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Managing Type 1 Diabetes

Diabetes is a lifelong (chronic) condition. Managing your diabetes means making some changes that may be hard. Your healthcare provider, nurse, diabetes educator, and others can help you.

Managing type 1 diabetes means balancing your insulin with diet and activity. You will have to check your blood sugar. Sometimes you will have to check your ketones. You will have to work with your provider to prevent complications.

Woman sitting at breakfast table looking at glucometer and writing in glucose log.

Inject your insulin

You may need to inject insulin. Or you may have an insulin pump. The insulin moves the sugar in your blood into your cells.

Insulin comes in several different types. They vary in how fast they start working and how long the effects last. Some people use a combination of more than 1 type of insulin. Your healthcare provider, nurse, or a diabetes educator can help you learn how to do injections.

Make sure you use insulin as directed by your provider. They may change the type, timing, or dose, if your blood sugar is not well controlled.

Make sure your insulin is stored correctly and is not past the expiration date.

Eat healthy

A healthy, well-planned diet helps to control the amount of sugar in your blood. It also helps you stay at a healthy weight.

Your healthcare provider, nurse, a dietitian, or diabetes educator will help you create a plan that works for you. You don't have to give up all the foods you like. To help control your blood sugar, have meals and snacks with:

  • Vegetables

  • Fruits

  • Lean meats or other healthy proteins

  • Whole grains

  • Low-fat or nonfat dairy products

Be physically active

Being active helps your body use insulin to turn food into energy.

Ask your healthcare provider to help you create an activity program that's right for you. Your activity program is based on your age, general health, and types of activity that you enjoy. Start slowly. But aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise or activity on most days. The 30 minutes doesn't need to happen all at once. Exercising for 10-minute periods during the day works just fine. Try to get 150 minutes of exercise every week. Smartphone apps or a fitness watch can help you track your daily activity.

Monitor your blood sugar

Your healthcare provider will give you instructions about checking your blood sugar at home. Checking it tells you if your blood sugar is in your target range. Having blood sugar levels in your target range means that you are managing your diabetes well. You may be able to use a continuous glucose monitoring device. This is a device that can make it easier to test your blood sugar. Ask your provider about other new tools that help people manage their diabetes.

Your provider will tell you what is too high and too low for you. Call your provider if your blood sugar is often out of that range. Know how to recognize and respond quickly to low blood sugar symptoms. These include sweating, shaking, or confusion).

Your provider may tell you to check your blood sugar more often when you are sick. For example, you need this plan when you have a cold or the flu. This is called a "sick day plan." It includes information on how you can prepare for illness and emergencies. It says what food, medicines, and supplies you need on hand. Your provider will include details about any changes in your blood sugar testing or medicines. They when to call your provider, and when to go to an emergency room. Make copies of this plan. Put 1 copy in a secure place in your home. Give other copies to close family and friends.

If your blood sugar levels are often too high or too low, your provider may advise changes to your diet or activity level. They may adjust your medicine.

Check for ketones

You may sometimes need to check your urine for ketones. Ketones are chemicals that are made when fat, instead of glucose, is burned for energy. When this happens, it's called ketosis. Your healthcare provider, nurse, or diabetes educator will give you test strips. To check for ketones, follow the instructions that come with the strips. If there are ketones in your urine, call your provider right away. Some people use home glucose monitors to check the blood for ketosis. Ask your provider, nurse, or diabetes educator for more information.

Take care of yourself

When you have diabetes, you may be more likely to develop other health problems. They include foot, eye, heart, nerve, and kidney problems. By controlling your blood sugar, and taking good care of yourself, you can help to prevent these problems. Your healthcare provider, nurse, diabetes educator, and others can help you. Your care will include:

  • Checkups. Have regular checkups with your provider. At these visits, you will have a physical exam. This includes checking your feet. Your provider will check your blood pressure and weight.

  • Other exams. Have complete eye, foot, and dental exams at least 1 time a year. Always take your shoes off at each visit so your provider checks your feet.

  • A1C tests. At least 2 times a year, your provider will check your hemoglobin A1C. This blood test shows how well you have been controlling your blood sugar over 2 to 3 months. The results help your provider manage your diabetes. 

  • Other lab tests. You will have other blood tests. And you will have urine tests. These tests may check for kidney problems and abnormal cholesterol levels.

  • Not smoking.If you smoke, get help to quit. Smoking increases the chance that you will have complications from diabetes. Ask your provider about ways to quit. Don't use e-cigarettes or vaping products.

  • Vaccines.Get a yearly flu shot. And ask your provider about vaccines to prevent pneumonia, hepatitis B, shingles, and other infectious diseases.

Treat stress and depression

Most people have challenges during their lives. Living with diabetes, or any serious condition, can increase your stress. It can make you feel a lot of different emotions. With diabetes, feeling stressed or depressed can affect your blood sugar levels.

If you are having trouble dealing with diabetes, tell your healthcare provider. They can help or refer you to more healthcare support or programs. It may help to join an online support community. Your provider can give you the names of helpful online groups.

To learn more

Don't hesitate to get help when you need it. You can get:

  • Support. Ask family and friends to support your efforts to take care of yourself. Or look for a diabetes support group locally or online. Click on Connect with Others at www.diabetes.org.

  • Counseling.Talk with a counselor for more support. This may be a licensed social worker (LCSW), clinical psychologist (PhD), psychiatrist (MD), or other counselor.

  • Information.Contact the American Diabetes Association at 800-342-2383 or www.diabetes.org.

Online Medical Reviewer: Marianne Fraser MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Raymond Kent Turley BSN MSN RN
Online Medical Reviewer: Robert Hurd MD
Date Last Reviewed: 2/1/2022
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