Prevent and control diabetes

What is diabetes?

Diabetes means your body is making insulin but not enough to keep your blood sugar (or blood glucose) at a normal level. If your body is not making enough insulin to keep your blood sugar at a regular level, you may need to put insulin into your body.

Prevent diabetes

Some people are at risk for diabetes. However, the good news is that you can prevent or lower your risk. Follow these tips to help guide you in preventing diabetes:

Exercise daily

Exercise helps you stay at a healthy weight, lower your blood sugar, have more energy and feel better. You should exercise 30 to 60 minutes five days a week. Decide what kind of exercise works for you, such as walking, swimming or biking. Start slow and increase your time each day. Talk to your doctor before starting a program.

Maintain a healthy weight

Your health care provider will talk about healthy weight and what you should eat. To do this, your provider may measure your body mass index (BMI), which will help determine your best weight to prevent diabetes. BMI is a measurement of total body fat and is based height and weight.

Eat healthy food

Foods you should eat frequently include fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grain bread and cereals, lean meat, chicken, fish and skim milk. Avoid food high in sugar such as cookies, cake, jelly, candy, donuts, cereals, regular soda and alcohol as well as foods high in fat like bacon, butter, fried foods and fast food.

Find out early if you are at risk for getting diabetes

Treatment can prevent serious problems caused by high blood sugar. As you get older, your risk of developing problems from diabetes increases. Talk to your doctor if you check one or more.

  • My weight is high and puts me at risk.
  • I am African American, American Indian, Asian, Hispanic/Latino or Pacific Islander.
  • My cholesterol levels are not normal.
  • My blood pressure is 140/90 or higher, or I have been told that I have high blood pressure.
  • I have a mom, dad, brother or sister with diabetes.
  • I am fairly inactive. This means I exercise fewer than three times a week.
  • I had diabetes when I was pregnant, or I had a baby weighing nine pounds or more.

Live with diabetes

People who have diabetes lead normal, happy lives every day, but they need to take care of themselves. Taking care means getting early treatment and getting as much information as you can about diabetes.

Watch your blood sugar

If you are given medicine for diabetes, you’ll be asked to check your blood sugar. Blood sugar is tested with a glucometer. This machine measures blood sugar with a drop of blood. Your doctor will tell you how often to check your blood sugar, usually before meals and at bedtime.

Care for your teeth

The higher your blood sugar level, the higher your risk for tooth decay and gum disease. Care for your mouth by checking your blood sugar, taking your medicine, brushing your teeth twice a day, flossing your teeth once a day and having your teeth cleaned by a dentist twice a year.


Too much stress can make your blood sugar too high or too low and make you feel sick. Stress can make you feel sad, afraid or worried. Good things can also make you feel stress. Deal with stress by exercising or practicing deep breathing. You can also reduce stress by talking to someone who will listen and by keeping a positive attitude.

See doctor as scheduled

Your doctor will want to see you for blood tests and office visits, probably once a month in the beginning. It is important to keep your appointments. Bring your daily blood sugar results, glucometer and medicine to your appointment. This way you and your doctor can be sure you’re taking your medicine correctly.

So you have diabetes

The only way to find out if you have diabetes is to have your blood tested. Blood is tested by taking a fasting blood sugar level test, which means you are not allowed to eat any food eight hours before the test.

If you have diabetes, your doctor will ask you to watch your diet by limiting fat and sugar and to lose weight. If that doesn’t work, your doctor will start you on medicine to lower your blood sugar. Medications must be taken every day to work correctly. Ask your doctor or nurse to write down exactly when and how to take your medicine.

11 signs and symptoms of diabetes

Tell your doctor, nurse, staff or family if you have any of these feelings, symptoms or conditions:

  1. You have yeast infections that keep coming back
  2. You’re sleepy all the time
  3. You have a sore that won’t get better
  4. You eat regular meals but lose weight
  5. You always run to the bathroom to urinate
  6. Your skin is dry and itchy
  7. Your eyes are blurry
  8. Your breath smells fruity
  9. You’re always thirsty
  10.  You have pins and needles in your hands and feet
  11.  You’re moody, cranky and lack energy

This article is an excerpt from Prevent, Understand and Live with Diabetes: A Guide for Individuals with Developmental Disabilities. Published with permission from The Arc of New Jersey.

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