Coping with Diabetes

When you have diabetes, you have too much glucose in your blood. Over time, this excess glucose can damage both large and small blood vessels, leading to heart disease, stroke, nerve damage, blindness and kidney disease. That’s why people with diabetes must regularly check their blood glucose. They need to keep their level from dropping by using strategies like snacking. When their glucose is too high, insulin can help to bring it down. Essentially, they have to manage their blood glucose level 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)1

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Back to: « Diabetes

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Daily diabetes care is a lot to handle, from taking meds, injecting insulin, and checking blood sugar to eating healthy food, being physically active, and keeping health care appointments. Your support can help make the difference between your friend or family member feeling overwhelmed or empowered.

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How can I cope with the stress of managing my diabetes?

Managing diabetes isn’t always easy. Feeling stressed, sad, or angry is common when you are living with diabetes. You may know what to do to stay healthy but may have trouble sticking with your plan over time. Long-term stress can raise your blood glucose and blood pressure, but you can learn ways to lower your stress. Try deep breathing, gardening, taking a walk, doing yoga, meditating, doing a hobby, or listening to your favorite music. Learn more about healthy ways to cope with stress .

Source: NIDDK (NIH)2

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Cope with your diabetes in healthy ways

Feeling stressed, sad, or angry is common when you live with diabetes. Stress can raise your blood glucose levels, but you can learn ways to lower your stress. Try deep breathing, gardening, taking a walk, doing yoga, meditating, doing a hobby, or listening to your favorite music. Consider taking part in a diabetes education program or support group that teaches you techniques for managing stress. Learn more about healthy ways to cope with stress .

Depression is common among people with a chronic, or long-term, illness . Depression can get in the way of your efforts to manage your diabetes. Ask for help if you feel down. A mental health counselor, support group, clergy member, friend, or family member who will listen to your feelings may help you feel better.

Try to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Getting enough sleep can help improve your mood and energy level. You can take steps to improve your sleep habits . If you often feel sleepy during the day, you may have obstructive sleep apnea , a condition in which your breathing briefly stops many times during the night. Sleep apnea is common in people who have diabetes. Talk with your health care team if you think you have a sleep problem.

Remember, managing diabetes isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

Source: NIDDK (NIH)3

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Diabetes HealthSense

Find tools and programs that can help you with making lifestyle and behavior changes. Diabetes HealthSense also includes research articles on lifestyle changes and behavioral strategies.

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)4

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Actions you could take:

  • Ask your health care team what type of diabetes you have.
  • Learn why diabetes is serious.
  • Learn what your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol numbers are
  • What should your ABC numbers should be
  • What you can do to reach your targets

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)5

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What are your top tips for living with diabetes?

Diabetes is not a death sentence. The worst thing is to do nothing. First, get out and exercise. You don't have to join a gym. A body in motion stays in motion, a body at rest stays at rest. So start walking—around the yard, then around the block, then the neighborhood. Always try to improve.

Second, start eating healthier. It's taken a lifetime for you to get to this point, and you can't cold turkey out of your diet. Eat fresh vegetables. And don't drown your food in salt and butter.

Third, and most important, cut portions in half. At 269 pounds, I was consuming over 4,600 calories a day. Cutting that in half meant 2,300 calories a day. I had no choice but to lose weight. Take one baby step at a time, too, and try to incorporate new foods into your diet.

Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH)6

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Living with diabetes

If you're diagnosed with diabetes, you'll need to eat healthily, take regular exercise and carry out regular blood tests to ensure your blood glucose levels stay balanced.

You can use the BMI healthy weight calculator to check whether you're a healthy weight.

People diagnosed with type 1 diabetes also require regular insulin injections for the rest of their life.

As type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, medication may eventually be required, usually in the form of tablets.

Source: NHS Choices UK7

Carer Issues with Diabetes

What You Can Do

  • Learn about diabetes. Find out why and when blood sugar should be checked, how to recognize and handle highs and lows (more below), what lifestyle changes are needed, and where to go for information and help.
  • Know diabetes is individual. Each person who has diabetes is different, and their treatment plan needs to be customized to their specific needs. It may be very different from that of other people you know with diabetes.
  • Ask your friend or relative how you can help, and then listen to what they say. They may want reminders and assistance (or may not), and that can change over time.
  • Go to appointments if it's OK with your relative or friend. You could learn more about how diabetes affects them and how you can be the most helpful.
  • Give them time in the daily schedule so they can manage their diabetes—check blood sugar, make healthy food, take a walk.
  • Avoid blame. People with diabetes are often overweight, but being overweight is just one of several factors that can lead to diabetes. And blood sugar levels can be hard to control even with a healthy diet and regular physical activity. Diabetes is complicated!
  • Step back. You may share the same toothpaste, but your family member may not want to share everything about managing diabetes with you. The same goes for a friend with diabetes.
  • Accept the ups and downs. Moods can change with blood sugar levels, from happy to sad to irritable. It might just be the diabetes talking, but ask your friend or relative to tell their health care team if they feel sad on most days—it could be depression.
  • Be encouraging. Tell them you know how hard they're trying. Remind them of their successes. Point out how proud you are of their progress.
  • Walk the talk. Follow the same healthy food and fitness plan as your loved one; it's good for your health, too. Lifestyle changes become habits more easily when you do them together.

