How to Treat Diabetes? A Comprehensive Guide for Patients

How to Treat Diabetes? A Comprehensive Guide for Patients - Explore various diabetes treatment options, including insulin therapy, oral medications, and lifestyle changes for effective blood sugar control.

Diabetes is a long-term condition affecting blood sugar control. To manage it, lifestyle changes, medicines, and keeping track are essential. This guide looks into various treatment options like insulin, pills, and adjusting how you live. It aims to help patients better control their blood sugar and avoid health issues linked to diabetes.

It talks about changing what you eat, staying active, taking medicines, being ready if you get sick, checking your sugar levels, and keeping a positive mindset. With this information, readers will understand how to handle diabetes and boost their health.

Key Takeaways

  • Diabetes is a chronic condition that requires a comprehensive approach to management.
  • Effective treatment options include a combination of lifestyle changes, medication, and regular monitoring.
  • Dietary modifications, exercise, and medication management are key aspects of diabetes care.
  • Addressing mental health and preventing or managing complications are crucial for improving overall well-being.
  • Regular monitoring of blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol can help identify and address potential issues early.

Prediabetes affects nearly 90 million U.S. adults and over 374 million people globally.1 The guide to dietary supplements and diabetes reviews 38 typical supplements.1 The book on intensive diabetes management is now in its seventh edition.1 By buying the diabetes technology book from the ADA, you can get 6 CME credits.1

Understanding Diabetes Management

Managing diabetes well means knowing what affects your blood sugar.2 This includes what you eat, how much you move, and the medicine you take. These three things are key to keeping your blood sugar in check.2

2 Carbs really matter for your blood sugar.2 Insulin and other medicines are also crucial.2 Being active often can help lower your blood sugar.2 It’s also super important to keep your insulin stored right and have a plan for when you’re sick. This helps you manage your blood sugar even when you’re not feeling well.2

Factors Affecting Blood Sugar Levels

2 Carbs have a big say in your blood sugar.2 So does insulin and other medicines.2 Moving your body can help too. Aim for 150 minutes of activities like walking each week to help keep your blood sugar down.2 Keeping your insulin safe and planning for sick days are also very important. This keeps your blood sugar in balance, even when things are not on track.2

Importance of Monitoring Blood Glucose

3 People with diabetes work towards having an A1C below 7%.3 For blood pressure, the goal is usually below 130/80 mm Hg.3 Before meals, blood sugar should be between 80 to 130 mg/dL for many. After eating, aim for below 180 mg/dL.3 Most people with diabetes try to keep their blood sugar between 70 and 180 mg/dL. Their healthcare team helps adjust their plan as needed. The goal is to stay within the set range 70% of the time.3

Making sure you sleep 7 to 8 hours each night is also really important. Good sleep helps keep your blood sugar and health in check.3

Dietary Management

Managing diabetes through your diet is key. Remember, it’s not just about the kind of food you pick. It’s about portion sizes and how you mix your meals.4 Stick to good carbs like fruits, veggies, and whole grains. And don’t forget low-fat dairy.4 Adding plenty of fiber from veg, fruits, and nuts can keep your blood sugar steady.4

Balanced Meal Planning

For diabetics, two meal planning methods stand out. There’s carb counting and the plate method.4 With carb counting, you watch how many carb grams you eat. Then, you adjust your insulin dose to match.4 The plate method is a different, easy way to make sure your meal is balanced. It helps by showing you what portions of veggies, proteins, and carbs you need.5

Carbohydrate Counting

Keeping an eye on carbs helps manage your blood sugar. Get a dietitian to help you measure food, read labels, and track those carbs.4 You can also check out the glycemic index when choosing what to eat. It helps pick carbs that won’t spike your blood sugar too much.4

The Plate Method

The plate method keeps it simple. Fill half your plate with nonstarchy veggies, one quarter with high-fiber carbs, and the last quarter with protein. This is for those not using insulin.5

Portion Control

For someone aiming for 1,200 to 1,600 calories a day, a menu could look like this: whole-wheat bread with jelly, salmon and veggies, and popcorn popped in margarine for a snack.4 Eating healthy not only manages blood sugar but it also lowers the risk of diabetes problems and certain cancers and heart diseases.4 If you have diabetes, working with health experts and a dietitian to craft a plan just for you is crucial for keeping your blood sugar under control.4

Balanced Meal Planning

Exercise and Physical Activity

Active lifestyle is vital in managing diabetes. It helps lower blood sugar. The stronger your workout, the longer this benefit can last. Simple tasks like house chores, gardening, or a stroll can also control your blood sugar.

