Live to the Beat | Manage Your Blood Sugar

Manage Your Blood Sugar

Did you know that high blood sugar is bad news for your heart? And managing blood sugar isn’t just for people with diabetes — it’s important for everyone to be aware of blood sugar and take steps to keep it in a healthy range.

Woman pouring a smoothie into a glass

Blood sugar and your heart

Over time, high blood sugar can weaken your blood vessels and damage the nerves that control your heart. And diabetes also raises your risk for high blood pressure and high cholesterol. That’s why having diabetes nearly doubles your risk for heart disease.

Managing your blood sugar can help prevent life-changing events like a heart attack or stroke. And you can take small steps to start getting (and keeping!) your blood sugar in check today.

It’s not just your heart — managing blood sugar protects your whole body

Controlling your blood sugar comes with big benefits for your quality of life. You can:

  • Lower your risk for dementia. Diabetes nearly doubles your risk of dementia, so managing sugar is key to keeping your mind sharp.
  • Protect your vision. High blood sugar can damage blood vessels in your eyes, causing vision loss and even blindness. Controlling your blood sugar can help protect your sight.
  • Keep you on your feet. High blood sugar can cause painful nerve damage — especially in your feet. Managing your sugar can protect your nerves and prevent serious foot infections that make it hard to walk.
  • Keep your sex life going strong. Diabetes can lower sex drive in both men and women. It can also cause vaginal dryness and make it harder for men to keep an erection. So staying on top of your blood sugar is key to protecting your sexual health.

If those benefits sound good to you, then it’s time to start making small changes to get your blood sugar under control. Remember, it’s your heart health, your way. Learn ways to manage blood sugar and pick the steps that work for you.

Don’t let diabetes sneak up on you

More than 1 in 3 American adults have prediabetes — that’s when your blood sugar is too high, but not quite high enough to be diabetes (at least not yet). It doesn’t cause any symptoms, so most people don't know they have it. The good news is that if you have prediabetes, you can take steps to stop it from becoming type 2 diabetes. Talk to a doctor to learn more.

Blood sugar fast facts

Your body breaks down the carbs you eat into blood glucose (blood sugar)

A hormone called insulin helps move sugar from your blood into your cells, where you use it as energy

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes cause high blood sugar: In type 1 diabetes, your body doesn’t make any insulin. In type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin the way it should

Everyone’s blood sugar goes up and down a bit throughout the day — but diabetes makes your blood sugar stay so high for so long that it does serious damage to your body

Woman checking nutritional facts on her phone in the grocery store

How can I start managing my blood sugar?

Managing blood sugar can be a lifelong journey. But it all starts with a few small steps. Here are a few good places to start.

  • Get your blood sugar checked — and if you have diabetes or prediabetes, keep checking your sugar regularly
  • Eat healthy to help keep your blood sugar in check — the plate method can help you learn to eat well with diabetes
  • Move more to help prevent type 2 diabetes — or manage blood sugar if you’ve already been diagnosed
  • If a doctor has prescribed insulin or other medicines to manage your blood sugar, follow all instructions for taking them

More Ways to Manage Your Blood Sugar

Check your blood sugar regularly

First things first: See a doctor to find out if your blood sugar is too high. If you have diabetes or prediabetes, you’ll need to keep checking your sugar regularly. How often you need to check your blood sugar depends on your diagnosis:

  • If you’re at risk for type 2 diabetes but haven’t been diagnosed, ask the doctor to check your blood sugar. People ages 35 to 70 who are overweight need to get tested for type 2 diabetes — and insurance plans are required to cover these tests.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes, you’ll need a follow-up test in 3 to 6 months. Make sure to follow up and keep an eye on your blood sugar levels.
  • If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you’ll need to check your blood sugar regularly — usually several times a day. Talk with a doctor about exactly when and how to check your sugar at home.

How do blood sugar tests work?