Mature woman exercising

Help them feel the power to manage their diabetes.

  • Know the lows.

If your family member or friend has hypoglycemia several times a week, suggest that he or she talk with his or her health care team to see if the treatment plan needs to be adjusted.

  • Offer to help them connect with other people who share their experience. Online resources such as the American Association of Diabetes Educators' Diabetes Online Community[1.27 MB] or in-person diabetes support groups are good ways to get started.

Source: CDC Features8

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Diabetes is more common in older adults, and it can be harder for them to manage. Older people may not be as able to notice high or low blood sugar levels, so it's especially important for you to know the signs and how it should be handled. They may have several diabetes complications such as vision problems, kidney disease, or nerve damage, so regular appointments with their health care team are essential.

Source: CDC Features9

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Better Together

The most important thing is quality of life, yours and theirs. Sure, there will be highs and lows—blood sugar and otherwise—but together you can help make diabetes a part of life, instead of life feeling like it's all about diabetes.

Source: CDC Features10

School Issues with Diabetes

School Guide Teaches ABCs of Diabetes

School-age children with diabetes face unique challenges. They may be vulnerable to serious swings in their blood glucose levels at any time. A newly updated booklet, “Helping the Student with Diabetes Succeed: A Guide for School Personnel,” can help. The guide offers suggestions for parents, teachers, principals and others to ensure the safety of these kids.

Diabetes is one of the most common long-term diseases in school-age children. It affects about 200,000 young people nationwide. Most students with diabetes must carefully monitor and control their blood glucose throughout the day. A severe drop in glucose levels can be life-threatening.

The guide urges parents to notify school officials that a child has diabetes. Parents are encouraged to partner with the child’s health care team to develop a diabetes medical management plan. The guide recommends that parents give permission for medical information to be shared by the school and health care team.

”Unfortunately, the need to manage diabetes doesn’t go away at school,” says Dr. Griffin P. Rodgers, director of NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. “The guide, quite literally, can be a lifesaver.”

To view, download or order a free copy of the guide, go to, or call the National Diabetes Education Program at 1-888-693-6337.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)11

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Back to School with Diabetes

Notebooks, erasers, pencil sets and backpacks are on most kids’ back-to-school lists. But if your child has diabetes, you should add a few extra tasks to the list. At the top, put “good communication,” with your child and with the school. Planning ahead, and getting help from others, will help pave the way for a successful year.

This intensive management can be daunting to kids during school. They may wonder: What happens if I feel light-headed, or need a snack in the middle of class? Will I be OK in gym class? When should I go to the nurse?

These are all issues that you should discuss ahead of time with school staff and with your child. Work with your child’s health care team to develop a written diabetes management plan that outlines your child’s specific medical needs. Make sure key staff members, like your child’s teacher, have a copy of the plan.

Heading back to school with diabetes can be a challenge. But by eating regular meals, making healthy food choices, staying active and taking medications, kids with diabetes can do all the things their friends do, and then some. With planning and good communication, you can help your child have a healthy and happy school year.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)12

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School Checklist for Diabetes

  • Tell the school principal that your child has diabetes. Set up a meeting with the school’s health team.
  • Develop a diabetes management plan with your child’s health care team. Give a signed copy of the plan to the school, and discuss how the plan will be put into action.
  • Give the school supplies for managing your child’s diabetes, including glucose-monitoring equipment, snacks, insulin and other medications.
  • Inform school staff of any changes to your child’s health status or emergency contact information.
  • Help your child take control. Discuss the diabetes management plan with your child. Encourage healthy food choices and physical activity.
  • Make sure your child wears a medical alert ID and carries a fast-acting source of glucose, like juice or glucose pills, as prescribed by your physician.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)13

Parent Issues with Diabetes

Children and Older Adults

If you have a child with diabetes, you'll probably be much more involved with their day-to-day care. Some older kids will be comfortable checking their own blood sugar, injecting insulin, and adjusting levels if they use an insulin pump. Younger kids and those who just found out they have diabetes will need help with everyday diabetes care. Your child's health care team will give you detailed information about managing your child's diabetes.

Source: CDC Features14

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  1. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): 2008/ September/ feature2.htm
  2. Source: NIDDK (NIH): health-information/ diabetes/ overview/ preventing-problems/ diabetic-kidney-disease
  3. Source: NIDDK (NIH): health-information/ diabetes/ overview/ managing-diabetes
  4. Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH): magazine/ issues/ fall14/ articles/ fall14pg12-13.html
  5. Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH): magazine/ issues/ fall14/ articles/ fall14pg15.html
  6. Source: MedLinePlus Magazine (NIH): magazine/ issues/ fall12/ articles/ fall12pg11.html
  7. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ Diabetes/ 
  8. Source: CDC Features: features/ diabetes-family-friends/ index.html
  9. ibid.
  10. ibid.
  11. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): issue/ mar2011/ capsule2
  12. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): 2008/ September/ feature2.htm
  13. ibid.
  14. Source: CDC Features: features/ diabetes-family-friends/ index.html

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.