5 Ways You're Sabotaging Your Diabetes Care

For diabetes patients, food and lifestyle choices are crucial: They can keep blood sugar levels under control, and lower patients' risk of diabetes-related complications like blindness, strokes, heart attacks, amputations, and kidney and nerve damage. Living well with diabetes means developing and maintaining healthy habits, and that requires avoiding these five common mistakes:

1. Overeating

The types and amounts of food you eat directly affect your blood sugar, weight, and overall health. When you have diabetes, you can eat almost any food you like, as long as it's part of a portion-controlled meal or snack that includes foods from a variety of food groups. It is particularly important not to overeat foods that contain carbohydrates, which are your only food source of sugar, and most directly affect your blood sugar levels and medication dose.

2. Mindless Drinking

Alcohol interferes with the body's ability to release sugar into the bloodstream, so it is important to speak with your doctor to make sure a cocktail or two with dinner won't cause serious complications. And under no circumstances should you ever drink alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach, or skip meals to allow for calories coming from alcohol.

3. Turning Into a Couch Potato

Regular physical activity is as essential as following a healthy diet, and "The [exercise] recommendations for people with diabetes are the same as for most Americans," says Amber Taylor, MD, Director of the Diabetes Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore. "Try to get 30 minutes daily at least several times a week." Since exercise can improve insulin sensitivity and lower blood sugar levels, it's important to speak with your doctor or diabetes educator about the type of exercise you do and the timing of activity with respect to meals and medication.

4. Travelling Unprotected

Since you never know when your blood sugar might drop or when a meal will be delayed, never travel without your testing kit, medications, and glucose pills, and be sure your equipment is at hand when you do: "Never check your diabetes supplies with your luggage," warns Taylor. "Carry them with you (with a letter from your doctor for passing through TSA), because your flight could be delayed, you could be separated from your luggage, or your luggage could freeze."

It's also important to find a way to maintain your insulin at normal room temperatures when you're travelling, because insulin can become ineffective if it gets too hot or too cold.  Additionally, wear some form of medical alert jewelry and carry emergency contact information, including names, addresses, phone numbers, and email information.

5. Assuming You're Cured

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are chronic conditions; they never go away. However, type 2 diabetes can sometimes go into something like a remission, according to Taylor, especially if you lose weight. You can boost your chances of a sustaining normal blood sugar levels and lowering your risk of symptoms and complications from diabetes if you:

  • Stay active.
  • Eat properly.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Take any meds you've been prescribed.

Amber L. Taylor, MD, reviewed this article.



"Will Diabetes Go Away?" Joslin Diabetes Center. Web. Updated August 14, 2013; page accessed August 14, 2013.


"Living with Diabetes." Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Web. Accessed August 14, 2013.