The four things you have to do every day to lower high blood sugar are:
  1. Eat healthy food

  2. Get regular exercise

  3. Take your diabetes medicine

  4. Test your blood sugar.

Experts say most people with diabetes should try to keep their blood sugar level as close as possible to the level of someone who does not have diabetes. This may not be possible or right for everyone. Check with your doctor about the right range of blood sugar for you.

You will get plenty of help in learning how to do this from your health care providers. Your main health care providers are your doctor, nurse, and dietitian.

(A dietitian is someone who is specially trained to help people plan their meals.)

The next sections of this document will tell you more about the four main ways you take care of your diabetes: Eat healthy food, get regular exercise, take your diabetes medicine, and test your blood sugar.

Bring a family member or friend with you when you see your doctor. Ask lots of questions. Before you leave, be sure you understand everything you need to know about taking care of your diabetes.

Eat healthy food

People with diabetes do not need special foods. The foods on your diabetes eating plan are the same foods that are good for everyone in your family! Try to eat foods that are low in fat, salt, and sugar and high in fiber such as beans, fruits and vegetables, and grains. Eating right will help you:
  1. Reach and stay at a weight that is good for your body.

  2. Keep your blood sugar in a good range.

  3. Prevent heart and blood vessel disease.

Your daily eating plan should include foods from these groups: Food Pyramid
  • Milk and milk products like yogurt.

  • Meat, chicken or other poultry, fish, beans, cheese, and eggs.

  • Fruits and vegetables.

  • Bread, cereal, rice, noodles, and potatoes.

People with diabetes should have their own eating plan. Ask your doctor to give you the name of a dietitian who can work with you to develop an eating plan for you and your family. Your dietitian can help you plan meals to include foods that you and your family like to eat and that are good for you.

Action Steps...

If you USE insulin

  • Give yourself an insulin shot before you eat.

  • Eat at about the same time and the same amount of food every day.

  • Don't skip meals, especially if you have already given yourself an insulin shot because your blood sugar may go too low.

If you DON'T USE insulin

  • Follow your meal plan.

  • Don't skip meals, especially if you take diabetes pills because your blood sugar may go too low. Skipping a meal can make you eat too much at the next meal. It may be better to eat several small meals during the day instead of one or two big meals.

Get regular exercise

Exercise is good for your diabetes. Walking, swimming, dancing, riding a bicycle, playing baseball, and bowling are all good ways to exercise. You can even get exercise when you clean house or work in your garden. Exercise is especially good for people with diabetes because:
  1. Exercise helps keep weight down.

  2. Exercise helps insulin work better to lower blood sugar.

  3. Exercise is good for your heart and lungs.

  4. Exercise gives you more energy.

Before you begin exercising, talk with your doctor. Your doctor may check your heart and your feet to be sure you have no special problems. If you have high blood pressure or eye problems, some exercises like weight-lifting may not be safe. Your doctor or nurse will help you find safe exercises.

Try to exercise regularly. Exercise at least three times a week for about 30 to 45 minutes each time. If you have not exercised in a while, begin slowly. Start with 5 to 10 minutes, and then work up to more time.

If you haven't eaten for over an hour or if your blood sugar is less than 100-120, eat or drink something like an apple or a glass of milk before you exercise.

When you exercise, carry a snack with you in case of low blood sugar. Wear or carry an identification tag or card saying that you have diabetes.

Regular exercise such as walking and bicycling can help keep your blood sugar in a good range.

Action Steps...

If you USE insulin

  • Exercise after eating, not before.

  • Test your blood sugar before, during, and after exercising. Don't exercise when your blood sugar is over 240.

  • Don't exercise right before you go to sleep, because it could cause low blood sugar during the night.

If you DON'T USE insulin

  • See your doctor before starting an exercise program.

  • Test your blood sugar before and after exercising if you take diabetes pills.