There are three main types of diabetes:
- Type 1 diabetes – Your body does not make insulin. This is a problem because you need insulin to take the sugar (glucose) from the foods you eat and turn it into energy for your body. You need to take insulin every day to live.
- Type 2 diabetes – Your body does not make or use insulin well. You may need to take pills or insulin to help control your diabetes. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes.
- Gestational (jest-TAY-shun-al) diabetes – Some women get this kind of diabetes when they are pregnant. Most of the time, it goes away after the baby is born. But even if it goes away, these women and their children have a greater chance of getting diabetes later in life.
How to manage your diabetes
You are the one who manages your diabetes day by day. Talk to your doctor about how you can best care for your diabetes to stay healthy. Some others who can help are:
- diabetes doctor
- diabetes educator
- eye doctor
- foot doctor
- friends and family
- mental health counselor
- nurse practitioner
- social worker
Healthy eating is the cornerstone of healthy living- with or without diabetes. But if you have diabetes, you need to know how foods affect your blood sugar levels.
It is not only the type of food you eat, but also how much you eat and the combinations of food types you eat.
What to do:
- Learn about carbohydrates counting and portion size:
A key to many diabetes management plans is learning how to count carbohydrates. Carbohydrates often have the biggest impact on your blood sugar levels.
For people taking mealtime insulin, it is important to know the amount of carbohydrates in your food, so you get the proper insulin dose.
Learn what portion size is appropriate for each food type. Simplify your meal planning by writing down portions for foods you eat often. Use measuring cups or a scale to ensure proper portion size and an accurate carbohydrate count.
- Make every meal well balanced:
As much as possible, plan for every meal to have a good mix of starches, fruits and vegetables, proteins, and fats. Pay attention to the types of carbohydrates you choose.
Some carbohydrates, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, are better for you than others. These foods are low in carbohydrates and have fiber that helps keep your blood sugar levels more stable.
Talk to your doctor, nurse or dietitian at Atlantic Endocrinology & Diabetes Center about the best food choices and the appropriate balance of food types.
- Coordinate your meals and medications:
Too little food in proportion to your diabetes medications — especially insulin — may result in dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). Too much food may cause your blood sugar level to climb too high (hyperglycemia).
Talk to your diabetes health care team about how to best coordinate meal and medication schedules.
- Avoid sugar-sweetened beverages:
Sugar-sweetened beverages tend to be high in calories and offer little nutrition. And because they cause blood sugar to rise quickly, it’s best to avoid these types of drinks if you have diabetes.
The exception is if you are experiencing a low blood sugar level. Sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda, juice and sports drinks can be used as an effective treatment for quickly raising blood sugar that is too low.
Insulin and other diabetes medications are designed to lower your blood sugar levels when diet and exercise alone aren’t sufficient for managing diabetes. But the effectiveness of these medications depends on the timing and size of the dose.
Medications you take for conditions other than diabetes also can affect your blood sugar levels.
What to do:
- Store insulin properly:
Insulin that’s improperly stored or past its expiration date may not be effective. Insulin is especially sensitive to extremes in temperature.
- Report problems to your doctor:
If your diabetes medications cause your blood sugar level to drop too low or if it’s consistently too high, the dosage or timing may need to be adjusted.
- Be cautious with new medications:
If you’re considering an over-the-counter medication or your doctor prescribes a new drug to treat another condition — such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol — ask your doctor or pharmacist if the medication may affect your blood sugar levels.
Sometimes an alternate medication may be recommended. Always check with your doctor before taking any new over-the-counter medication, so you know how it may impact your blood sugar level.
How does exercise affect blood sugars?
Being physically active can affect blood sugar levels in different ways, depending on the type of activity you’re doing.
We know a lot of people don’t want to exercise because it can lower their blood sugars. You might be constantly worried about hypos, and that’s understandable. But did you know that not all types of exercise make your blood sugars go down? Some make them go up too.
Some days you’ll do exactly the same type of activity and eat the same foods, but your blood sugar levels may act differently to what you’d expect. This can be really frustrating, but it’s completely normal. Anything from hormones to the weather can affect your diabetes.
Understanding more about what happens before, during and after you’re active could help ease some of this worry. It also helps to manage how your levels fluctuate.