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4 Steps to Control Your Diabetes. For Life.

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If you have just found out that you have diabetes, you may be upset and need some help. Even if you have lived with diabetes for a while, you may want to do more to take care of yourself.


Here are four key steps to help you control your diabetes and live a long and active life.

1. Learn about diabetes.

2. Know your diabetes ABCs.

3. Manage your diabetes.

4. Get routine care to avoid problems.

My diabetes card record

Where to get help

Diabetes is a serious disease. It affects almost every part of the body. That is why a team of people may help you take care of your diabetes:

  • doctors
  • diabetes educators
  • eye doctor
  • mental health counselor
  • nurse practitioner
  • social worker
  • dentist
  • dietitian
  • foot doctor
  • nurse
  • pharmacist
  • friends and family

You are the most important member of the team

  • Help your health care team make a diabetes care plan that will work for you.

  • Learn to make wise choices for your diabetes care each day.

The check markmarks show actions you could take.


Step 1: Learn about diabetes. ^ top

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image of an older man smiling
image of a pregnant woman with her doctor


Diabetes means that your blood glucose (blood sugar) is too high. There are two main types of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes - the body does not make insulin. Insulin helps the body use glucose from food for energy. People with type 1 need to take insulin every day.

Type 2 diabetes - the body does not make or use insulin well. People with type 2 often need to take pills or insulin. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes.

Gestational (jes-TAY-shon-al) diabetes - may occur when a woman is pregnant. It raises her risk of getting another type of diabetes, mostly type 2, for the rest of her life. It also raises her child's risk of being overweight and getting diabetes.

Diabetes is serious.

You may have heard people say they have "a touch of diabetes" or "your sugar is a little high." These words suggest that diabetes is not a serious disease. That is not correct. Diabetes is serious, but you can learn to manage it!

All people with diabetes need to make healthy food choices, stay at a healthy weight, and be physically active every day.

Taking good care of yourself and your diabetes can help you feel better. It may help you avoid health problems caused by diabetes such as:

  • heart disease and stroke.
  • eye problems that can lead to trouble seeing or going blind.
  • nerve damage that can cause your hands and feet to feel numb. Some people may even lose a foot or a leg.
  • kidney problems that can cause your kidneys to stop working.
  • gum disease and loss of teeth.

When your blood glucose is close to normal you are likely to:

  • have more energy.
  • be less tired and thirsty and urinate less often.
  • heal better and have fewer skin, or bladder infections.
  • have fewer problems with your eyesight, feet, and gums.
  • Ask your health care team what type of diabetes you have.

  • Learn why diabetes is serious.

  • Learn how caring for your diabetes helps you feel better today and in the future.

Step 2: Know your diabetes ABCs. ^ top

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Image of an older man at the doctor office

Talk to your health care team about how to manage your A1C (blood glucose or sugar), Blood pressure, and Cholesterol. This will help lower your chances of having a heart attack, a stroke, or other diabetes problems. Here's what the ABCs of diabetes stand for:

A for the A1C test (A-one-C)
It shows you what your blood glucose has been over the last three months. The A1C goal for most people is below 7. High blood glucose levels can harm your heart and blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and eyes.

B for Blood pressure.
The goal for most people is 130/80.

High blood pressure makes your heart work too hard. It can cause heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease.

C for Cholesterol. (ko-LES-ter-ol)
The LDL goal for most people is less than 100.
The HDL goal for most people is above 40.

LDL or "bad" cholesterol can build up and clog your blood vessels. It can cause a heart attack or a stroke. HDL or "good" cholesterol helps remove cholesterol from your blood vessels.

  • Ask your health care team:

    • What your A1C, blood pressure, and Cholesterol numbers are
    • What should your ABC numbers should be
    • What you can do to reach your targets
  • Write down all your numbers on the record card at the back of this booklet.

Step 3: Manage your diabetes. ^ top

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Many people avoid the long-term problems of diabetes by taking good care of themselves. Work with your health care team to reach your ABC goals. Use this self-care plan.

