If you just received a diabetes diagnosis, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed—there’s a lot to keep up with! Your doctor told you to keep your blood sugar levels within a specific range. Since it’s coming from your doctor, it’s obviously important. But how do you manage your blood sugar levels?
We put together this guide for managing diabetes for beginners. Keep reading for tips on adjusting to your new lifestyle, including how to monitor and control your blood sugar levels.
Any time your doctor prescribes you a new medication, you need to take it! But this is especially true when it comes to diabetes medication like insulin. These medications lower your blood sugar levels when lifestyle changes alone can’t get the job done.
Here are a couple of important things to keep in mind when it comes to your insulin dosage:
- Pay attention to timing and dosage size. Both of these factors can affect the medication’s effectiveness. If you notice your blood sugar levels are too high or low consistently, then talk to your doctor. You may need to change the timing or dosage of your medication.
- Take care when storing insulin. Insulin is especially susceptible to extreme temperatures. Always store it in a stable temperature range and pay attention to the expiration date. Expired or temperature-affected insulin can be less effective.
- Talk to your doctor about other medications. Other prescription and over-the-counter medications can impact your blood sugar, including birth control.
Before putting you on diabetes medication, your doctor may have you attempt to improve your blood sugar levels with a healthy diet. When starting on this journey to a healthy lifestyle, you need to learn how different foods affect your blood sugar levels.
Check out the main things to watch out for when switching to a diabetic diet:
- Avoid sugary drinks. Beverages with a ton of added sugar (think soda, sweet tea, juice, etc.) have little nutritional value and are incredibly high in calories. The only time you should indulge in these beverages is if your blood sugar is too low. This is a quick way to get your levels back up in a pinch.
- Count carbohydrates and watch portions. If you’ve talked to anyone managing diabetes, you know that counting carbohydrates is a necessity. Because they greatly impact blood sugar levels, you’ll need to know exactly how many carbohydrates you’re consuming.
When sober, your liver does the job of counteracting low blood sugar by releasing stored sugar. However, when you drink alcohol, your liver becomes preoccupied with metabolizing the alcohol. As a result, your blood sugar may fall. Alcohol affects blood sugar levels shortly after consumption and the effects can last up to a day later.
Here’s what you should know before you have a drink:
- Talk to your doctor first. Alcohol can have a major impact on people with diabetes. As such, it should only be consumed occasionally and with your doctor’s approval.
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Prevent low blood sugar by eating before or with your drink, especially if you’re taking diabetes medication.
- Count your calories. Some alcoholic beverages have more calories than others. Dry wine and light beer have fewer calories and carbs than their sweeter counterparts. Also, if you prefer cocktails, opt for sugar-free mixers that won’t raise your blood sugar
- Check your blood sugar before you go to sleep. As we mentioned earlier, alcohol can affect blood sugar levels up to 24 hours after consumption. This makes it important for you to check your blood sugar levels before going to bed. Eating a light snack before bed can prevent low blood sugar throughout the night if your blood sugar isn’t between 100 and 140 mg/dL.
Like with a healthy diet, exercise is an essential part of an overall healthy lifestyle. This is especially true for those managing diabetes. Your body uses sugar for energy when you’re exercising. This not only keeps your blood sugar levels low: It also helps your body process insulin more easily.
Here are a few tips to keep you on track with your exercise plan:
- Create a schedule with your doctor. Your doctor can help you decide how much exercise you need and when the best time to exercise is for you.
- Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels. This means you need to check your blood sugar before, during, and after exercise. Physical exertion can lower your blood sugar, even hours after you’ve finished exercising. Watch out for signs of low blood sugar. Be sure to check your levels if you feel shaky, lightheaded, anxious, confused, hungry, or overly tired.
There are many factors that can affect your blood sugar levels besides diet and exercise. One of them is stress hormones that your body releases to fight off sickness. These hormones can also raise your blood sugar level. Additionally, when you’re feeling under the weather, your routine is thrown off, which means what and when you eat as well as exercise are affected.
If you’re feeling under the weather and managing a new diabetes diagnosis, follow these few tips:
- Make a plan. Everyone gets sick every now and then, some people more so than others. After you’ve been diagnosed, make a plan with your doctor concerning what to do if you get sick, especially if you know you have a weak immune system. This plan should include what medications you should continue or stop taking, how often you should measure your blood sugar and ketone levels, if, when, and how to adjust your medication dosages, and at what point you should call your doctor.
- Follow your meal plan. Being sick can really mess with your appetite, but if you can, you should stick to your meal plan as much as possible. It’s also a good idea to keep easily digestible foods on hand like crackers, soup, gelatin, and applesauce. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids that won’t affect your blood sugar. Water and unsweetened tea are some of your best options.
- Keep taking your diabetes medication. If your illness is accompanied by nausea or vomiting and you’re unable to eat, notify your doctor right away. To avoid putting yourself at risk of hypoglycemia, it may be necessary to adjust, either by reducing or withholding altogether, your short-acting insulin. But you should keep taking your long-acting insulin and continue to monitor your blood sugar often. Your doctor may also tell you to check your urine for ketones.
Need More Help Managing Diabetes for Beginners?
If you’re still feeling overwhelmed with your new diagnosis, then reach out to our dedicated team of professionals today. We have the right doctor and treatment plan to walk you through the changes you need to make for a healthy lifestyle.