Focus on wellness: Managing type 2 diabetes

One of the fastest-growing chronic diseases in the world, the condition can lead to serious medical complications

Diabetes measuring tool

Image caption: Checking your own blood sugar may be a regular part of your care, or you may check it only from time to time.

This information is provided to Johns Hopkins employees through a partnership with EHP.

Type 2 diabetes is a long-term condition. In fact, it is one of the fastest-growing chronic diseases worldwide and, if not well cared for, can lead to serious medical complications such as eye, kidney, and heart disease. Managing your diabetes means making some changes that may be hard, but your health care provider, diabetes educator, and others can help you.

Managing the condition means balancing your medicine with diet and activity. It may also include checking your blood sugar and working with your health care provider to prevent complications.

Take your medicine as prescribed

You may take pills or give yourself shots (usually insulin injections) for diabetes, or you may do both. Taking your medicines or giving yourself insulin in a timely manner will help you control your blood sugar, so think about ways that will help you remember to take your medicines the right way every day. Ask your health care provider, nurse, or diabetes educator for ideas.

Although now you may only be taking pills for your diabetes, this may change; over time, most people with type 2 diabetes also use insulin.

Eat healthy

A healthy, well-planned diet helps control the amount of sugar in your blood. It also helps you stay at a healthy weight or, if you are overweight, lose unwanted pounds. Extra weight makes it harder to control diabetes.

Your health care provider, nurse, 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. Having meals and snacks with vegetables, fruits, lean meats, or other healthy proteins, whole grains, and low-fat or nonfat dairy products will help control your blood sugar.

Be physically active

Being active can lower your blood sugar by helping your body use insulin to turn food into energy. Activity also helps you manage your weight.

Ask your health care provider to work with you to create a program—based on your age, general health, and types of activity you enjoy—that's right for you. You should start slowly but aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise or activity a week. Don't let more than two days go by without being active.

Check your blood sugar

Checking your own blood sugar may be a regular part of your care, or you may check it only from time to time. Your health care provider will give you instructions. Staying within the target range means that you are managing your diabetes well.

If your blood sugar levels are too high or too low, your health care provider may suggest changes to your diet or activity level, or may adjust your medication.

You may need to check your blood sugar more often when you are sick, with a cold or the flu, for example.

Take care of yourself

When you have diabetes, you may be more likely to develop foot, eye, heart, kidney, or other health problems. By controlling your blood sugar, and taking good care of yourself, you can help prevent these problems. Your health care provider can assist you.

Checkups. You should have regular checkups with your health care provider; at those visits, you will have a physical exam that includes checking your feet, blood pressure, and weight. You should also have complete eye, foot, and dental exams at least once every year.

Lab tests. At least two times a year, your health care provider will check your hemoglobin A1C. This blood test shows how well you have been controlling your blood sugar over two to three months. You will also have other lab tests, to check for kidney problems and abnormal cholesterol levels, for example.

Smoking. Smoking increases the chance that you will develop complications from diabetes, so if you smoke, you will need to quit. Ask your health care provider about strategies to help you.

Vaccines. Get a yearly flu shot, and ask your health care provider about vaccines to prevent pneumonia, shingles, and hepatitis B.

Stress and depression

Living with any serious condition can increase your stress and make you feel a lot of different emotions. In diabetes, feeling stressed or depressed can actually affect your blood sugar levels. If you are having trouble dealing with your diabetes, tell your health care provider, who can help or refer you to other providers or programs.

Support and resources

Know where you can get help.

Support. Ask family and friends to support your efforts to take care of yourself. Or, look for a diabetes support group locally or on the internet. (Check the Connect With Others link on

Counseling. Talk with a social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, or other counselor.

Information. Contact the American Diabetes Association at 800-342-2383 or

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