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11 Top Tips to Managing Diabetes: Diet, Exercise & Medication (2024)

Written by: Content Team



Time to read 10 min

Chronic illnesses like diabetes require an involved approach from the patient and their healthcare team to keep it under control. Since it's a lifelong condition, diabetes care goes beyond taking medications and extends to other facets of life, like diet, physical activity, and mental health.


Managing diabetes can seem challenging at first, but when it's broken down into smaller tasks with measurable goals, it becomes less daunting. 


So here are 11 valuable tips that make diabetes management more approachable and set you up for success in reaching your blood sugar goals.

Tip #1: Educate Yourself About Your Condition

Diabetes mellitus is a chronic illness affecting both the young and old. It can cause issues with blood sugar metabolism by targeting the beta cells in the pancreas, causing insulin deficiency, and the body's cells' insulin receptors, causing insulin resistance.


Knowing whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes and understanding how your habits affect your condition is the first step to diabetes management. 


You can find the following resources helpful:


The information provided by these trusted sources and your healthcare team's recommendations can help you manage diabetes and keep your health in check.

Tip #2: Manage Your Diabetes ABCs

Preparing the InsuJet injector with insulin
Preparing the InsuJet injector with insulin

Because it's a metabolic condition, diabetes can be adversely affected by other chronic illnesses. That's why it's not enough to check your blood sugar levels to see how well you're doing but to have a general idea about your other health metrics.


Managing diabetes requires keeping an eye on the following:

A: HbA1C Test

Hemoglobin A1C is a chemical found in your red blood cells that helps measure your blood glucose levels over a period of three months.


You want the HbA1C blood test results to be within a certain target range. The breakdown is usually as follows:


  • 6 - 7%: Ideal range, corresponds to a daily average blood glucose level of 150-180.

  • 7 - 8%: Requires attention and possible changes to lifestyle or medications.

  • Over 8%: Potentially dangerous high blood glucose levels over 200

Your healthcare team should tell you what percentage to aim for based on your condition.


UK Blood pressure targets: The blood pressure target is usually below 140/90mmHg for people with diabetes or below 150/90mmHg if you are aged 80 years or above. The target may be below 130/80mmHg for some people with kidney disease. However, speaking to your healthcare team about your target is essential. (Taken directly from Diabetes UK website’s Guide to HbA1c)


UK HbA1c Levels: HbA1c can indicate people with diabetes or prediabetes based on these levels:






Below 42 mmol/mol

Below 6.0%


42 to 47 mmol/mol

6.0% to 6.4%


48 mmol/mol or over

6.5% or over


Source: Diabetes UK 

B: Blood Pressure

Blood pressure has a tendency to spike when you have diabetes. Hypertension, a constant state of high blood pressure above 130/80 mmHg, can cause your body's organs to work beyond their capacity. This can lead to heart disease and organ damage down the road.

C: Cholesterol Levels

Cholesterol is part of the dietary fat you consume and digest that gets absorbed by the gut and circulates through your bloodstream. 


It's divided into LDL (low-density lipoprotein) and HDL (high-density lipoprotein). LDL is known as "bad cholesterol" because it can form a layer of plaque inside your blood vessels, while HDL is known as "good cholesterol" because it helps your body get rid of bad cholesterol.


UK target cholesterol levels see NHS Cholesterol Levels article


UK Cholesterol Level Guide:



Healthy level

Total cholesterol

5mmol/L or below

Total cholesterol to HDL cholesterol ratio

Below 6

HDL (good cholesterol)

1mmol/L or above for men or 1.2mmol/L or above for women

Non-HDL (bad cholesterol)

4mmol/L or below

Source: NHS Website

What are LDL and HDL goals to aim for?

Controlling "bad" cholesterol levels when you have diabetes is crucial to keep your circulatory system healthy and prevent complications like blood clots.


Your overall cholesterol level should stay below 200, with LDL levels under 129 mg/dL being within the normal range. As for HDL, levels should be between 35 to 65 mg/dL for men and 35 to 80 mg/dL for women.

Tip #3: Make Exercise Part of Your Daily Routine

Regular physical activity is a huge part of how to maintain healthy body weight and prevent complications like heart disease. It's also known to improve the body's insulin sensitivity and regulate blood sugar levels for a prolonged period post-workout.


Staying physically active by jogging, running, cycling, or cardio can also make you feel better and more energized. Just keep in mind to talk with your doctor or other members of your healthcare team to adjust your insulin dose based on your physical activity. 


You should also keep simple carbohydrates or glucose tablets with you to prevent instances of low blood glucose (hypoglycemia).

Tip #4: Eat According to a Diabetes Meal Plan

Eating right is one of the best-proven ways to keep your blood sugar levels within the normal range. That means meal planning, counting carbohydrates, and eating plenty of protein, whole grains, fresh vegetables, and healthy fats should be part of your diabetes management routine.


It also means eating enough food for the amount of insulin you take since restricting calories, especially those from carbs, can cause dangerously low blood glucose levels.


That said, try to avoid foods with empty calories, like sugar-sweetened beverages. 


These can spike your blood sugar and make it more challenging to manage your diabetes.


You can also consult with your healthcare team about adopting intermittent fasting to control blood sugar spikes. A study from the Czech Republic shows that eating two large meals a day improves insulin sensitivity and promotes healthy weight loss for people with type 2 diabetes.

Tip #5: Check Your Blood Glucose Levels

Man injecting insulin using the InsuJet needle-free injector kit
Man injecting insulin using the InsuJet needle-free injector kit

Checking your blood sugar levels regularly is an important tool to keep your diabetes in check. 


