This post was reviewed by our Director of Clinical Excellence and Oversight.
Whether you’re building a deck or practicing ballroom dancing, there is a learning curve to discovering how something works and how it works best for you. The same is true for people living with diabetes. Immediately following a diagnosis, people with diabetes have a lot to learn about the disease and how to approach food, activity, medication, and self-care so that they feel good today and stay healthy in the future.
Diabetes affects one in 10 Americans, or around 30 million people. Just over a million people have type 1 diabetes, which means they do not produce insulin. About 29 million people, have type 2 diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes may make insulin, but it doesn’t work as it should. Insulin helps the glucose from the food we eat enter our body cells to provide energy. Without insulin, your blood sugar stays high and cells don’t get the energy they need.
The cause of type 1 diabetes isn’t fully known, though it may be genetic. Type 2 diabetes may be hereditary and is often related to conditions like obesity or inactivity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and a history of heart attack or stroke. Some women develop diabetes while they are pregnant. This is known as gestational diabetes, and it usually disappears after childbirth.
People with a healthy blood sugar level have a lower chance of heart attack or stroke, and fewer problems with their kidneys, eyes, teeth, and gums. They heal faster and have more energy, too. For people diagnosed with diabetes, learning how to balance food, medicine, exercise, with their lifestyle is an important learning curve that can take a while to master.
Meals and Meds
When it comes to food, one of the things people with diabetes need to learn is how to eat so that their blood sugar levels stay within the range their health care professional set for them. Many times this involves eating fewer carbohydrates (carbs) as these can impact blood sugar. That’s why people with diabetes often choose more protein (fish, chicken, lean beef and pork, beans, tofu) and non-starchy vegetables (green beans, salad, broccoli, asparagus), and fewer carbs (bread, rice, pasta).
For most people with diabetes, sugary beverages like juice and soda aren’t recommended. However, one benefit of a sweet drink is that it can quickly raise a person’s blood sugar if it gets too low. Understanding when to drink a sweet drink is another learning curve people with diabetes need to master. Talk with your healthcare professionals about beverage choices and how they impact your blood sugar.
Medication works hand-in-hand with food to keep blood sugar in good control. If you don’t eat enough in proportion to your medication, your blood sugar can get too low, known as hypoglycemia. Too much food along with medicine can result in overly high blood sugar, or hyperglycemia. Your healthcare provider can help you create a food plan that balances meals and medicine.
Whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes you probably need to monitor your blood glucose levels. If you have type 1 diabetes, you will probably have to monitor your blood sugar several times a day, including at meal times, to know how much insulin to take. People with type 2 diabetes may also need to monitor their blood sugar at meal times. Work with your healthcare professionals to better understand the best times to monitor your blood sugar and what those numbers mean to your health. For some people with diabetes, fingersticks are a thing of the past because they use continuous glucose monitors or CGMs.
Get a Move On!
Exercise is especially important for people with diabetes. Because your muscles use glucose for energy when you exercise, the level of glucose in your blood is reduced. Exercise also:
- Lowers blood pressure
- Improves blood flow
- Burns extra calories
- Improves mood
- Helps prevent falls and improve memory in older people
- May even help you sleep better
Talk with your doctor about an exercise plan that’s safe and effective and includes both aerobic exercise and strength training. Ask what blood sugar levels you should look for before, during, and after exercise, especially if you take insulin.
You don’t have to run miles and miles to benefit from exercise! Even light activity like gardening, housework, or walking in place while you watch TV can be beneficial.
Whatever activity you choose, be sure to keep your water bottle close by. Getting dehydrated can affect your blood sugar. Talk to your healthcare professional about how to safely balance your food and exercise routine.
Your Health, Your Choices
People with diabetes need to be mindful about day-to-day choices. For example, you may have to think twice about enjoying a glass of wine. Alcohol can reduce your blood sugar, so you’ll need to get an OK from your doctor before you pour.
You’ll also want to try to minimize stress. You might not know that the hormones your body produces at times of stress can cause your blood sugar to rise. Explore ways to manage stress, like meditating, pursuing a fun hobby, or consulting a therapist.
Living well with diabetes is all about learning to find the balance that works for you. Partner with your care team to feel confident that you’re making wise choices that will keep you feeling good without letting diabetes get in the way!
Let HCD Do the Rest
When it comes to diabetes supplies, HCD’s team of experts can work with your healthcare professionals to make sure you get the supplies you need when you need them. CGM devices and other diabetes supplies can be shipped right to your door, and we handle all the paperwork. Let us give you a call by entering your phone number on the bottom left of the screen. We are eager to help, call us, or enroll online today.
Unless otherwise noted, the recommendations in this document were obtained from the sources indicated. Be advised that information contained herein is intended to serve as a useful reference for informational purposes only. HCD cannot be held responsible for the continued accuracy of or for any errors or omissions in the information. All trademarks and registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.