According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), in 2012, 29.1 million people had diabetes, and 8.1 million of them didn’t even know they had it. Managing you and your family’s diabetes can be a challenge.
Sometimes, you don’t realize the reach the disease can have on your health and your lives.
Controlling your blood sugar through an insulin-based treatment plan can be tricky, but these tips can help.
Your blood sugar can also swing for reasons other than what you eat, so awareness is key.
When you’re first diagnosed, insulin injections can be a scary part of dealing with your diabetes. This guide can help walk you through the process.
You can also check out the YouTube video playlist Diabetes Basics from the ADA to learn more about how diabetes works and ways to protect yourself.
Your Family’s Diabetes
Of the 9.3% of the U.S. population who has diabetes, about 208,000 people are under age 20. And when you’re still growing up, the age difference can change the affects, both physically and emotionally.
The ADA’s page For Parents and Kids is a great place to start as you explore your child’s diabetes. Be Healthy Today; Be Healthy for Life is also an in-depth resource for kids and their families about living with type 2 diabetes.
The National Diabetes Education Program also has these PDFs of helpful info and tips written specifically for teens and their needs:
- What Is Diabetes?
- Stay at a Healthy Weight
- Make Healthy Food Choices
- Dealing With the Ups and Downs of Diabetes
The ADA also has a page, Everyday Life, that helps you find resources to help your kids live with diabetes through all the stages and events of life. Topics include leaving them with babysitters, telling others, playing sports, and even parties, dating, and driving.
Their YouTube channel also has a playlist of videos to help you make sure your kids are Safe at School.
For additional resources and ways we can help, visit us online and join our Diabetes Disease Management program.
Stress and Your Blood Sugar
Everyday stress can make your diabetes worse by triggering hormones that change blood sugar. Plus, when you’re stressed out, you’re less likely to practice good self-care.
According to Livestrong, stress causes blood glucose to rise by releasing two hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones increase your glucose in order to help reduce your stress.
Stress can make you emotional, which for many people can lead to binge eating. People usually turn to foods filled with sugar and carbohydrates for comfort, which raise your blood sugar.
To cope with stress and reduce its impact, try to:
- Breathe deeply. Practice breathing slowly and deeply at least once a day to calm yourself.
- Move more. Even simple exercises like a quick walk or dancing around the living room can make you feel better.
- Focus on the positive. Find something you enjoy that takes your mind off whatever is causing your stress.
- Practice good self-care. Eat right, exercise, and get plenty of sleep.
Outdoor play helps keep your blood sugar in check. It’s also a great way to have fun with your friends and family.
Do something you love or would like to try. Here are some ideas to get you started!
- Go fishing at a local lake.
- Try hiking in a nearby state park.
- Plant a family garden in your backyard.
- Ride your bike through your neighborhood.
- Go roller skating, walking, or running with a friend.
- Play a backyard sport like basketball or catch with your family.
Remember to check your blood sugar before starting. You might need to eat an extra snack if it’s too low.
If you’re leaving home, pack testing gear, meds, extra snacks, and water. Wear your medical ID bracelet and bring contact numbers and a copy of your emergency plan.
Diabetes shouldn’t stop you from having fun. Just plan ahead so you have what you need, and always take a break right away if you start feeling dizzy.
You can never be too prepared with your diabetes. Take time to pack a diabetes emergency kit now before an emergency strikes. Here are some important items for packing the perfect kit:
- A 3-day supply of:
- Medicines, marked with their name and correct dose
- Insulin pump
- Extra batteries
- Alcohol wipes for cleaning the injection area
- A cooler for storing insulin and meds
- Flashlight, in case you lose power
- Medical ID bracelet to help first responders quickly know your needs. Your tag should have:
- Your name
- Diabetes, insulin pump, or insulin dependent
- Known allergies
- Emergency contact numbers
- A list of your meds and doses
- A blood sugar log to help you keep track of your numbers in an emergency
- Drinks and snacks like water, juice, fruit cups, and hard candies
- Your doctor’s name and contact information
- Emergency contact information with cell and work phone numbers, emails, and home addresses
Be sure to update your kit with new meds and supplies as things change. Also, mark on your calendar when your supplies and meds will expire.
There is no better time than now!
These days, we can do almost anything with our phones and tablets, and that includes getting help managing your diabetes. Check out these apps (and more) that the American Diabetes Association recommends.
Managing Your Diabetes On-the-Go
Glucose Buddy has tools to track blood sugar levels, med doses, nutrition, and exercise, including handy graphs. And you can set up phone alerts to remind you when to check your levels.
This app makes learning to eat with type 1 diabetes fun and easy. There is a “Does This Food Have Carbs?” game and pictures of common foods with their carb counts.
