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How can I Effectively Manage Diabetes?

A Kaminsky
Updated May 17, 2024
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Receiving a diagnosis of diabetes is generally overwhelming. A person may be left wondering how to get by: how and what to eat; how to take medications; how to test blood glucose. All these are components to manage diabetes effectively.

A newly diagnosed diabetic should always take a diabetes education class. Even if the diabetic chooses a different way of management, almost every class will teach a diabetic how to use a blood glucose monitor (most will give one away for free), talk about diet and also about the importance of foot care and seeing a doctor regularly. A diabetic will learn there certainly are complications of the disease, but being able to manage diabetes effectively will greatly reduce the severity and incidence of these complications.

The key to manage diabetes properly is good blood glucose control. In the United States, blood glucose is measured in milligrams per deciliter. Most doctors advise their patients that a 100 or below reading for fasting, and under 140 after meals is an ideal goal. Another way of measuring blood glucose is through the hemoglobin A1C test. An A1C gives an approximate measurement of blood glucose levels over the preceding three months. It is expressed in percentages, and anything under 6 percent is considered normal, and therefore excellent control for a diabetic.

To manage diabetes correctly, a diabetic, whether Type 1 or 2, should have a blood glucose monitor and should test frequently. Some doctors suggest a Type 2 test only once or twice a day, but a newly diagnosed Type 2 will want to test 5-6 times per day, for the best control. Different foods affect different people in different ways, so testing 2 hours after every meal will help a Type 2 find which foods result in lower readings.

A Type 1 will of necessity test several time per day since Type 1 diabetics often manage diabetes with insulin shots. This is because their bodies have stopped making insulin. Most Type 1s manage diabetes by knowing the number of grams carbohydrates in their foods, and giving themselves insulin to compensate. A Type 1 may also wear an insulin pump, which delivers measured doses of insulin 24 hours per day, and also allows the diabetic to give extra insulin as needed, without an injection. However, the Type 1 needs to know his or her blood glucose level in order to administer the proper amount of insulin.

Most Type 2s will want to follow a diet lower in carbohydrates, particularly those not on insulin. Carbohydrates convert to sugar much more quickly than fats or protein, and as such, cause higher blood glucose levels. Some carbohydrates are necessary to sustain life, but many Type 2s find that restricting their carbohydrate intake results in better glucose control. Some endocrinologists advocate a highly restrictive diet, with no more than 30-40 grams of carbs per day. While diabetics have been able to manage diabetes very effectively with this regimen, most will find it too strict. However, it may be of great benefit to diabetics with very high blood glucose levels, who need more help to bring down their levels. Many doctors advise 80-100 grams of carbs per day, which is attainable for most people. A diabetic should be a compulsive reader of nutrition labels.

Medication is another weapon in the arsenal to manage diabetes effectively. Most Type 2 diabetics will start out on medication, although some will be able to discontinue it for a while, if they achieve a good weight and good control. Metformin is one of the most commonly prescribed drugs for the Type 2. It helps reduce the body’s insulin resistance and also helps the liver from producing so much glucose. There are many medications on the market to help control diabetes and the patient’s doctor should work to make sure the patient is on the optimal dosage and combination of drugs.

Weight management is also important to manage diabetes. Losing weight improves insulin resistance, and may help a patient discontinue medication. A lower-carb diet is usually beneficial for weight loss as well as blood glucose control. Hand in hand with weight loss is exercise. Exercise is crucial for a Type 1 or Type 2 diabetic. For a Type 2, exercise improves immediate insulin resistance, plus it consumes glucose. As little as 15 to 20 minutes of walking can result in a 20-40 point drop in the blood glucose level. However, diabetics need to remember that strenuous exercise can often raise the blood glucose temporarily, as the liver dumps glucose to meet the demands for it, but the level will usually drop within 30 minutes or so of concluding the exercise. This is why a diabetic should never exercise, except for very moderate walking, if the blood glucose is over 200.

Regular medical care is also critical to manage diabetes. A diabetic should find a doctor willing to work with him in management, and who is up on the latest research and trends. With good medical care and living a generally healthy lifestyle, a diabetic can live a normal life with quality, as well as quantity.

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A Kaminsky
By A Kaminsky
Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseGEEK. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.

Discussion Comments

By anon21495 — On Nov 17, 2008

I don't think the amount of fat you already have stored in your body affects your fasting bloodwork numbers. It's in the books, so to speak. Losing the fat does decrease your insulin resistance, though, enabling your body to use its own insulin more effectively. However, you will certainly want to consult your doctor for solid information about this.

By waterwalker — On Nov 14, 2008

In 1996 a book was published,The glucose revolution. Creating the glycemic index, telling people the points of blood sugar raised when eating certain foods. My question is, Does stored body fat have a glycemic value, especially after fasting in preparation for lab work ?

A Kaminsky

A Kaminsky

Amy Pollick, a talented content writer and editor, brings her diverse writing background to her work at WiseGEEK. With experience in various roles and numerous articles under her belt, she crafts compelling content that informs and engages readers across various platforms on topics of all levels of complexity.
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