- Learn about blood sugar
Monitoring your blood sugar levels is an important part of managing diabetes. Daily monitoring provides ongoing feedback about your blood sugar levels and diabetes management. Use the information to guide your decisions about what to eat, when and how much to exercise, and to provide insight into proper insulin dosing. Recording the information in a logbook is vital to identify patterns. Some meters upload your results directly to your computer so you can see your levels in a chart or graph format. Your logbook, whether printed by hand or electronic, is essentially a tool that can be used during visits with your healthcare team to see how well your diabetes management plan is working and to make changes, if necessary. To find tools that you can use in your daily blood sugar management, click here.
- Understand the relationship between insulin and blood sugar levels
It’s important to take your insulin exactly as prescribed by your healthcare team. Injecting too much insulin can cause severe hypoglycemia. Symptoms of hypoglycemia include confusion, anxiety, shakiness, sweating or clammy skin, irritability, fatigue and extreme hunger. Injecting too little insulin can cause your blood sugar levels to rise, and can also result in high blood ketone levels. The side effects of injecting too little insulin can include fever, headache, gastrointestinal pain, difficulty breathing and vomiting. Your diabetes health care team will help you learn to make insulin dosing adjustments based on your blood glucose levels. Eventually, you will be able to make these adjustments yourself.
- Get organized
Store all of your diabetes supplies in one place – insulin, blood glucose testing supplies and snacks or glucose tablets. This way, everything you need is within easy reach. You could also have multiple supply kits: for example, one for home, and another for school or work. Take stock of your diabetes supplies regularly, to ensure that you always have enough on hand and then get replacement items before you’ll need them.
- Reduce your risks by being on top of your self-checks and health-related appointments
Things that you can do every day to ensure you’re on top of your diabetes control include:
- Checking your feet daily to make sure that there are no wounds, blisters, or other issues. Daily inspection allows you to spot problems early and get treatment.
- Brushing and flossing your teeth at least twice a day and preferably after you have a meal or snack. High blood sugar levels may lead to plaque buildup and increase the risk of gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and gum disease, so brushing regularly will help you prevent these problems.
- You and your healthcare team can determine how often you should test your blood glucose levels. When you test your blood sugar, be sure to review your results and make appropriate changes as needed.
Regular medical tests and checkups that should be a part of your diabetes management include:
- Every 3 months: A1C
- Blood pressure: every diabetes-related doctor or clinic visit
- Every 12 months: cholesterol and other blood fat tests, eye exam by an eye specialist, kidney function test, and foot inspection
Keep track of all of these appointments and get reminders with our Health Appointment Monitor in the ‘Tools’ section of the website.
- Make exercise an enjoyable part of your life
Exercise is great for overall health and helps lower blood sugar levels. It also helps improve blood flow and increase your energy levels, making it an essential part of your routine. The Diabetes Canada clinical practice guidelines recommend that people with diabetes should accumulate a minimum of 150 minutes (2-½ hours) of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise each week and resistance exercises three times a week. Picking activities that you really enjoy – and doing them with a workout buddy – will help you stay committed over the long term.
- Opt for healthy food choices
Even though you are using insulin, it is still really important to make healthier food choices: your blood sugar levels can be directly affected by what you eat and by the scheduling of meals and snacks. Planning your meals each day, rather than just winging it, can make a difference in your blood sugar readings.
- Investigate additional technologies that can help you manage your diabetes
There are all kinds of new technologies being introduced that can help you manage your diabetes. An insulin pump is a small, computerized device that delivers insulin continuously throughout the day. It attempts to mimic the normal pancreas's release of insulin, but you must tell the pump how much insulin to inject. Continuous glucose monitoring is a way to measure glucose levels in real-time throughout the day and night. A tiny electrode called a glucose sensor is inserted under the skin to measure glucose levels in tissue fluid. It is connected to a transmitter that sends the information via wireless radio frequency to a monitoring and display device.
- Know what can affect your blood sugar levels
It’s not just insulin, food and physical activity that have an effect on your blood glucose. Poor sleep patterns can negatively affect your blood glucose levels. Ensure that you have healthy sleep habits, so that your body can get the rest that it needs.
It’s well known that stress can raise blood glucose levels. When you’re feeling anxious about your diabetes management, there are some simple stress management techniques you can use.
- Take 10 deep breaths and focus on positive thoughts.
- Run yourself a bubble bath and relax in the soothing warmth.
- Listen to your favourite music.
- Sit down with a good book or magazine and read a few pages.
Refocusing your mind on pleasant activities can help you eliminate the stress that sometimes accompanies your diabetes management.
- Set long-term goals
Living with type 1 diabetes is a day-to-day challenge, and you’ll find that some days are better than others, for reasons that aren’t always clear. When you have a setback – for example, higher than normal blood glucose levels – it doesn’t mean that you’ve failed at your diabetes management. Take the long view, and set long-term goals, for example, commit to losing 10 pounds in the next two months. Rather than compare yourself to perfection, remember all the positive things that you do to manage your diabetes. Celebrate your victories, but learn and move forward from your setbacks. Don’t focus on negatives or mistakes, like missing a workout or having a rich dessert. Instead, reward yourself for being good – for having a great blood glucose reading, or for cooking a healthy meal.
- Get support when you need it
You are not alone on your diabetes journey. If you feel you need support, there are many resources available to help you. Reach out to a trusted confidante. Family members and friends – the people who know you best – can provide generous support when you feel overwhelmed. As well, ask your healthcare team about support groups in your area.
There are many online support groups and forums that you can join. Diabetes Canada offers educational and advocacy support, and Diabetes Care Community offers a community forum for you to share your thoughts and concerns.