Eating smart is one of the best ways to control your diabetes. Diabetes Nutrition helps you do that by showing you what is actually in the foods you eat. Scan the barcode to see nutrition facts, added sweeteners, and a health grade for the food. When that food isn’t getting a great grade, just tap the screen to see healthier choices.
LogFrog helps track blood sugar levels with a frog as your guide. This app makes logging your levels feel like a game. Graphs show spikes in your levels to help you decide if you should change up your daily plan. You can also set alerts so you always remember to check levels and take your medicine on time. This app is a great option for helping your kids manage their diabetes.
GoMeals helps you eat right, even when you’re away from home. You can look up nutrition facts for restaurant meals and food. You can look at restaurant menus to help you plan ahead for smart choices. You can also track your foods and nutrition after eating.
Traveling is already stressful. When you add in you or your family’s diabetes, it just gets worse. But, like all vacation planning, good prep is key to making sure traveling with diabetes goes smoothly.
Preparation for Traveling with Diabetes
It’s best to travel when your diabetes is under control, so schedule a check up with your doctor before your trip if you need to.
Make sure you have enough of current prescriptions to take while traveling. With some things, you can stock up in advance. For others, you may have to take your prescription with you and get it filled on the road. Make sure you also know which pharmacies your plan covers before getting a prescription filled there.
Keep a document that lists all of the medicines and supplies you’re traveling with. Not only can it help you pack before leaving home or the hotel, but you can also show it to security agents at airports to help them check your supplies quickly.
Call or check out your insulin pump company’s website before you fly. Not all pumps can go through the X-ray machines safely, so it’s important to check for yours. If your pump can’t go through, let one of the TSA agents know and ask for a pat down check instead.
Packing for Traveling with Diabetes
According to the TSA, most diabetes supplies, including insulin, pumps, unused syringes, lancets, and blood glucose meters are allowed in your carry-on.
It’s important that you pack supplies and snacks in your carry-on so that you can monitor your diabetes during the flight without problems.
Keep medications in their original containers, and keep them in a separate, clear plastic bag. This makes it easy for security to check what kind of meds you have and that they’re yours.
Use your list to make sure you’ve packed everything you need to take care of your diabetes.
If your kids are traveling without you, it’s important to both help them pack their supplies, and to make sure they have their emergency plan and important numbers, like your phone number and their blood sugar levels, handy when traveling.
At the Airport
Once you’re at the airport, the key to a smooth flight is communication.
Make sure you tell the security officers you are traveling with diabetes supplies and meds and if you need a pat down or your bag checked by hand to protect your pump.
Use a phone, an app, or a watch that can stay on your home time zone, so you can keep track of when you should be eating and taking medicine on your normal schedule. It’s easy to get distracted on vacation, so alarms are also an easy way to remind yourself at the right time.
Once you’re on your flight, if you feel sick and need food, a drink, or to get your carry-on quickly, it can help if you let your flight attendant know what’s happening. They can help you better and faster if they know it’s important for your diabetes.
Always make sure you’re wearing your shoes after you go through security and on your flight. Never go barefoot to protect your feet.
Once you’ve made it to your hotel, it’s a good idea to make sure your supplies are still organized after the flight.
Make sure you’re still keeping track of meals, meds, and your levels like you would at home. Try to plan activities so you’ll have plenty of time to go back to your room to check your levels or take meds, or be ready to bring things with you.
And of course, watch what you eat. Vacation is a good time to enjoy yourself, but still keep a good count of your carbs.
With a little extra planning, diabetes won’t be able to stand in your way of an amazing trip!
There isn’t a cure for diabetes, but it is very treatable. Treating diabetes depends on which type of diabetes you have.
Type 1 Diabetes
Because those with type 1 diabetes can’t produce enough of their own insulin, they must treat their diabetes with insulin injections.
Type 2 Diabetes
For many, treatment for type 2 diabetes focuses on diet and exercise. If blood sugar levels stay high, oral medications can help your body better produce insulin.
In some cases, insulin injections are used.
For those who who are at risk of TOFI type 2 diabetes, it’s important to:
- Exercise, which is the only way to shed fat on the abdominal organs.
- Lower stress, which can temporarily raise your blood sugar.
- Diet smart by avoiding “diet foods” that are actually loaded with sugar, like low-fat salad dressings and vitamin drinks.
Treatment for gestational diabetes needs to happen quickly to protect you and your baby.
Treatment tries to keep your blood sugar levels at the same levels as healthy pregnant women’s through a combination of these:
- Specialized meal plans
- Regular, scheduled physical activity
- Daily blood sugar testing
- Insulin injections
It’s important to work with your doctor to make a treatment plan in all cases, but especially with gestational diabetes where personal changes are important for protecting your baby.
