Lifestyle is Key to Diabetes Self Management

Lifestyle is Key to Diabetes Self Management

In many cases, you can control diabetes through better nutrition, a healthy weight, physical activity, and regular checkups with your health care team.

Sometimes medication is also necessary, which your health care provider will determine. Medication, if prescribed by your doctor or nurse practitioner, is a crucial component of diabetes management and should be taken as directed. Some medications need to be timed with meals, and if so your doctor or nurse practitioner will instruct you on appropriate timing.

What, when and how much you eat are all important factors in managing diabetes. With the help of your registered dietitian or health care professional, you should develop and follow a meal plan based on your individual needs.

Nutrition Tips for People with Type 2 Diabetes

  • Follow a consistent meal plan and schedule.
  • Eat a balanced diet with a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grain foods, low-fat dairy products, and lean meat, poultry, fish or meat alternatives.
  • Eat the right amount of carbohydrate foods for good blood sugar control. Your registered dietician can determine how much carbohydrate food your body needs at each meal.
  • Choose lower fat options and limit saturated fats.
  • Use sugar in moderation. Consider lower sugar options if available.
  • Check nutrition labels.
  • Get your fiber. The American Dietetic Association recommends that all people eat 20-35 grams of fiber per day. Fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grain foods are good sources of fiber.
  • Drink plenty of water.
  • Use less salt.

Nutrition for People with Type 1 Diabetes

People with type 1 diabetes should follow good general nutrition guidelines, and in addition, the insulin dose can be adjusted to the mealtime carbohydrates, which allows for more flexibility in meal planning. Your health care provider can help determine how much insulin you need at each meal.


Everyone knows that physical activity is good for your health. But it’s especially important for people with diabetes or those trying to prevent the disease.
In addition to improving blood sugar control, decreasing the risk of diabetes, and maintaining overall good health and weight management, being active boosts brain activity, helps you deal with stress and improves your mood!

Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to being overweight. Diabetes research demonstrates that along with healthy eating habits, regular physical activity helps the body to use insulin better, which helps to improve the symptoms – or even reduce the risk – of Type 2 diabetes. It is very important to check with your doctor first before starting any exercise program. Your doctor can give you an appropriate exercise prescription based on your personal health status.

Foot Care

It is very important to check your feet daily, keep them clean and soft, wear well-fitting, breathable shoes and socks, and report any changes you observe to your health care provider.

Checking Your Blood Sugar

If your doctor or nurse practitioner has instructed you to check your blood sugar, be sure to follow instructions for frequency and times of day, as this can help to identify blood sugar patterns which may need to be corrected. Your health care provider will determine your personal blood sugar goals.

Also, be sure to follow the meter instructions for coding (if necessary) and checking for accuracy with a test strip using control solution from time to time. It is also important to keep your strips tightly closed.

Always check your blood sugar if you feel symptoms of high blood sugar (thirst, frequent urination, fatigue, blurry vision), or low blood sugar (lightheadedness, dizzy, confusion, sweating, shaking, fast or pounding heartbeat) and call your doctor. It is important to immediately treat low blood sugar (<70) with a simple carbohydrate such as fruit juice, regular soda pop, or glucose tablets.

Check your blood sugar more often when you are sick, as infection can make blood sugar rise. And be sure to get plenty of fluids and drink some carbohydrate- containing fluids if you can’t eat. It is very important to continue taking your diabetes medications when you are sick. If you are unsure of dosages if unable to eat, call your doctor or nurse practitioner.

Safe Sharps Disposal

Lancets (as well as needles/syringes, if used) should be disposed of in a safe sharps container. Contact your local community government center for appropriate disposal of used sharps.

Good Health Care Follow Up

Finally, it is very important to see your doctor or nurse practitioner regularly to monitor your diabetes, make adjustments in medications, order appropriate tests, and prescribe education for you to better manage your diabetes day to day.

Diabetes Education at the Cleveland Clinic

Education is an important tool in the day to day self management of diabetes. To help provide you with the right tools for optimal self management, we offer the following services:

  • Diabetes Self Management group classes are held the first 3 Wednesdays of each month, from 1pm to 3pm at our main campus. These classes are a comprehensive course in diabetes and are ideal for newly diagnosed diabetics as well as those who have had diabetes for a long time and have either not received education or desire a refresher course.
  • Individual diabetes and/or nutrition education is for those who have attended group classes and desire more individualized or additional education, or those whose schedules do not permit the time commitment of group classes. An individual session is tailored to the needs of the individual.
  • Intensive Diabetes Management Clinic, for those requiring more frequent contact in order to achieve control of blood sugar, cholesterol, and/or blood pressure. The patient is seen by a nurse practitioner in the clinic who provides treatment and education as needed, and closely follows the individual until the goals are achieved.

*All of the above require a referral from a doctor or nurse practitioner, and it is important to check with your insurance company for coverage of education.

Helpful Links to General Information

  • Cleveland Clinic Department of Nutrition Services Nutrition Education Materials
  • Cleveland Clinic Patient Education and Health Information
  • Cleveland Clinic Health Information Library
  • American Federation for Aging Research - Online Diabetes Information Center providing reliable research-based information on healthy lifestyles, age-related diseases and conditions and topics in the biology of aging.
  • American Heart Association “The Heart of Diabetes” Campaign - Conduct more diabetes research and see how it can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  • MEDLINEplus Health Information - Comprehensive medical information site sponsored by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Health.
  • National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse - A service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (government agency), site include a diabetes dictionary, information on clinical trials, treatments, complications and statistics. Available in Spanish.


  • American Diabetes Association
  • American Dietetic Association
  • American Federation for Aging Research
  • Amputee Coalition of America (ACA)
  • Canadian Diabetes Association
  • Essential Nutrition - A broad-based group of non-profit consumer, nutrition and public health organizations to promote programs, policies and research about the essentials of a nutritionally balanced diet.
  • The Charles Ray III Diabetes Association - Helps provide medical devices and supplies to those unable to afford the cost.
  • Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation International
  • National Diabetes Education Program
  • National Federation of the Blind Diabetes Division
  • National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive and Kidney Disease

Internet Publications

  • Diabetes Forecast
  • Diabetes Monitor
  • Diabetes Self-Management