You usually do that by:

  1. Cleaning your fingertip using a cotton swab.

  2. Using a medical lancet to prick your finger.

  3. Putting the blood drop on a glucose testing strip inside a blood glucose monitor.

This helps you measure the effects of your diabetes meal plan, medications, and exercise routine on your blood sugar. 


You want your blood glucose to remain within the following ranges:

  • Before eating: Between 80 - 130 mg/dL

  • Two hours after a meal: Under 180 mg/dL

  • Right before bedtime: 120 - 150 mg/dL

UK blood glucose levels see Diabetes UK’s Blood Sugar level Ranges


Target Levels by Type

Upon waking

Before meals (pre prandial)

At least 90 minutes after meals (post prandial)



4.0 to 5.9 mmol/L

under 7.8 mmol/L

Type 2 diabetes


4 to 7 mmol/L

under 8.5 mmol/L

Type 1 diabetes

5 to 7 mmol/L

4 to 7 mmol/L

5 to 9 mmol/L

Children w/ type 1 diabetes

4 to 7 mmol/L

4 to 7 mmol/L

5 to 9 mmol/L

Source: Diabetes UK’s Blood Sugar level Ranges

What Is Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM)?

CGM is a system that uses a sensor inserted under the skin to measure glucose levels in the fluid between your body's tissues throughout the day. It's sometimes used as an accompaniment to an insulin pump to prevent instances of low blood glucose.

What Happens If My Blood Sugar Level Drops Too Low?

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) is a condition that can have serious effects on your health and well-being. It can be mild and present as dizziness, fatigue, irritability, and hunger. 


However, if left unchecked and untreated, it can lead to serious complications like loss of consciousness, coma, and even death.


Always keep an easily-ingested source of carbohydrates, like glucose tablets, candy, or non-diet soda, nearby at all times to avoid hypoglycemia.

Tip #6: Take Your Medications on Time

If you have drug-treated type 2 diabetes, you should keep a schedule of when to take your oral medicines and follow it for best results. A study showed a link between a lack of medication adherence, poor understanding of the condition, and low trust in the healthcare team. 


So, if you have any questions about the type of medical care you receive, let your team know what's on your mind.


As for people with diabetes who only respond to insulin therapy, maintaining a daily routine for meals and insulin injections can prove beneficial to your condition. 


Your body has a natural rhythm and is more receptive to insulin within a certain window, so timing your meals according to that rhythm can help you use less insulin and prevent insulin resistance.

Tip #7: Quit Smoking and Reduce Alcohol Intake

Smoking is dangerous for individuals with no chronic health conditions, let alone those with systemic diseases like diabetes. For people with diabetes, smoking narrows the blood vessels, causing life-threatening hypertension and an elevated risk of heart attack. 


It also can lead to further diabetes complications, like kidney problems, diabetic eye disease, and nerve damage. If you want resources to help you quit smoking, you can go to to know more.


Alcohol, on the other hand, causes your body to have trouble releasing carbohydrates stored in the liver as glycogen. This can cause spells of low blood glucose if you don't eat something with alcohol. 


While some doctors advise against drinking for people with diabetes, reducing your alcohol intake can also benefit your health.

Tip #8: Support Your Mental Health and Emotional Well-Being

A healthy family
A healthy family

Mental health and emotional stability are essential pillars of physical well-being. Being continuously under stress can wreak havoc on your nervous system, causing your blood sugar levels to skyrocket. It can also raise your blood pressure, negatively affecting your heart health.


Seeking help in therapy or joining a support group for people with diabetes is beneficial to ward off mental health problems. It can help you combat diabetes distress and avoid diabetes burnout, both of which harm your physical and mental health.

Tip #9: Seek Routine Care to Avoid Illness

Diabetes worsens your body's response to illness as it weakens your immune system. Being vigilant of your body's condition and seeking routine medical care can help you prevent the worst of diabetes complications.


Take your seasonal flu shots and at least one hepatitis B and pneumonia shot in your lifetime. Check your feet daily for minor wounds and seek immediate treatment if you find any injuries. That way, you can stay healthy and keep your body in its best fighting condition.

Tip #10: Have a Game Plan for Sick Days

If you get a cold or a digestive tract infection, ingesting food and keeping it down can be challenging. Talk with your doctor about what to do in these cases, what foods to eat, and how to take care of your body to prevent low blood sugar levels.


Giving your body the proper rest and keeping your medicines and snacks easily accessible can also help you recover faster. Just ensure you check your blood sugar level and administer insulin properly to avoid hyperglycemia due to low insulin.

Tip #11: Cooperate With Your Health Care Team

An array of needles and insulin bottle
An array of needles and insulin bottle

Your cooperation with your healthcare team is one of the best ways you can manage your diabetes. Your physician, eye doctor, podiatrist, and nursing staff are all equipped with the knowledge to stay healthy and receive the diabetes care you need.


That said, you should know that the most crucial member of your healthcare team is you. The issues you raise and the questions you ask can help medical professionals assess and understand your condition better.


Keeping a diabetes logbook should provide your healthcare team with information about your condition and what health problems you might face. These usually include blood sugar readings, insulin injections, and other useful information.

Final Thoughts

Leading a healthy life can be a constant challenge when living with diabetes. 


However, it's not impossible to adopt healthy habits that can help you manage your diabetes ABCs; the A1C blood test, blood pressure, and cholesterol.


Becoming more physically active, quitting smoking, and following a balanced diabetes meal plan can all help you avoid complications like heart disease, kidney problems, and diabetic eye disease. Taking your medication on time and managing stress are excellent ways to improve physical and mental health.


Lastly, being on the same page with your healthcare team benefits your journey to health and wellness while living with this chronic condition. 


Remember, it's a journey you take one day at a time.

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