How to Keep Diabetes Under Control
It takes some work, but the results are positive
Too much glucose in the blood for a long time can cause diabetes problems.
This high blood glucose, also called blood sugar, can damage many parts of the body, like the heart, blood vessels, eyes and kidneys.
Heart and blood vessel disease can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
You can do a lot to prevent or slow down diabetes problems.
Will I Have Diabetes Problems?
Maybe. You may have one or more diabetes problems or none at all. If you get diabetes when you are young, you may not have diabetes problems for many years. If you find out you have diabetes as an adult, you may already have diabetes problems. Either way, keeping your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol under control can prevent diabetes problems.
What Should My Blood Glucose Numbers Be?
Keeping your blood glucose on target can prevent or delay diabetes problems. The chart below shows target blood glucose levels for most people with diabetes.
Target Blood Glucose Levels for People With Diabetes
Talk with your health care provider about what your blood glucose numbers should be.
Talk with your health care provider about when you need to check your blood glucose using a blood glucose meter. You will do the checks yourself. Your health care provider can teach you how to use your meter.
Keep track of your blood glucose checks using the record page. Make copies yourself or ask your health care provider for a blood glucose record book. Your blood glucose check results will help you and your health care provider make a plan for keeping your blood glucose under control. Always bring your record book to your doctor visits so you can talk about reaching your glucose goals.
How Can I Find Out What My Average Blood Glucose Is?
Ask your health care provider for the A1C test. This blood test shows the average amount of glucose in your blood during the past 2 to 3 months. Have this test done at least twice a year. If your A1C result is not on target, your health care provider may do this test more often to see if your result is improving as your treatment changes. Your A1C result plus your blood glucose meter results can show whether your blood glucose is under control.
The A1C target for most people with diabetes is below 7 percent. Ask your health care provider if this target is right for you.
If your A1C test result is on target, then your blood glucose is in a desirable range and your diabetes treatment plan is working. The lower your A1C is, the lower your chance of having health problems.
If your result is too high, you may need a change in your diabetes plan. Your health care team can help you decide what part of your plan to change. You may need to change your meal plan, your diabetes medicines, or your physical activity plan.
What Your A1C Result Means:
What Should My Blood Pressure Be?
Normal blood pressure will help prevent damage to your eyes, kidneys, heart, and blood vessels. Blood pressure is written with two numbers separated by a slash. For example, 120/70 is said as "120 over 70." The first number should be below 130 and the second number should be below 80. Keep your blood pressure as close to these numbers as you can. If you already have kidney disease, ask your doctor what numbers are best for you.
Meal planning, medicines, and physical activity can help you reach your blood pressure target.
Have your blood pressure checked at every doctor's visit.
What Should My Cholesterol Be?
Normal cholesterol and blood fat levels will help prevent heart disease and stroke, the biggest health problems for people with diabetes. Keeping cholesterol levels under control can also help with blood flow. Have your blood fat levels checked at least once a year. Meal planning, physical activity, and medicines can help you reach your blood fat targets:
Target Blood Fat Levels for People With Diabetes
What Does Smoking Have To Do With Diabetes Problems?
Smoking and diabetes are a dangerous combination. Smoking raises your risk for diabetes problems. If you quit smoking, you'll lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, nerve disease, and kidney disease. Your cholesterol and your blood pressure levels may improve. Your blood circulation will also improve.
If you smoke, ask your health care provider for help in quitting.
What Else Can I Do To Prevent Diabetes Problems?
You can do many things to prevent diabetes problems. For example, to keep your feet healthy, check them each day. Ask your health care team whether you should take a low-dose aspirin every day to lower your risk for heart disease. To keep your eyes healthy, visit an eye care professional once a year for a complete eye examination that includes using drops in your eyes to dilate the pupils.
Make sure your doctor checks your urine for protein every year. At least once a year, your blood creatinine level should be checked. Also once a year, your health care provider should do a complete foot exam. See Things to Do Every Day for Good Diabetes Care for what you can do each day to stay healthy with diabetes. See Things for Your Health Care Provider to Look at Every Time You Have a Checkup for other things to check for good diabetes care.
Things to Do Every Day for Good Diabetes Care
- Follow the healthy eating plan that you and your doctor or dietitian have worked out.
- Be active a total of 30 minutes most days. Ask your doctor what activities are best for you.
- Take your medicines as directed.
- Check your blood glucose every day. Each time you check your blood glucose, write the number in your record book.
- Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, sores, swelling, redness, or sore toenails.
- Brush and floss your teeth every day.
- Control your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Don't smoke.
Things for Your Health Care Provider to Look at Every Time You Have a Checkup
Things for You or Your Health Care Provider to Do at Least Once or Twice a Year
How to Use the Daily Diabetes Record Page
Use copies of the record page to keep track of blood glucose checks, medicines, and notes about things that affect your blood glucose. Make one copy of the record page for each week. This record will help you see whether your diabetes plan is working. Review your record with your health care provider.
Blood Glucose Checks
Talk with your health care provider and decide on the best times to check blood glucose. You may be checking blood glucose before meals, after meals, or at bedtime.
Under the heading marked "Medicine," write the names of your diabetes medicines and the amounts taken.
Write down things that affect your blood glucose level. Some examples are:
- Eating more or less than usual.
- Forgetting to take your diabetes medicine.
- Exercising-write down what kind and for how long.
- Being sick or upset about something-being under stress.
- Going to a social event or other special event, or being on vacation.
Diabetes Teachers (nurses, dietitians, pharmacists, and other health professionals)
To find a diabetes teacher near you, log on to the American Association of Diabetes Educators website or call toll-free (800) 832-6874.
To find a dietitian near you, log on to the American Dietetic Association website or call toll-free at (800) 877-1600.
To get more information about taking care of diabetes, contact
National Diabetes Education Program
1 Diabetes Way
Bethesda, MD 20892-3560
Phone: (800) 438-5383
Fax: (703) 738-4929
American Diabetes Association
1701 North Beauregard Street
Alexandria, VA 22311
Phone: (800) 342-2383
Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International
120 Wall Street
New York, NY 10005-4001
Phone: (800) 533-2873
Adapted from "Prevent diabetes problems: Keep your diabetes under control," a publication of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The National Institutes of Health, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation's medical research agency — making important discoveries that improve health and save lives. NIH is the largest single source of financing for medical research in the world, seeking new ways to cure disease, alleviate suffering and prevent illness. By providing the evidence base for health decisions by individuals and their clinicians, NIH is empowering Americans to embrace healthy living through informed decision-making. NIH is made up of 27 institutes and centers, each with a specific research agenda, focusing on stages of life, like aging or child health, or particular diseases or body systems.