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.
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.
Diabetes affects 29.1 million people in the U.S., a whopping 9.4% of our population. That number has doubled in the last 10 years. And each year, it costs Americans more than $245 billion.
Worldwide, it affects more than 380 million people. And the World Health Organization estimates that by 2030, that number of people living with it will more than double.
Diabetes is also the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure, and stroke.
What Is Diabetes?
When you eat food, your body turns it into sugar. Then, your body releases a chemical called insulin, which opens up your cells so they can take in that sugar and turn it into energy.
Diabetes is a group of diseases that breaks that system, causing there to be too much sugar in your blood, or high blood glucose.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is normally diagnosed in kids, and it’s the more serious kind. Its is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks the cells that create insulin.
Without insulin, sugar builds up in the blood, starving your cells. This can cause eye, heart, nerve, and kidney damage, and in serious cases, can result in comas and death.
Type 2 Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common kind of diabetes, and it’s frequently called adult-onset diabetes because it’s usually diagnosed when you’re over 35.
People with this form of it produce some insulin, just not enough. And sometime, the insulin isn’t able to open the cells, which is called insulin resistance.
While many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or inactive, there is a new group of patients emerging—young, slim females. Molecular imaging expert Jimmy Bell, MD, calls this condition TOFI, thin outside, fat inside.
Instead of building up below the skin’s surface, fat gathers on their abdominal organs, which is more dangerous. Risk factors for these women include a lack of exercise, daily stress, and yo-yo dieting.
Some pregnant women who didn’t have diabetes before and won’t have it after develop a form called gestational diabetes.
Your high blood sugar can cause your baby to make too much insulin. When this happens, their cells can absorb too much sugar, which their bodies then store as fat. This can raise their risk of a difficult birth and breathing problems.
Early detection is key to preventing serious complications from diabetes.
These are some common symptoms:
- Peeing often
- Feeling very thirsty or hungry, even though you’re eating
- Extremely tired
- Blurry vision
- Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss, even though you are eating more (for type 1)
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands or feet (for type 2)
There are often no symptoms for gestational diabetes, so it’s important to get tested at the right time.