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Foods That Help

With both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, what you eat makes a difference. For instance, sugary or starchy carbs strongly affect your blood sugar (glucose). Go for a healthy mix of vegetables and fruits, whole grains, beans, fish, lean meats, and low-fat dairy. Ask your doctor or a registered dietitian for ideas on meals, snacks, and the best times to eat.

Work Your Plan

Use the advice your doctor or dietitian gave you to prevent your blood sugar from soaring after meals. Keep an eye on how much you eat and what’s on your plate. Check food labels to see how big (or small) a serving is. When you eat out, remember that many restaurants dish out far more food than a normal serving. Take some home.

Get the Good Exercise Effect

When you make it a habit to be active, it’s good for your blood sugar, especially with type 2 diabetes. Your body will respond better to insulin. Working out also prompts your muscles to use glucose. For instance, studies show that blood sugar levels improve when you build muscle through strength training. 

Avoid Workout Mistakes

While regular exercise can help control blood sugar, in some people it can make it drop. To keep your levels in check, your doctor may recommend you test your blood sugar before and after exercise. Take some fruit with you when you work out, or adjust your medications as needed. If your sugar dips, eat a snack and wait 15 minutes. Make sure it's above 100 before you get back to your activity.

What You Need to Avoid Low Blood Sugar

Stress can make your blood sugar level soar. Make time for hobbies you enjoy, connect with friends and family, and say no to things that overload your schedule. If you reach for a cigarette when you’re stressed, make it a priority to quit. Smoking makes diabetes complications more likely. Those include foot problems, nerve damage, and eye, heart, and kidney disease.

Chill Out

Stress can make your blood sugar level soar. Make time for hobbies you enjoy, connect with friends and family, and say no to things that overload your schedule. If you reach for a cigarette when you’re stressed, make it a priority to quit. Smoking makes diabetes complications more likely. Those include foot problems, nerve damage, and eye, heart, blood vessel, and kidney disease.

3 Surprising Things That Affect Blood Sugar

  1. Alcohol. If you drink, only do so if your blood sugar is stable.
  2. Illness. When you’re sick, test your blood sugar more often, stay hydrated, and try to eat regularly.
  3. Travel. Changes in time zones can disrupt your schedule. Test your blood sugar level before and after meals. Ask your doctor if you need to adjust your medications.

Stick to Your Treatment Plan

It's essential for your health. So follow your doctor’s advice about exercise and diet, and take your medication as directed. Type 1 diabetes is treated with insulin or an insulin pump, sometimes with other injectable medications. Type 2 is often treated with medications like insulin or drugs that help insulin work. Your doctor customizes your treatment plan with your age, body, and lifestyle in mind.

Treating Diabetes With Insulin

When you have the condition, your body often doesn't make enough insulin to control blood sugar. Doctors may prescribe insulin based on how long you've had diabetes and what type you have, your blood sugar level, your overall health, and other medicines you take.

Medicines You May Also Need

When you take insulin, you might also need other medications to improve your blood sugar. Pills or tablets for type 2 diabetes can increase insulin in the body or improve how well it works. Injectable drugs may slow down how fast your body absorbs glucose after you eat and curb your appetite.

Tips for Injections

Your doctor, a nurse, or another health professional will teach you how to give yourself insulin shots. Vary the spot on your body where you inject the insulin, so that you don’t build up scar tissue. For example, give yourself your shot on one side of your belly at breakfast, the other side at lunch, and in your outer thigh at dinner. Avoid your joints, groin, navel, and scars.

What Type Do You Take?

The types of insulin doctors prescribe for diabetes vary in how fast they work, when they peak, and how long they last. Rapid-acting, short-acting, and pre-mixed insulin are timed to meals. Long-acting and intermediate-acting work for up to 24 hours.

Timing and Meals

If you take shorter-acting and pre-mixed insulin, it must be working in your system when your body absorbs your food in order for you to avoid low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Take short-acting insulin 30 to 60 minutes before meals. People typically take pre-mixed insulin 15 minutes before. Take rapid-acting insulin 5-15 minutes before or immediately after meals.

Did You Take Too Much?

If you've had too much insulin, or you haven't eaten and you’re on insulin, you can get low blood sugar. If you start to have symptoms -- feeling tired, weak, or shaky -- eat or drink something with sugar, such as juice. Or take glucose tablets. Tell your doctor what happened in case you need to adjust how much insulin you take.

If You Need More Control

If you have trouble managing your insulin and blood sugar, you may want to try an insulin pump. They come with a programmable dose calculator to easily control your insulin dosage and help keep your blood sugar level steady. No matter how you take your medication, you can always ask your doctor for help. Together you can find the right balance between diet, exercise, and medication.

Time for an A1c Test?

This test can track your average blood sugar level over the past 2-3 months. It’s a simple blood test you get in your doctor’s office. Experts recommend that you get it twice a year. Most people with diabetes aim for a goal around 7% or less. If your result is too high, your doctor may adjust your medication.

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Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on May 12, 2015