Unlike many health conditions, diabetes is managed mostly by you, with support from your health care team (including your primary care doctor, foot doctor, dentist, eye doctor, registered dietitian nutritionist, diabetes educator, and pharmacist), family, teachers, and other important people in your life. Managing diabetes can be challenging, but everything you do to improve your health is worth it!
You’ll need to check your blood sugar regularly. Ask your doctor how often you should check it and what your target blood sugar levels should be. Keeping your blood sugar levels as close to target as possible will help you prevent or delay diabetes-related complications.
Stress is a part of life, but it can make managing diabetes harder, including controlling your blood sugar levels and dealing with daily diabetes care. Regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, and relaxation exercises can help. Talk to your doctor and diabetes educator about these and other ways you can manage stress.
Make regular appointments with your health care team to be sure you’re on track with your treatment plan and to get help with new ideas and strategies if needed.
Whether you just got diagnosed with diabetes or have had it for some time, meeting with a diabetes educator is a great way to get support and guidance, including how to:
- Develop a healthy eating and activity plan
- Test your blood sugar and keep a record of the results
- Recognize the signs of high or low blood sugar and what to do about it
- If needed, give yourself insulin by syringe, pen, or pump
- Monitor your feet, skin, and eyes to catch problems early
- Buy diabetes supplies and store them properly
- Manage stress and deal with daily diabetes care
If you have prediabetes, losing a small amount of weight if you’re overweight and getting regular physical activity can lower your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. A small amount of weight loss means around 5% to 7% of your body weight, just 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person. Regular physical activity means getting at least 150 minutes a week of brisk walking or a similar activity. That’s just 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
A lifestyle change program offered through the CDC-led National Diabetes Prevention Program can help you make those changes—and make them stick. Through the program, you can lower your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by as much as 58% (71% if you’re over age 60). Highlights include:
- Working with a trained coach to make realistic, lasting lifestyle changes.
- Discovering how to eat healthy and add more physical activity into your day.
- Finding out how to manage stress, stay motivated, and solve problems that can slow your progress.
- Getting support from people with similar goals and challenges.
The best time to prevent type 2 diabetes is now.
Type 1 Diabetes
If you have type 1 diabetes, you’ll need to take insulin shots (or wear an insulin pump) every day to manage your blood sugar levels and get the energy your body needs. Insulin can’t be taken as a pill because the acid in your stomach would destroy it before it could get into your bloodstream. Your doctor will work with you to figure out the most effective type and dosage of insulin for you.
Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can happen quickly and needs to be treated immediately. It’s most often caused by too much insulin, waiting too long for a meal or snack, not eating enough, or getting extra physical activity. Hypoglycemia symptoms are different from person to person; make sure you know your specific symptoms, which could include:
- Nervousness or anxiety
- Sweating, chills, or clamminess
- Irritability or impatience
- Dizziness and difficulty concentrating
- Hunger or nausea
- Blurred vision
- Weakness or fatigue
- Anger, stubbornness, or sadness
If you have hypoglycemia several times a week, talk to your doctor to see if your treatment needs to be adjusted.
Type 2 Diabetes
You may be able to manage your type 2 diabetes with healthy eating and being active, or your doctor may prescribe insulin, other injectable medications, or oral diabetes medicines to help control your blood sugar and avoid complications. You’ll still need to eat healthy and be active if you take insulin or other medicines. It’s also important to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control and get necessary screening tests.
Type 2 Diabetes & Youth
Childhood obesity rates are rising, and so are the rates of type 2 diabetes in youth. More than 75% of children with type 2 diabetes have a close relative who has it, too. But it’s not always because family members are related; it can also be because they share certain habits that can increase their risk. Parents can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes by developing a plan for the whole family:
- Drinking more water and fewer sugary drinks
- Eating more fruits and vegetables
- Making favorite foods healthier
- Making physical activity more fun
Healthy changes become habits more easily when everyone makes them together. Find out more out more about preventing type 2 diabetes in kids.
Connect with Others
Tap into online diabetes communities for encouragement, insights, and support. The American Diabetes Association’s Community page and the American Association of Diabetes Educators’ Peer Support Resources are great ways to connect with others who share your experience.