Developing an Exercise Plan

You need a varied workout plan if you have diabetes. Combine aerobic, resistance, and flexibility exercises.6 Try to get 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week or 75 minutes of more intense exercise. Fit these into 3-4 days.7

Scheduling Exercise

Regularity in exercise is crucial. Add physical activity into your daily life. For example, walk briskly at lunch or do light weights during TV time.7 Make sure to adjust your exercise plan to prevent problems like low blood sugar.

Blood Glucose Monitoring During Exercise

It’s important to check your blood sugar levels during exercise.8 Exercise can keep glucose levels low for up to a day after. Those on insulin must watch their dose to avoid low blood sugar.8

Staying Hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial when active, especially with diabetes. Drink water to keep your blood sugar in check and avoid dehydration.8 This also lowers your risk of low blood sugar while and after exercising.

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Medication Management

Diabetes is often controlled with both lifestyle changes and medicine.9 Medicines like insulin help lower blood sugar levels if diet and exercise aren’t enough.9 It’s key to take these medicines at the right time and dose, and to store them correctly. This ensures their effectiveness.

Insulin Therapy

Using insulin is vital in managing diabetes, helping balance blood sugar.9 There are many types of insulin, like fast, short, middle, and long-acting. These can be used alone or together to keep blood sugar steady all day.9 People with type 1 diabetes need many daily insulin shots to stay healthy.9 Insulin pumps are available for a more constant insulin flow, allowing adjustments based on the user’s needs.9 Also, there are pre-mixed insulins with different action times.

Oral Medications

9 For type 2 diabetes, the first choice often is metformin, taken as a pill. Metformin helps lower blood sugar. There are more oral medicines for diabetes, like DPP-4 inhibitors, sulfonylureas, and GLP-1 agonists. They each work in unique ways to control blood sugar.

Medication Storage and Administration

9 Storing and using insulin and diabetes drugs right is critical. Always stick to the guidelines for their storage, handling, and how to give the shot. Things like temperature, light, and the expiration date can change how well the medicine works.

How to treat diabetes?

To manage diabetes, changing your lifestyle, taking medicine, and keeping track of your health are crucial.10 Using insulin is key in controlling blood sugar levels. There are different types of insulin. They can be used by themselves or together to keep sugar levels in check all day.

Insulin Treatment Options

If you have type 1 diabetes or some type 2, you’ll need insulin to keep blood sugar in a safe range.11 While many with type 2 won’t start with insulin, they might need it later.11 Others with type 2 might not need insulin right away, but they could if their high blood sugar isn’t controlled well initially.11

Non-Insulin Medications

Doctors often start with a medicine called Metformin for type 2 diabetes.10 It works by reducing liver sugar production and making your body respond better to insulin. There are other types of medicines too, like GLP-1 agonists and DPP-4 inhibitors, to help regulate sugar levels.

Combination Therapy

For some, a mix of insulin and other medicines might be needed to control diabetes. This combo can make it easier to reach blood sugar goals and avoid health problems down the road.11 For those with type 2 diabetes, surgery for obesity can put the condition in remission. And leading a healthy life with good food and exercise supports this outcome too.11

Sick Day Management

If you have diabetes, staying ready for sick days is vital. Sickness can make your body release hormones that boost your blood sugar. This happens even if you’re eating less.12 Changes in how much you eat and move can also change your blood sugar.12 So, it’s key to have a sick day plan. This plan should cover how to adjust your meds, test your blood sugar and ketone levels, and when to ask your healthcare team for help.12

Sick Day Plan

An effective sick day plan should list the following steps:

  • When to call your doctor
  • How often to check your blood sugar
  • What foods and drinks are good to have when sick
  • Adjusting your insulin or other meds
  • Testing for ketones
  • How to pick over-the-counter meds


Keeping a sick-day kit with you can make managing your illness a lot easier. This kit should have your glucose meter, extra batteries, what you need for your insulin pump or continuous glucose monitor, ketone test strips, a week’s worth of glucose-lowering meds, glucose tabs or gels, and cold meds safe for someone with diabetes.12

Monitoring Ketones

Checking for ketones is very important on sick days. If you have ketones in your urine or blood, it could mean you have a serious issue called diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA).13 If you think your blood sugar might drop too low, remember the 15-15 rule: have simple carbs like regular soda, Jell-O, or popsicles.12 When you feel sick, test for ketones every four to six hours to stay safe from DKA.12

Signs of DKA include high blood sugar, high ketones, being very thirsty, going to the bathroom a lot, feeling tired, having dry or red skin, feeling sick to your stomach, throwing up, a sore belly, having trouble breathing, smelling sweet on your breath, and feeling confused.12 If severe DKA isn’t treated, it can lead to a coma or even death.12 Get help fast if you have a fever that doesn’t go away or if you feel like your infection is getting worse on a sick day.14

With a good sick day plan and checking your ketone levels often, you can stay on top of your diabetes even when sick. This helps prevent more health problems.121314

