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Getting the Right Diabetes Treatment

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8 Real-Life Ways to Manage Diabetes

Doctor William C Lloyd Healthgrades Medical Reviewer
Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Written By Jennifer Larson on August 8, 2021

Effectively managing type 2 diabetes requires some adjustments to your daily routine as well as planning ahead for sick days and emergencies.

Start by consulting with your physician and diabetes educator to sketch out a plan for you to remain healthy. These eight healthy habits are a great place to focus.

  • woman-hiking-in-field
    1. Get moving.
    Making sure you log some physical activity on a regular basis is beneficial for your health. Beyond helping you keep your blood sugar levels within your targeted limits, exercise can also help you maintain a moderate weight, lower your blood pressure, and even improve your mood. This doesn’t mean you have to launch into a hard-core exercise routine, full throttle. If you’re not already physically active, start by regularly taking short walks and gradually extending the intensity and duration. Or consider riding a bike, taking a dance class, or swimming. Make vigorous exercise a part of your regular routine.
  • close up of almonds
    2. Snack smart.
    At some point during your day, you’re going to want or need a healthy snack. Don’t wait for the hunger pangs to strike or your blood sugar levels to drop. Think ahead and stock up on some healthy snacks that appeal to your taste. The American Diabetes Association suggests these options for snacks with 5 carbohydrates or less per serving: 15 almonds, one serving of string cheese, one cup of light popcorn, or one hard-boiled egg. Want a larger snack? Add four or five whole wheat crackers to your string cheese or two extra cups of light popcorn. Or you could snack on an orange, half a turkey sandwich, two rice cakes with one tablespoon of peanut butter, or one cup of raw vegetable strips with 1/3 cup hummus.
  • bowl of raisins on table
    3. Be ready for an emergency.
    There’s a good reason that the scout motto is “be prepared.” You never know when you might get caught somewhere and develop hypoglycemia, which is the medical term for abnormally low blood sugar levels. When you need something to quickly boost your blood sugar levels, it’s best to have the right item already on hand. You need about 15-20 grams of glucose or carbohydrates, which you can get from glucose tablets, or from two tablespoons of raisins or four ounces of juice.
  • Sick woman lying in bed.
    4. Develop a sick-day plan.
    Fortunately, you won’t need to worry about this on a regular basis. However, if you do come down with the latest virus that’s floating around your community, you’ll want to know how to handle the situation, including any supplies you should keep on hand.
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  • Tired and Aching Feet
    5. Take care of your feet.
    Before you go to bed at night, take a good look at your feet. Diabetes increases your risk of developing certain problems with your feet, including fungal infections like athlete’s foot. Additionally, elevated blood sugar levels can cause nerve damage and poor circulation to your feet, which means you may develop a blister or ulcer and not even realize it until it gets infected. If you notice that the skin is breaking down on any part of your foot, let your healthcare provider know. Also, get your feet examined at least once a year.
  • Woman running in the mountain
    6. If the shoe fits, wear it.
    Speaking of feet, one of the best preventive measures you can take to ward off foot trouble starts at the shoe store. Look for comfortable shoes that fit your feet well. Socks matter too — keeping your feet dry will help prevent infections. Choose socks made of a breathable, moisture-wicking fabric. Bonus points for seamless socks that won’t rub blisters on your feet. You can also purchase socks that are made especially for people with diabetes.
  • man-walking-on-treadmill
    7. Boost the intensity of your exercise routine with HIIT.
    Take a hit? Make that “take a HIIT.”  High intensity interval training, or HIIT, is quickly gaining in popularity among the general population, and a growing body of research suggests that it can help people with diabetes, too. So if you’re already physically active but would like take it up a notch, challenge yourself. Something like HIIT might be worth exploring — be sure to run it by your doctor first.
  • glasses of red and white wine on table
    8. Watch your alcohol consumption.
    You don’t have to forego a glass of wine with dinner, but you do want to consume alcohol with caution. One drink per day for women, or two for men, is a good rule of thumb. Caution: your blood sugar may rise slightly after you drink alcohol, followed by a slight drop a few hours later. And if you’re a cocktail drinker, watch out for those mixers — colas and juices can add extra calories and boost your blood sugar level.
8 Real-Life Ways to Manage Diabetes
  1. Hu FB, et al. Walking compared with vigorous physical activity and risk of type 2 diabetes in women: a prospective study. JAMA. 1999; 282(15): 1433-9.
  2. Knowler WC, et al. Reduction in the incidence of type 2 diabetes with lifestyle intervention or metformin. New England Journal of Medicine. 2002;346(6):393-403.
  3. Fowler MJ. Diabetes Treatment, Part 1: Diet and Exercise. Clinical Diabetes. 2007;25(3):105-109. 
  4. Lifestyle Changes to Manage Type 2 Diabetes. American Family Physician. 2009; 79(1):42.
  5. Snacks. American Diabetes Association.
  6. Hypoglycemia. American Diabetes Association.
  7. Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar. Mayo Clinic.
  8. Asif M. The prevention and control the type-2 diabetes by changing lifestyle and dietary pattern. Journal of Education and Health Promotion. 2014; 3: 1.
  9. Stern L, et al. The effects of low-carbohydrate versus conventional weight loss diets in severely obese adults: one-year follow-up of a randomized trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2004;140(10):778-85.
  10. Shaban N, et al. The effects of a 2 week modified high intensity interval training program on the homeostatic model of insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) in adults with type 2 diabetes.
  11. McCulloch D. Patient information: Diabetes mellitus type 2: Alcohol, exercise, and medical care (Beyond the Basics). UpToDate.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Aug 8
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