Diabetes management involves a multi-faceted approach of which blood glucose control is an important but part but by no means the only part.
We look at each of the factors which you, together with support from your health team, should aim to keep in control of.
Managing Diabetes & Blood glucose control
Controlling or ‘managing’ blood glucose is the cornerstone of diabetes management. Research has shown that prolonged periods of higher than normal blood glucose levels can lead to the development of a number of health conditions referred to as long-term complications of diabetes.
There are a number of methods that can be used to help you keep your blood glucose levels in check:
- Home monitoring of blood glucose levels
- Regular HbA1c tests
- Diabetes education
- Advice from your diabetes health team
- Diabetes medication
Preventing high and low blood glucose
Higher- and lower-than normal blood sugar levels can also cause short term complications which, at their worst, can sometimes be fatal. A good understanding of diabetes coupled with a dedication to blood glucose control can help to minimize the short term risks of diabetes.
Hypoglycemia is the most common short term complication and should be actively prevented by anyone on insulin or blood sugar-lowering diabetes tablets (oral hypoglycemics such as sulfonylureas or prandial glucose regulators).
Managing weight is particularly important for people with type 2 diabetes. Generally, the more excess weight you carry, the more difficult it is likely to be to control your diabetes.
Losing weight can help improve sensitivity to insulin meaning that your body is better able to control blood glucose levels. Steady or significant weight loss can help people with diabetes prevent moving onto stronger medication and, in some cases, you may be able to have your medication reduced.
Losing weight can also help:
- Reduce the risk of heart disease and other diabetes complications
- Improve your mobility
- Reduce the risk of certain cancers
- Reduce the risk of conditions such as osteoarthritis and sleep apnea
Your diabetes health team should measure your weight regularly, at least once a year, and your BMI value may be assessed to inform whether you may benefit from certain treatments.
As someone with diabetes, you should be given access to speak with a dietician, who can advise you on your diet. Your doctor may also be able to refer you on to a weight loss program.
Blood pressure and cholesterol
In addition to blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels will also be routinely measured to assess your risk of long term complications, notably the risks of heart disease and stroke.
Some people with diabetes will have success in controlling blood pressure and cholesterol through lifestyle changes, such as diet, exercise and cutting down or quitting alcohol and smoking. If these changes are not sufficient, medication can help with meeting the targets.
Your health team should advise you on how you can control blood pressure and cholesterol levels in order to prevent or slow down the development of cardiovascular disease and other diabetes-related conditions.
Diet and physical activity
Diet and exercise can each affect blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels which is why they are both very important for the management of all people with diabetes mellitus.
A healthy diet should be one that is:
- Well balanced
- Not high in calories
- Rich in vitamins and minerals
- Based upon foods with a lower GI (glycemic index) value
Lower GI foods get absorbed as glucose more slowly than higher GI foods and therefore are better for maintaining good blood glucose levels.
Physical activity has a beneficial effect on metabolism and also has a number of additional benefits including:
- Can help with weight loss in combination with an appropriate diet
- Improving mental health
- Helping to reduce or prevent nerve damage and other complications
- Improving bone health
- Reducing risk of cancer
See our diabetes health targets guide to find out which blood sugar, cholesterol, blood pressure and BMI targets you should be aiming to achieve.
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Last reviewed: March 10, 2015 at 16:12
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