Blood Glucose Monitoring

Checking your blood glucose level at home is crucial for managing diabetes.15 Blood glucose meters show real-time sugar levels. This information is vital for tweaking your diet, exercise, and meds.15 Many users find continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) helpful. CGM systems give more glucose readings day and night.15

Blood Glucose Meters

Glucose meters are used for finger stick checks during the day by insulin-dependent folks.15 The idea of home blood glucose monitoring began about 40 years ago. It changed how people manage diabetes.16 Modern meters focus on accuracy. They must be around 95% within ±15% of lab results for approval.16 Device makers aim for high agreement with lab methods. This ensures readings are as accurate as possible.16 Meters for personal use aim to meet FDA guidelines on accuracy.16

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Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)

CGMs continuously track blood sugar trends.15 A sensor under the skin measures glucose all day. This method provides a lot of data.15 CGMs issue alerts for high or low sugar levels. But, always double-check with finger stick checks when uncertain.15 Personal CGM became an option in the early 2000s.16 CGM is costlier than BGM for many, yet BGM is easier to get. This is especially true for type 2 diabetes patients not using meds linked to low blood sugar.16

Artificial Pancreas Systems

For those with type one diabetes, the best treatment is an automated insulin system. It combines a glucose monitor, insulin pump, and algorithm.17 A glucose monitor is highly recommended. It’s key for ensuring most of the day’s glucose levels are between 70 and 180 mg/dL. This should happen at least 70% of the day.17

Diabetes Complications

Diabetes affects many body parts like the eyes, kidneys, and nerves. It also impacts the heart. Not controlling blood sugar can cause vision issues, kidney disease, and more. Even heart attacks and strokes become more likely.18

Eye Complications

Diabetes is a big reason for vision loss. It hits about half of all diabetic patients. To avoid this, get regular eye exams and keep blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol in check.18

Kidney Complications

It’s a top cause of kidney problems, making it hard for the body to get rid of waste. Keeping blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol normal lowers your kidney disease risk.18

Nerve Damage

If left unmanaged, high blood sugar can damage nerves (diabetic neuropathy). This affects up to half of all diabetes cases. Keep blood sugar steady and care for your feet to avoid or slow nerve damage.18

Cardiovascular Complications

Diabetes raises the chance of heart attacks and strokes by harming blood vessels. Controlling blood sugar, pressure, and cholesterol lowers this risk. A healthy lifestyle is key too.18

To avoid severe diabetes issues, keep an eye on your blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Knowing what to do and getting help when you need it are crucial. This helps manage diabetes and limits complications.18

Lifestyle Modifications

It’s vital to lead a healthy life when you have diabetes. This means eating well and being active.

Eat balanced meals, watch your portion sizes, and cut down on sugary foods.19 Being active every day also helps a lot. Think about walking fast, swimming, or lifting weights.19

Being the right weight is key, too. Being overweight can make managing diabetes tough. It also raises your chances of heart problems.19 To lose weight, you should eat fewer calories than you burn.19

To manage your diabetes, manage your stress, too. Stress can raise your blood sugar.20 It makes you do unhealthy things like eating too much, drinking, smoking, or avoiding your problems.19 Having friends and knowing how to handle stress in healthy ways is super important.19

Diabetes in Special Populations

Diabetes affects people of all ages and stages, even pregnant women. It can show up during pregnancy (gestational diabetes), in the young, the old, or at any time. Each group has special needs for dealing with diabetes.21

Gestational Diabetes

Gestational diabetes happens during pregnancy and usually goes away after birth. But, it raises the risk of type 2 diabetes later on. Managing it with diet, exercise, and sometimes medicine is key for the mother and baby’s health.22

Diabetes in Children and Adolescents

Type 1 diabetes in children and teens needs special care. They face different issues like fluctuating blood sugar levels during growth. They also deal with how it affects their social life and manage the stress of having a lifelong condition. Providing care that includes consistent check-ups, and support from family is important. It helps them learn how to take care of themselves.22

Diabetes in Older Adults

Older adults with diabetes face unique health worries. These include thinking problems, frailty, and a higher chance of falling. They need careful handling of medicines and regular check-ups. Paying attention to their overall health, like eating well and staying active, is crucial. These steps can help them stay healthy and lower the risk of serious diabetes-related problems.22

Mental Health and Diabetes

Having diabetes can make people feel stressed or sad. It really affects mental health.23 People with diabetes are more likely to get depression or anxiety.2324

Coping with Diabetes

It’s key to learn good ways to deal with the stress of diabetes. This includes calming down, moving your body, and leaning on family and friends.25

Support Groups

Being part of a diabetes support group can make a huge difference. Both meeting in person and finding groups online helps you feel understood and supported. It also gives tips on how to cope better.

