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Living Well with Diabetes

Diabetes affects the ability of the body to lower blood sugar (glucose). This can lead to damage in many parts of the body, including blood vessels, kidneys, eyes and digestive system. Diabetes also increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke and blindness. With proper management and self-care, people with diabetes can lead a healthy life.

With proper management, it is possible to lead a healthy life with diabetes. Self-care gives you the power to manage diabetes and feel your best.

Diabetes affects the ability to lower blood sugar (glucose). In turn, this can lead to damage in many parts of the body, including the blood vessels, kidneys, eyes and digestive system. It also increases the risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and blindness.

Proper self-care, combined with your personal physician's treatment program, is the best way to protect your health. With self-care, you can manage your condition and improve your health; recognize symptoms and know when to get help; and limit the risk of future health problems.

Monitoring Your Blood Sugar

Because you can't always feel if your blood sugar is too high or too low, daily monitoring is critical. Long-range monitoring will tell you how well your treatment plan is working in the long term.

Daily Monitoring

  • Your physician or other health care provider can show you how and when to check your blood sugar
  • Make checking your blood sugar a part of your daily routine
  • Record the results in a log
  • Share the log with your health care provider

Long-range Monitoring

  • Make appointments for an A1c (also called HbA1c) test at least twice a year
  • The A1c shows what your average blood sugar levels have been for the past two to three months
  • In general, the goal is to have an A1c of less than 7 percent. If your result is greater, your treatment plan may be changed for better blood sugar control
  • An A1c of 7 percent corresponds to an average daily blood sugar level of about 155 mg/dL

Treating the Highs

Your health care provider will help you understand your target ranges or healthy blood sugar goals. If your blood sugar gets too high, you can take steps to get it back into a healthy range.

Treating High Blood Sugar (Hyperglycemia)

  • Check your blood sugar level, as well as ketones if directed
  • Drink plenty of sugar-free, caffeine-free liquids
  • Take extra insulin or medication if directed
  • Call your health care provider if your blood sugar and ketones don't return to the target range

Treating the Highs


Signs of Hypoglycemia

  • Shakiness
  • Dizziness
  • Sweating
  • Difficulty paying attention
  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Hunger

Signs of Hyperglycemia

  • High levels of sugar in the urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Vision problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Headache
  • Hunger

Medication for Diabetes


Insulin is a hormone that helps regulate blood sugar. When the body can't make insulin or use the insulin it has, your blood sugar can get too high. Medication or insulin injections may be prescribed to help lower blood sugar.

Taking Pills

Some pills help your body make more insulin. Other pills make the insulin in your body work better.

Exam and Test Checklist:
Maintain a record to keep track of the medical appointments you need each year
Have an A1c test at least twice a year or as recommended by your physician
Have your cholesterol checked yearly (HDL, LDL and triglycerides)
Have your blood pressure checked at each visit with your physician
Have a dilated eye exam every year or as your physician recommends
Ask your physician about foot exams, kidney screenings and other appointments you may need
Have your teeth cleaned and checked by a dentist two or more times a year

Taking Insulin

  • If your body can't make insulin, it can be injected. Insulin can't be taken in pill form
  • Insulin injections can be made with a needle and syringe or with an insulin pen
  • Your health care provider will recommend the best method for you

Eating Healthy with Diabetes


Certain foods affect blood sugar. Just because you have diabetes doesn't mean you have to diet or give up tasty foods. It does mean learning how to balance food and blood sugar.

Carbohydrates (Carbs)

  • Although carbs are part of a healthy diet, carbs also can raise your blood sugar
  • Carbs include sugars, starches and fiber
  • Sugars are in fruit, milk and honey. They are also added to foods like cereal, yogurt and desserts
  • Starches are in bread, cereals, pasta and dried beans. Corn, peas, potatoes, yams, acorn and butternut squash also are considered starchy vegetables

Fat and Protein

  • Fat and protein don't have a significant effect on blood sugar, but they do affect your overall health
  • Choose heart-healthy unsaturated fats like fish,vegetable oil, avocados and some nuts, like walnuts and almonds
  • Limit unhealthy saturated fats like red meat, whole milk and palm oil
  • Choose lean, low-fat protein sources like dried beans and peas, nuts, tofu, fish, egg whites, skinless poultry and nonfat milk

Caring for Your Feet


Diabetes can change the nerves in your feet, so it can be difficult to feel injuries or sore spots. Diabetes also affects blood flow, making it harder for cuts and sores to heal.

Make a point to check your feet every day, so you can catch problems before they get worse. If you have trouble seeing the bottoms of your feet, use a mirror or have someone help you. Examine the top, bottom and nails of each foot. Look for changes in color. Look for any red spots or streaks. Look for skin changes, such as blisters, corns or calluses. Check for dry, cracked or scaly skin. Check for changes in feeling, such as numbness, tingling, coldness or burning.

If you find a problem during a self-exam, call your physician immediately.

To help protect your feet:

Don't trim your corns, calluses, toenails. See a podiatrist (foot specialist) for regular foot care. Wash your feet with soap and water and dry them carefully, especially between your toes. Don't walk barefoot. Wear comfortable shoes. Avoid high heels, tight work boots or shoes that are too tight and need to be broken in.

Staying Active

Activity or exercise is an important part of managing your diabetes. If you're overweight, exercise can help you lose extra pounds, which helps the body use its own insulin better. Activity also can relieve stress and contribute to your well-being.

Exercise Checklist:
If your health care provider clears you to start an exercise program:
Check your blood sugar before you exercise
Choose shoes that are right for the activity
Wear a medical ID that says you have diabetes
Be sure to stretch and warm up
Carry fast-acting glucose tablets
Exercise with a partner
Drink plenty of water
Be sure to cool down afterward


Download a printable diabetes management brochure.

Adobe Acrobat Reader needed to view printable copy. Click HERE to get it.

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