. However, getting CGMs covered by insurance isn’t always easy, especially for well-controlled diabetes.20

21In a study, CGMs were found to cut down on low sugar in the short term and the worry of it in the long term for people with type 1 diabetes. The CBMDI study from 2017 showed big changes thanks to these devices.21 The use of CGMs, as well as systems that join insulin and monitoring, is growing. Various studies agree this tech is helping a lot of people, especially those not noticing their low sugar signs. The HypoDE study highlighted these benefits.21

Insulin Pumps

20Insulin pumps are usually covered by insurance but they can be costly.20 Using one means thinking about your daily habits, how much you’re willing to commit, and safety too.20 The goal of a combo CGM and pump system is to adjust insulin automatically based on your current sugar levels.20

22Only a small number, about 350,000 people in the U.S., use insulin pumps.22 Yet, 2.4 million are using CGMs.22 Doctors look at the “percent time in range” to see if blood sugar levels are staying ideal.22 It seems those using both a pump and CGM are better at maintaining these ideal levels.22

22An artificial pancreas, which is a CGM and pump together, has helped people of all ages, from kids to seniors.22 Many who switch to the CGM and pump say it’s a big improvement in managing their diabetes.22 However, making devices like this that can handle different hormones is still a challenge.22

Diabetes Management for Specific Populations

Everyone dealing with diabetes should follow basic rules. But some groups need special care due to their needs. This especially includes children and older adults with diabetes.

Diabetes in Children

Control of diabetes in children needs teamwork. Parents, doctors, and kids must work together. The main aim is to keep healthy blood sugar levels and also, make sure the child is happy and healthy. This means watching closely, giving the right insulin, and teaching the child what they need to know.2

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For kids with diabetes, being active is key. It makes them better at using insulin and keeps them strong. So, parents should push their children to play sports, dance, or just be outside.2

Diabetes in Older Adults

Older adults with diabetes face their own set of hurdles. These might include getting older, dealing with other health issues, and taking a lot of medicines. It’s vital for them to manage their diabetes well, for a better life. Doctors need to think about memory, moving around, and the support they have in their life when planning care.23

What older adults eat and how much they move also matter a lot. The food they eat and how they stay active might need to change. This is to match their taste, need, and what they can do. The focus is on keeping them moving, strong, and steady.2

Diabetes Management Considerations for Specific PopulationsChildrenOlder Adults
Insulin Dosing and MonitoringRequires close collaboration between healthcare providers, parents, and the child to maintain healthy blood sugar levels.Careful consideration of age-related changes, comorbidities, and polypharmacy to prevent complications and improve quality of life.
Physical ActivityEncourages regular, enjoyable physical activities to improve insulin sensitivity and overall health.Tailored programs that maintain mobility, strength, and balance, considering the individual’s abilities and preferences.
NutritionSupports the child’s growth and development while managing blood sugar levels.Adjusted dietary recommendations to account for changes in appetite, taste, and nutrient requirements.
Emotional and Social SupportAddresses the child’s physical, emotional, and social well-being to support their overall health and management of the condition.Considers the impact of social support, cognitive function, and physical limitations on diabetes management.

Knowing what kids and older adults with diabetes need is crucial. With this info, doctors and caregivers can make plans that fit. These plans make life better for these groups.223


Living with diabetes means making daily choices for your health. It’s all about knowing your diabetes well, keeping your blood sugar in check, changing your lifestyle, and using new tech. All of these steps help you take charge of living your best, healthiest life.24

Managing diabetes works best when you, your family, and your care team join forces. Sadly, not everyone with diabetes gets the eye care they need. This guide wants to help fix that by offering important advice.24

In our world today, more and more people are getting diabetes. In 2021 alone, over 400 million adults were diagnosed. But, you can beat the odds by choosing to eat well, move your body often, and keep healthy. Doing things like following a Mediterranean diet and exercising can go a long way in protecting you from diabetes and its many dangers.2526

Thanks to science, new tech, and care that’s just for you, diabetes doesn’t have to hold you back. With the right diet, exercise, and support, you can flourish, even with diabetes. It’s a journey that lasts a lifetime, but one where you’re in control and living fully is possible.242526


What is diabetes?

Diabetes is a chronic condition that affects how the body handles blood sugar. The body may not produce enough insulin or use it well. Insulin is a hormone that turns food glucose into energy. Without it working right, blood sugar levels rise.

What are the different types of diabetes?

The main types are type 1 and type 2 diabetes. There’s also gestational diabetes which happens during pregnancy. Each type is caused by different factors and needs different ways to manage it.

How can I control my blood sugar levels?

Keeping your blood sugar levels in check is key in diabetes care. You can do this by frequently checking your blood sugar, using insulin if needed, eating healthy, and being active.

What are the benefits of exercise for individuals with diabetes?

Being active regularly is good for managing diabetes. It makes your body use insulin better, control blood sugar, and lowers the chance of problems.

What types of medications are used to treat diabetes?

Insulin and a variety of pills are used. Doctors might prescribe metformin, sulfonylureas, or other medicines based on what’s best for you.

Why is it important to monitor my blood sugar levels?

Checking your blood sugar often helps see how food, activities, and medicine affect it. This makes it easier to adjust your diabetes care plan.

What are the common complications associated with diabetes?

If left unchecked, diabetes can cause heart issues, strokes, kidney problems, nerve damage, and eye troubles. Avoiding these is key in managing diabetes.

How can I make lifestyle changes to manage my diabetes?

Eating healthy, staying active, managing stress, and keeping a healthy weight are crucial for living well with diabetes.

How can diabetes affect mental health?

Managing diabetes can stress people out. It can raise the risk of feeling down or anxious. It’s important to look after your mental health too.

How do I manage my diabetes when I’m sick?

Sickness can make diabetes harder to manage. Have a sick-day plan ready. This should include how to adjust your medicine and when to call your doctor.

What should I consider when traveling with diabetes?

Traveling needs good prep, but it can be fun with diabetes too. Pack what you need, know where to get help, and enjoy your trip.

How have technological advancements improved diabetes management?

Devices like continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps have made life easier for many with diabetes. They help keep blood sugar in check and improve everyday living.

Are there any special considerations for managing diabetes in children and older adults?

Yes, children and older adults need special care for their diabetes. Treatment should fit their specific needs for the best results and safety.

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