Seeking Professional Help

Keeping in touch with mental health professionals is very important.25 They can guide you with therapies like CBT and DBT, which have shown great results.23 Sometimes, family therapy can help with eating disorders and bipolar conditions.23 It might take a while to find what works for you, but sticking with it is crucial for feeling mentally well and managing diabetes.23

Monitoring and Tracking Progress

Keeping an eye on your progress is key when managing diabetes. The A1C test checks your average blood sugar levels over 3 months.26 It’s a vital tool to see how well you’re controlling your diabetes. Alongside the A1C test, checking your blood pressure and cholesterol is important. This helps your doctor understand your overall health and spot any risks early.26

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A1C Testing

The A1C test, that’s also known as the hemoglobin A1C test, should be done at least twice a year.26 It gives a view of your usual blood sugar levels over 2-3 months. This info helps your healthcare team see how you’re doing in managing your diabetes.27

Blood Pressure Monitoring

Watching your blood pressure is also important for managing diabetes. High blood pressure can make diabetic problems more likely, like heart and kidney disease. So, checking your blood pressure often, whether at home or the doctor’s, is crucial.28

Cholesterol Levels

Don’t forget about your cholesterol levels when managing diabetes. High cholesterol can cause heart problems. Your healthcare team might check your cholesterol often to keep it in line. They’ll act if your levels are too high.28

Building a Diabetes Care Team

Managing diabetes well needs a team effort. Each member of your care team is important for your health. By working together, you make sure your diabetes is watched well. Also, your treatment fits your needs, and any problems get handled fast.29

Primary Care Physician

Your PCP is key in your diabetes care team. They oversee your health care and connect you with other experts. Together, you create a treatment plan that fits you and checks your progress. They also deal with any diabetes-related issues you may face.


An endocrinologist focuses on the endocrine system, which includes diabetes.30 They know how to handle complex diabetes, choose the right drugs, and watch for issues like neuropathy. They’re specially trained to care for diabetes in depth.30

Certified Diabetes Educator

A CDE helps you learn to manage your diabetes well. They give tips on meal planning, staying active, and taking your medications right. They also guide you on checking your blood sugar levels.

Registered Dietitian

An RD is crucial in the fight against diabetes. They make a meal plan just for you, considering what you like and what keeps your blood sugar stable. They also help with portion sizes, counting carbs, and picking healthy foods for you.


What are the key factors that affect blood sugar levels in people with diabetes?

Food, exercise, and medication are big players in keeping blood sugar in check. It’s vital to know how these affect you. Learning how to manage these is key.

Why is regular blood glucose monitoring important for managing diabetes?

Checking blood sugar at home is crucial for diabetes management. You can use meters for immediate updates on your levels. This helps you tweak your diet, exercise, and meds as needed.

How can a balanced meal plan help with managing diabetes?

Eating healthy is key for diabetes control. It’s about what, how much, and mixing foods. Strategies like counting carbs or using the plate method can help make meals well-balanced.

What are the benefits of regular physical activity for people with diabetes?

Exercise is essential for managing diabetes. It helps your body use blood sugar to fuel your muscles, which lowers sugar levels. Workouts that are more intense have longer-lasting effects.

How do insulin and other diabetes medications work to lower blood sugar levels?

Insulin and other meds lower blood sugar when lifestyle changes aren’t enough. Their success depends on the right time, dose, and how they are used. Knowing how to store and take them is also crucial.

What are the different types of insulin therapies available for managing diabetes?

Insulin is a key tool for controlling blood sugar. Different types include fast-, short-, medium-, and long-acting options. You might use them alone or together to stay on top of your blood sugar all day.

How should people with diabetes prepare for times of illness?

Illness can spike your blood sugar, making it tricky to manage diabetes. It’s important to plan for sick days. This should cover changes in your medicine, keeping an eye on your blood sugar and ketones, and when to call your doctor.

What are the potential complications of uncontrolled diabetes?

Diabetes can harm your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. If your blood sugar isn’t managed, you could face vision loss, kidney issues, nerve pain, and a higher risk of heart problems like heart attacks and strokes.

How can lifestyle changes help manage diabetes?

Healthy habits are crucial. This means eating well, watching portion sizes, and limiting sugary foods. Staying active with walking, swimming, or strength exercises also helps. These changes can control blood sugar levels and boost your health.

How can diabetes affect mental health, and what can be done to address it?

Diabetes can make you feel stressed or blue. It’s common to feel this way. Finding ways to relax, stay active, and leaning on friends and family is important. These steps help in coping with the emotional side of diabetes.

How can tracking progress help with managing diabetes?

Keep an eye on your health to stay on top of your diabetes. The A1C test and tracking blood pressure and cholesterol give crucial info. They show how well you’re doing and if there are any health risks to watch out for.

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