Doctors may do several types of blood tests to check for diabetes or to keep an eye on how well you’re managing your blood sugar. For example:

  • A fasting plasma glucose test checks your blood sugar after you haven’t eaten for 8 hours
  • An A1C test shows your average blood sugar over the past 2 to 3 months

If you have diabetes, there are a couple ways to check your sugar at home. You can:

  • Use a blood glucose meter to test small amounts of blood from your finger
  • Wear a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) to help track your blood sugar 24 hours a day

Talk with a doctor to decide what’s best for you.

Eat healthy — 1 plate at a time

The foods you eat have a huge impact on your blood sugar. But eating well with diabetes doesn’t have to be complicated. Try the plate method to create tasty meals with a healthy balance of vegetables, proteins, and carbs — no weighing, counting, or measuring required!

  • Fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies like broccoli, squash, or carrots
  • Fill a quarter with lean proteins like chicken, fish, or beans
  • Fill a quarter with carbs — including whole grains like brown rice, starchy veggies like potatoes, or fruits like apple slices
  • Drink water or another unsweetened drink like sparkling water or tea with no sugar

And follow these additional tips to balance blood sugar:

  • Make time for breakfast. Skipping breakfast may cause blood sugar spikes later in the day, after lunch and dinner.
  • Stay hydrated. Less water in your body means your blood sugar gets more concentrated. So remember to drink enough water!
  • Be careful with caffeine. Some people have blood sugar spikes after drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks. If caffeine affects your blood sugar, try to cut back.

Learn more about eating healthy for your heart health.

Get active to manage your blood sugar

Being active can lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes — and it’s also key to managing diabetes.

That’s because physical activity improves how your body responds to insulin. And did you know it can lower your blood sugar right away? It’s true — try checking your sugar before and after you take a walk or do a workout video. You’ll probably see a drop in your sugar level.

Ready to get started? There’s no single right way to do it. It’s about finding activities you enjoy that fit into your schedule. And walking more is a great way to start! Try fitting in a short walk before work, on your lunch break, or after dinner. Then build up to more activity over time.

Learn more about getting active.

Team up to deal with diabetes

Managing diabetes is a team effort. You can take lots of great steps on your own, but you also need to work with doctors to stay on track. Your care team may include:

  • A doctor to track your blood sugar levels and prescribe medicines you need
  • A diabetes education specialist to help you learn to check your sugar at home and take medicines as prescribed
  • A registered dietitian to help you plan healthy meals and understand how what you eat affects your blood sugar

So don’t try to go it alone — reach out and get the help you need to manage diabetes. Learn more about working with doctors to protect your heart health.

Take medicines the doctor recommends

Sometimes healthy eating and physical activity are enough to manage diabetes. But many people need to take insulin or other medicines, too. This isn’t because you’re doing something wrong — or not doing enough. It’s totally fine to need medicines to manage your blood sugar.

Remember, these medicines are a powerful tool to protect your heart (and your whole body) from the harmful effects of diabetes. So if the doctor says you need them, don’t get discouraged — get excited about finally getting your blood sugar under control.

I don’t like the idea of insulin or other diabetes medicines. Do I have to take them?

Let’s be real — no one likes taking medicine every day. But when it comes to managing blood sugar, you can’t afford to mess around. Every minute that your blood sugar is out of control, you’re risking serious damage to your body.

Talk with the doctor about your concerns. It may take a while to find the best combination of medicines for you, and you may need to change them several times. But together, you and your care team can find the treatment plan that works for you.

Take Action

Living with Diabetes
Check out this hub of free resources to help you manage blood sugar, get physical activity, and eat well with diabetes.

Prediabetes Risk Test
Use this assessment tool to find out your risk for prediabetes — then share the results with a doctor.

Diabetes Food Hub
Find tons of recipes for quick, easy, delicious meals that will help you manage your blood sugar.

Health Insurance Aid for Diabetes
Costs for diabetes care can add up. Find resources to help you get insurance coverage for diabetes testing supplies, medicines, and other care.

Find a Health Center
If you don’t have insurance, use this tool to find a health center where you may be able to get free or low-cost blood sugar checks.