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Diabetes Mellitus and You (Self-Care)

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Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes can be scary, but it doesn’t need to be. In this article, we will explain a couple of life changes you will need to make to help you manage your blood sugar and reduce the risks of complications due to diabetes. For people who have been diagnosed as pre-diabetic, making some changes in this article can help manage your blood sugar levels, and can even help to stop your diabetes. Keeping your blood sugar under control is the objective for people with type 2 diabetes mellitus.

You can keep your blood sugar under control with a balance of:

  • Nutrition
  • Exercises, or increase in activity level.
  • Maintaining a positive outlook, and seeking support from family, friends, and your primary healthcare providers.
  • Being compliant with medicines or insulin, and any treatment recommended by your primary care team.

Risk of being Diabetic

Having diabetes can put you at risk for other long-term conditions. The most common of these include heart disease and kidney disease. You can find more information on these risks by searching Diabetes Mellitus Type 2 on our education page.

As a newly diagnosed diabetic, pre-diabetic, or even if you have a standing history of diabetes. You should be aware of the two most common symptoms:

  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hypoglycemia

Let’s begin with hyperglycemia. Hyperglycemia simply means that your blood glucose levels are too high. Identifying signs and symptoms of hyperglycemia will help you manage your blood glucose levels. Those symptoms include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Hunger
  • Feeling very thirsty
  • Needing to urinate more frequently than usual
  • Blurry vision

Hypoglycemia is low blood sugar. The risks for low blood sugar increase during or after exercise, during sleep, if you have an infection, and when not eating for prolonged periods of time or skipping meals. It is important to be able to identify the symptoms of hypoglycemia and treat it right away. Seek emergency medical attention if your symptoms are severe or if your hypoglycemia does not resolve. Symptoms may include:

  • Hunger
  • Anxiety
  • Sweating and feeling clammy
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness or feeling light-headed
  • Sleepiness
  • Nausea
  • Increase heart rate
  • Headache
  • Blurry Vision
  • Irritability
  • A change in coordination
  • Tingling or numbness around the mouth, lips, or tongue.
  • Fainting
  • Seizures

Identifying the signs and symptoms of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia is important and can even be lifesaving. You should always follow instructions provided to you by your primary care team, maintain all appointments with your primary care team, and report any abnormalities you find to your primary care provider. Monitoring your blood sugar levels is an essential part of preventative care and self-care with diabetes. You can find more information, and detailed instructions by reading Blood Glucose Monitoring for Adults on our education page.

Treating Hypoglycemia

The American diabetes association recommends the 15-15 rule. If you are alert and able to swallow safely. Take 15 grams of rapid-acting carbohydrates, then check your blood sugar 15 minutes after taking the carbohydrates. Repeat this process three times, if your blood glucose level does not increase above 70 mg/dl after the third time. Seek emergency medical attention. Rapid-acting carbohydrates include:

  • Gel Tubes
  • 1/2 cup of juice or soda (not diet or sugar-free juice)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar, honey, or corn syrup
  • Hard candies, jellybeans, or gumdrops. (See packaging label for proper amount)

If your blood glucose level returns to normal, make sure to eat a meal or a snack within one hour of your hypoglycemic episode. You can find more information on the 15:15 rule and hypoglycemia by visiting

Medication management

Having diabetes can raise your risk for other long-term conditions. These include heart disease and kidney disease. Your doctor may prescribe medications to lower this risk. Additionally, your doctor will prescribe medications and treatment plans to manage your blood glucose level and diabetes. We encourage you to:

  • Take all medications, insulin, and treatments as prescribed.
  • If your doctor says to take insulin and medications, do exactly as instructed.
  • Keep your prescriptions refilled properly. DO NOT run out of medication.
  • Keep all appointments with your primary care team.


The most important part of managing your diabetes is nutrition. The things you eat, and drink will affect your blood sugar, and your insulin dosage. Making good choices helps to control your diabetes and prevents other health problems. We recommend eating lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and healthy fats. Healthy food choices include:

  • Chicken, fish, egg whites, and beans.
  • Oats, whole wheat, bulgur, brown rice, quinoa, and millet.
  • Fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Low-fat dairy products.
  • Nuts, avocado, olive oil, canola oil.

Follow any advice given to you by your primary care provider and ask if scheduling a visit with a registered dietitian is right for you. Hydration is also important, make sure to drink enough water to keep your urine pale yellow.

Exercise and Activity

Having an active lifestyle is crucial in managing your diabetes. Insulin sensitivity is increased when you exercise, allowing your muscle cells to take up available glucose during and after activity, thus lowering your blood glucose level. During periods of activity, your muscle cells take up glucose and use it for energy whether insulin is available or not. So, you see, activity will not only allow you to naturally decrease your blood glucose levels, but it may also allow you to decrease your need for insulin. We recommend exercising three or more times a week. Consult with your primary care provider if you have preexisting conditions that may interfere with activity. Your primary care provider can help you formulate the right activity plan for you.

Examples of exercises include:

  • Stretching and strength training, such as yoga or weightlifting.
  • Brisk walking or jogging for more than 60 minutes.
  • Biking, swimming, and other aerobic exercises.

There are many ways to be active. Get out there and play with your grandkids! It really doesn’t matter which exercise program you choose, if any. If you make sure to get at least one hour of brisk activity daily, you will significantly improve your lifestyle.


Making healthy lifestyle choices will significantly reduce your risk for diabetes, assist with managing your diabetes, and reduce the risk for other associated health problems. You can:

  • Stop using Tabacco products. Seek help from your primary care provider if you need help quitting.
  • Reduce alcohol and alcoholic beverage consumption. These will have a negative effect on your blood glucose level. Talk to your primary care provider, and ask if alcohol consumption is safe for you.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Check your skin and feet every day for cuts, bruises, redness, blisters, or sores. Schedule regular foot exams with your primary care provider.
  • Brush your teeth twice daily, and floss one or more times a day. Visit your dentist one or more times every 6 months.

By keeping up with our nutrition, activity level, and lifestyle choices, we can minimize our risks for diabetes and improve our outcomes.

As always, we are here to help! Let us know your thoughts, comment below, and don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter for updates on healthcare-related topics and events. This information is provided for educational purposes only, it is not intended to replace advice given to you by your primary care provider.


Copyright 1995–2022. American Diabetes Association®. All rights reserved. (n.d.). Home. American Diabetes Association | Research, Education, Advocacy. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from

Copyright 1995–2022. American Diabetes Association®. All rights reserved. (n.d.). Hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Glucose) | ADA. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from

Copyright 1995–2022. American Diabetes Association®. All rights reserved. (n.d.). Blood sugar and exercise. Blood Sugar and Exercise | ADA. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from

Copyright © 2021 Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists. All rights reserved. (n.d.). Association of diabetes care & education specialists. Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists. Retrieved April 15, 2022, from

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