Controlling blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes involves a combination of lifestyle interventions and, if needed, medication together with frequent blood glucose monitoring.

Achieving lower blood glucose levels is important as this can substantially lower the risk of developing  long term health complications.

Weight control

Statistically, the majority of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight, or were, at the time of their diagnosis.

Research has shown that increases in body weight in people with type 2 diabetes is associated with a lower sensitivity to insulin.

What this means is that if you are overweight and can shed some of the excess weight, it is common for your blood sugar levels to show signs of improvement.

In some cases, losing significant amounts of body weight has allowed people to reduce their dependence on diabetes medication.

In addition, keeping your body weight under control also has a number of other benefits including:

Diet

Diet is often one of the most powerful ways in which you can control type 2 diabetes.

Generally, most people with type 2 diabetes will be advised to follow a low calorie diet to help with weight management and to benefit blood glucose levels.

Other popular options for people with diabetes are diets based on low GI foods (such as whole grain foods) or foods with low carbohydrate values.

For more information, see our Food and Diet section

Exercise

Regular physical activity is recommended for a number of reasons, including:

  • Assists weight management
  • Can reduce blood sugar levels
  • Can help improve circulation
  • Can improve mood and increase motivation

Exercise needn’t mean anything too strenuous. Walking, for example, has been shown to be particularly effective in reducing after meal blood glucose levels for example.

Medication

There is a range of medications available for treating type 2 diabetes. The different medications work in different ways. There are positive and negative effects to weigh up for each medication.

For example, stronger medications may be good at lowering blood glucose levels but may increase the risk of hypoglycemia whereas alternative medications may not lower blood glucose levels so aggressively but may support you in losing weight.

Blood glucose testing

Blood glucose testing can be an important tool for controlling your diabetes and can help with:

  • Monitoring your progress
  • Learning how different foods affect your sugar levels
  • Identifying low blood glucose levels (if on sulfonylureas, glinides or insulin)

Many people with type 2 diabetes have found blood glucose testing to be invaluable for helping them choose which foods and quantities are appropriate for their blood sugar levels.

One way to assess  the effect of meals on sugar levels is to use an easy to carry out blood testing technique known as pre and post prandial blood glucose testing. This involves testing your blood sugar levels just before a meal and 2 hours after starting your meal.

A1c

An A1c test can be carried out by your health provider to monitor how well controlled your blood glucose levels have been over a period of the last 2 to 3 months.

The A1c test therefore helps you and your doctor to see how well your blood sugar levels are responding to the lifestyle changes you’ve made and any medication you’re taking.

It also allows your doctor to make informed decisions about how best to treat your diabetes.