Living With Diabetes

  • by National Institute of Health
  • Articles

Step 1: Learn About Diabetes

Diabetes means that your blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high. There are two main types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes- the body does not make insulin. Insulin helps the body use glucose from food for energy. People with type 1 need to take insulin every day. Type 2 diabetes- the body does not make or use insulin well. People with type 2 often need to take pills or insulin. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes. Gestational diabetes- may occur when a woman is pregnant. Gestational diabetes raises her risk of getting another type of diabetes, mostly type 2, for the rest of her life. It also raises her child’s risk of being overweight and getting diabetes.

Diabetes is serious.

You may have heard people say they have “a touch of diabetes” or “your sugar is a little high.” These words suggest that diabetes is not a serious disease. That is not correct. Diabetes is serious, but you can learn to manage it! All people with diabetes need to make healthy food choices, stay at a healthy weight, and be physically active every day. Taking good care of yourself and your diabetes can help you feel better. It may help you avoid health problems caused by diabetes such as: When your blood glucose (blood sugar) is close to normal you are likely to: 
  • have more energy.
  • be less tired and thirsty and urinate less often.
  • heal better and have fewer skin or bladder infections.
  • have fewer problems with your eyesight, feet, and gums.
Actions you could take: 
  • Ask your health care team what type of diabetes you have.
  • Learn why diabetes is serious.
  • Learn how caring for your diabetes helps you feel better today and in the future.

Step 2: Know Your Diabetes ABCs

Talk to your health care team about how to manage your A1C (blood glucose or sugar), Blood pressure, and Cholesterol. This will help lower your chances of having a heart attack, a stroke, or other diabetes problems. Here’s what the ABCs of diabetes stand for:A for the A1C testThe A1C Test shows you what your blood glucose has been over the last three months. The A1C goal for many people is below 7. High blood glucose levels can harm your heart and blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and eyes.B for Blood pressure.The blood pressure goal for most people with diabetes is below 140/90. It may be different for you. Ask what your goal should be. High blood pressure makes your heart work too hard. It can cause heart attackstroke, and kidney disease.C for Cholesterol.Ask what your cholesterol numbers should be. LDL or “bad” cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels. It can cause a heart attack or a stroke. HDL or “good” cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from your blood vessels. Actions you could take: 
  • Ask your health care team:
    • What your A1C, blood pressure, and Cholesterol numbers are
    • What should your ABC numbers should be
    • What you can do to reach your targets
  • Write down all your numbers on the record card at the back of
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Step 3: Manage Your Diabetes

Many people avoid the long-term problems of diabetes by taking good care of themselves. Work with your health care team to reach your ABC goals (A1C, Blood Pressure, Cholesterol): Use this self-care plan. 
  • Use your diabetes meal plan. If you do not have one, ask your health care team about one.
    • Make healthy food choices such as fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meats, chicken or turkey without the skin, dry peas or beans, whole grains, and low-fat or skim milk and cheese.
    • Keep fish and lean meat and poultry portion to about 3 ounces (or the size of a deck of cards). Bake, broil, or grill it.
    • Eat foods that have less fat and salt.
    • Eat foods with more fiber such as whole grains cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta.
  • Get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Brisk walking is a great way to move more.
  • Stay at a healthy weight by using your meal plan and moving more.
  • Ask for help if you feel down. A mental health counselor, support group, member of the clergy, friend, or family member who will listen to your concerns may help you feel better.
  • Learn to cope with stress. Stress can raise your blood glucose (blood sugar). While it is hard to remove stress from your life, you can learn to handle it.
  • Stop smoking. Ask for help to quit.
  • Take medicines even when you feel good. Ask your doctor if you need aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke. Tell your doctor if you cannot afford your medicines or if you have any side effects.
  • Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots, and swelling. Call your health care team right away about any sores that do not go away.
  • Brush your teeth and floss every day to avoid problems with your mouth, teeth, or gums
  • Check your blood glucose (blood sugar). You may want to test it one or more times a day. Use the card at the back of this booklet to keep a record of your blood glucose numbers. Be sure to take this record to your doctor visits.
  • Check your blood pressure if your doctor advises.
  • Report any changes in your eyesight to your doctor.
Actions you could take: 
  • Talk with your health care team about your blood glucose targets. Ask how and when to test your blood glucose and how to use the results to manage your diabetes.
  • Discuss how your self-care plan is working for you each time you visit your health care team.
​Talk to your health care team about how to manage your A1C (blood glucose or sugar), Blood pressure, and Cholesterol. This will help lower your chances of having a heart attack, a stroke, or other diabetes problems. Here’s what the ABCs of diabetes stand for:  

Step 4: Get Routine Care to Avoid Problems

See your health care team at least twice a year to find and treat any problems early. Ask what steps you can take to reach your goals. If you have diabetes, at each visit be sure you have a: 
  • blood pressure check
  • foot check
  • weight check
  • review of your self-care plan shown in Step 3
If you have diabetes, two times each year get: 
  • A1C test - it may be checked more often if it is over 7
If you have diabetes, once each year be sure you have a: 
  • cholesterol test
  • triglyceride (try-GLISS-er-ide) test - a type of blood fat
  • complete foot exam
  • dental exam to check teeth and gums - tell your dentist you have diabetes
  • dilated​ eye exam to check for eye problems
  • flu shot
  • urine and a blood test to check for kidney problems
If you have diabetes, at least once get a: 
  • Pneumonia (nu-mo-nya) shot
The check markmarks show actions you could take. check mark
  • Ask your health care team about these and other tests you may need. Ask what the results mean.
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  • Write down the date and time of your next visit.
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  • Use the card of the back of
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  • learning about healthy eating and diabetes self-care
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  • special shoes, if you need them
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  • medical supplies
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  • diabetes medicines​​​​​​
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  • If you have Medicare, ask your health care team if Medicare will cover some of the costs for
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