Strategies to Control Your Diabetes

Medically Reviewed by Michael Dansinger, MD on December 08, 2021

If you've just been told you have diabetes, you can still keep up with the things you love. Manage your health the right way, and you'll live a rewarding, active life. Here's how.

Ask questions and learn as much as you can about:

  • Changes you can make to take care of yourself
  • Medical treatments you need

Start with your doctor. They can put you in touch with experts that can give you answers, like:

  • Diabetes educators
  • Dietitians
  • Other specialists

Talk to your friends and family members who have diabetes. You could also join a support group and connect online with other people who are going through the same things you are. Knowing more will help you make good choices.

You and your doctor will make a treatment plan to fit your needs. It could include:

Medicines. Whether you need them to treat your diabetes depends on things like your:

Lifestyle changes. You'll see your condition get better if you:

Blood sugar. Your doctor can teach you how to keep track of it and show you what to do to avoid highs and lows.

Diabetes makes you more likely to get conditions that may affect your eyes, nerves, heart, teeth, and other body parts. So you want to watch your diabetes ABCs.

"A" stands for A1c. This test measures your average blood sugar over the past 2 or 3 months. Your goal is to keep your score beow 7% without risking low blood sugar.

"B" stands for blood pressure. If you have diabetes, you're more likely to get high blood pressure. That can lead to other serious conditions. Get your pressure checked two to four times each year.

"C" stands for cholesterol. Diabetes can also raise your chances of having high cholesterol, which makes heart disease and strokes more likely. Get it tested at least once every year.

Once you know more about living with the condition, you'll be ready to put that knowledge into practice. A healthy lifestyle includes:

  • Two to four doctor visits each year
  • A balanced diet
  • At least 30 minutes of exercise most days
  • Steps to reach and keep a healthy weight
  • At least two dentist visits a year
  • No smoking
  • Eye and foot exams every year
  • Yearly vaccinations

You can prevent problems if you control your diabetes with diet, medication, exercise, and regular checkups.

It's also important to know the warning signs of some common complications:

Nerve damagecalled diabetic neuropathy can affect your feet and legs. You may get symptoms like:

Eye problems called diabetic retinopathy can happen from damage to small blood vessels in the retina. That's a layer of tissue on the inside of your eyes. Talk to your doctor if you notice signs of trouble, such as:

Kidney damage called diabetic nephropathy is a complication that can lead to treatment with dialysis or a kidney transplant. To rule out problems, your doctor will check your blood pressure a few times a year and your urine protein (they may call it microalbumin) at least once a year.

Heart disease and strokes are more likely if you have diabetes. The risks go even higher if you:

  • Smoke
  • Are overweight
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Have heart disease in your family

Talk to your doctor about your chances of having these conditions and what you can do to lower them.

If you catch complications early, you'll boost your chances of success. Talk to your doctor whenever you have concerns. You may need something as simple as a lifestyle change or a tweak in your meds.

Your diabetes health care team is there to help. Their goal is the same as yours: let you keep doing the things you love with the people you care about.

Show Sources


American Diabetes Association: "Diabetes Statistics," "Medication," "Eye Complications," "Your Health Care Team."

University of Pennsylvania Health System: "Glossary of Key Terms."

Utah Department of Health: "Your A1C Number -- Planning for Tomorrow," "Is Your Diabetes Control on Target?"

American Academy of Family Physicians: "Diabetes: Preventing Diabetic Complications."

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