The A1c test measures your average blood sugar level over 2-3 months. Your doctor will generally order it every 3-6 months depending on which type of diabetes you have to keep an eye on how your treatment is working.
For most adults, the American Diabetes Association’s suggests your A1c be under 7%, but your doctor will help you decide what’s best for you. Studies show that people with diabetes keep normal A1c levels live five years longer, on average.
Checking your blood sugar with your personal meter helps you manage your treatment on a day-to-day basis. It gives you info right away to help you make decisions about taking your insulin, when to exercise, and tell you if you’re on track.
Keeping normal blood sugar levels reduces the risk of high cholesterol, and controlling your cholesterol can lower heart complications by 50%.
These two tests work together to tell you how your diabetes management is going. This chart shows what an A1c level translates to in blood sugar levels:
A1c Average Blood Sugar (mg/dl)
The biggest challenge to people who are treating diabetes with insulin injections is balancing exactly how much insulin you need to take, which can vary based on:
- Current emotions
- General health
Not balancing these factors and your insulin can result in hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia.
Hypoglycemia is when you eat too little food, take too much insulin or diabetes meds, or get extra exercise, which causes your blood sugar levels to be too low.
Hyperglycemia is when you eat too much food, don’t take enough insulin, or are stressed or sick, and then your blood sugar levels are too high.
The best way to know if your blood sugar is high or low is to test your levels. But it’s also good to know the warning signs:
- Trouble paying attention
- Tingling mouth
- Pale face
- Passing out
- Going to the bathroom a lot
- Blurry vision
- Hungry, even when you’ve eaten.
When your blood sugar level is too low, you can:
- Eat or drink something with 15 grams of carbs:
- Try three glucose tablets, 4 ounces of apple or orange juice, 4 ounces regular soda, 1 tablespoon cake frosting or three Jolly Ranchers.
- Wait 15 minutes, and then check your blood glucose level again.
- If your blood glucose is still too low, eat another 15 grams of carbs. Wait another 15 minutes, and then check your blood glucose again. You may want to keep eating until you feel better, but it’s very important to wait the full 15 minutes.
If you or your care team feel your signs are serious, inject glucagon which is the opposite of insulin—it raises your blood glucose level.
If your blood sugar is high, it’s important to remember that one high blood sugar reading isn’t a big deal, it happens to everyone from time to time. But if you keep running high day after day, talk to your doctor.
No matter what, it’s important to talk to your doctor and care team about the best way to manage your diabetes and how to handle these situations.
There’s a lot of information out there about your diabetes and what you should and shouldn’t do, so it’s only natural that you have diabetes questions.
The truth is that there’s really nothing you can’t do or eat. The key is moderation, along with a well-balanced meal plan and exercise.
Diabetes Questions Answered
These common diabetes questions can help you get answers.
Q: Is there a cure for diabetes?
A: Sue Kirkman, senior vice president of the American Diabetes Association (ADA), said there is no cure for type 1 or type 2 diabetes. But if you eat right, you can help control your disease.
Q: Do people with diabetes have to be on a special diet?
A: Once upon a time, people with diabetes had to follow super-strict diets. Now, we know that following a balanced diet will help with your diabetes. A balanced diet includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, dairy, and small amounts of good fats, like nuts and avocados.
Q: If I have diabetes, do I need to avoid foods that are high in carbs, like pasta and bread?
A: Carbohydrates are an important past of a well-balanced diet. A person with diabetes should consume around 3 to 4 servings of carbs per day. Whole-grain foods are especially good for you. They’re high in fiber, which has many health benefits. Of course, carbs aren’t something you should binge on, but they definitely should be a part of your diet.
Q: What about sweets?
A: Again, you shouldn’t eat an entire box of Milk Duds at the movie theater, but chocolate and other sweets aren’t off-limits. Just keep it under control and enjoy small portions. And fruit is a great option when you’re craving something sweet. You can also check a diabetes cookbook to find healthy and delicious desserts you’ll love.
Q: Can caffeine raise my blood sugar?
A: You probably won’t see a major spike in your blood sugar levels. But if you have Type 2 diabetes, drinking caffeine, especially after meals, can affect your blood sugar. Studies have shown that the amount of caffeine in two cups of black coffee can cause a noticeable rise in your blood sugar levels. If managing your levels is hard, less caffeine might be a good first step for you.
Q: Is there an insulin pill?
A: The ADA says an insulin pill is not coming soon. But, shots aren’t your only choice. There are also patches that you stick to your stomach for an easy dose of insulin.