6 Day-to-Day Factors That Impact Diabetes Control

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  • Potato chips or an apple? Regular or diet? We all make dozens of small decisions each day. If you have diabetes, some of these choices have a direct impact on your blood sugar control. Understanding how your daily routine affects your disease can help you keep control of your diabetes—without letting it take over your life. Here’s what you need to know. 

  • 1
    Your Diet

    The amount, type, and timing of the foods and beverages you consume play a big role in keeping your blood sugar steady. Work with your doctor or a nutrition specialist to design the diet that’s best for you. Several strategies, such as carbohydrate counting or an exchange list, can simplify your eating plan. 

  • 2
    Your Drinking
    glasses of red and white wine on table

    Alcohol can cause your blood sugar to drop dangerously low, a condition known as hypoglycemia. If you choose to drink, limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Stick with one drink per day if you’re a woman and two if you’re a man. Always pair alcohol with food, and check your blood sugar before, during, and after imbibing.

  • 3
    Your Workout

    Overall, an active lifestyle leads to better diabetes control. But working out can quickly alter your blood sugar levels in the short term. Talk with your doctor about what types of workouts are best and whether you need to adjust your meals or your diabetes medications when you exercise. He or she may suggest scheduling your workouts for a certain time of day. You’ll also need to check your blood sugar levels before you start exercising.

  • 4
    Your Immune System
    Worried senior woman comforting a sick elderly man

    Colds, flu, and other infections leave you feeling bad. They can also send your blood sugar soaring. Serious complications, including coma, can result. With your doctor and the rest of your diabetes care team, work out a plan for what to do when you’re under the weather. Your doctor will also tell you when you should seek immediate treatment. Usually, he or she will want you to call if you vomit more than once, have a high fever, or feel confused.

  • 5
    Your Hormones
    birth control pills and calendar

    Birth control pills may increase women’s blood sugar levels. Using them for more than a year or two may increase your risk for side effects and complications. Talk with your doctor if you have concerns about your reproductive health. Shifting hormone levels during menopause may also make it more difficult than before for women to control their diabetes. And women with diabetes often go through menopause earlier, increasing their risk for heart disease.

  • 6
    Your Stress Level
    student reading in class

    Whether it’s a tough day on the job or a physical injury, your body reacts to stress in similar ways. Your fight-or-flight response triggers the release of stress hormones. These hormones send sugar surging through your bloodstream. Control stress by changing the situation when you can. Take steps to relax. Practice deep breathing for 5 to 20 minutes per day. Or, look for a support group to help you manage the stress of coping with your diabetes. 

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jan 2
    1. Diabetes Diet, Eating, & Physical Activity. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/diet-eating-physical-activity
    2. What is Diabetes? National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/what-is-diabetes
    3. Taking Care of Your Diabetes at Special Times. National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse (NDIC). https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/diabetes/overview/managing-diabetes/sick-days-special-t...
    4. Alcohol. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/making-healthy-food-choices/alcohol.html
    5. Stress. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/complications/mental-health/stress.html
    6. Sexual Health. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/women/sexual-health.html 
    7. Women and Diabetes: Frequently Asked Questions. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/treatment-and-care/women/women-and-diabetes-frequently-asked-questions-faqwomen-and-diabetes.html
    8. Diabetes and Diet. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. http://www.eatright.org/resource/health/diseases-and-conditions/diabetes/diabetes-and-diet

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