  • Use your diabetes meal plan. If you do not have one, ask your health care team about one.
  • Eat healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables, fish, lean meats, chicken or turkey without the skin, dry peas or beans, whole grains, and low-fat or skim milk and cheese.
  • Keep fish and lean meat and poultry portion to about 3 ounces (or the size of a deck of cards). Bake, broil, or grill it.
  • Eat foods that have less fat and salt.
  • Eat foods with more fiber such as whole grains cereals, breads, crackers, rice, or pasta.
  • Get 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week. Brisk walking is a great way to move more.
  • Stay at a healthy weight by using your meal plan and moving more.
  • Ask for help if you feel down. A mental health counselor, support group, member of the clergy, friend, or family member who will listen to your concerns may help you feel better.
  • Learn to cope with stress. Stress can raise your blood glucose. While it is hard to remove stress from your life, you can learn to handle it.
  • Stop smoking. Ask for help to quit.
  • Take medicines even when you feel good. Ask your doctor if you need aspirin to prevent a heart attack or stroke. Tell your doctor if you cannot afford your medicines or if you have any side effects.
  • Check your feet every day for cuts, blisters, red spots, and swelling. Call your health care team right away about any sores that do not go away.
  • Brush your teeth and floss every day to avoid problems with your mouth, teeth, or gums
  • Check your blood glucose. You may want to test it one or more times a day. Use the card at the back of this booklet to keep a record of your blood glucose numbers. Be sure to take this record to your doctor visits.
  • Check your blood pressure if your doctor advises.
  • Report any changes in your eyesight to your doctor.
  • Talk with your health care team about your blood glucose targets. Ask how and when to test your blood glucose and how to use the results to manage your diabetes.

  • Use this plan as a guide to your self-care.

  • Discuss how your self-care plan is working for you each time you visit your health care team.

Step 4: Get routine care. ^ top

Image of a woman with a doctorCheck Your Own Blood Glucose

See your health care team at least twice a year to find and treat any problems early. Ask what steps you can take to reach your goals.

At each visit be sure you have a:

  • blood pressure check
  • foot check
  • weight check
  • review of your self-care plan shown in Step 3

Two times each year get:

  • A1C test - it may be checked more often if it is over 7

Once each year be sure you have a:

  • cholesterol test
  • triglyceride (try-GLISS-er-ide) test - a type of blood fat
  • complete foot exam
  • dental exam to check teeth and gums - tell your dentist you have diabetes
  • dilated eye exam to check for eye problems
  • flu shot
  • urine and a blood test to check for kidney problems

At least once get a:

  • Pneumonia (nu-mo-nya) shot

  • Ask your health care team about these and other tests you may need. Ask what the results mean.

  • Write down the date and time of your next visit.

  • Use the card of the back of this booklet to keep a record of your diabetes care.

  • If you have Medicare, ask your health care team if Medicare will cover some of the costs for

    • learning about healthy eating and diabetes self-care
    • special shoes, if you need them
    • medical supplies
    • diabetes medicines

My Diabetes Care Record ^ top

Record your targets and the date, time, and results of your tests. Take
this card with you on your health care visits. Show it to your health
care team to remind them of tests you need.

A1C - At least twice each year
Usual goal: less than 7
My Target
BLOOD PRESSURE (BP) - Each visit
Usual goal: less than 130/80
My Target
CHOLESTEROL (LDL) - Once each year
Usual goal: less than 100
My Target
WEIGHT - Each visit
My Goal: _______
My Target

Diabetes Care Date Result
Each visit
Foot check
Review self-care    
Weight check  
Once each year
Dental exam  
Dilated eye exam    
Complete foot exam  
Flu shot  
Kidney check  
At least once
Pneumonia shot  


Self Checks of Blood Glucose

Record your targets and the date, time, and results of your tests. Take
this card with you on your health care visits. Show it to your health
care team to remind them of tests you need.

Before meals:
Usual goal 90 to 130

My target:

1-2 hours after meals:
Usual goal below 180

My target:

Usual goal 110-150

My target:

Where to get help: ^ top

American Association of Diabetes Educators
1-800-TEAM-UP4 (800-832-6874)

American Diabetes Association
1-800-DIABETES (800-342-2383)

American Dietetic Association
1-800-366-1655 (in English and Spanish)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
1-800-MEDICARE or (800-633-4227)

National Diabetes Education Program

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse
1-800-860-8747 (in English and Spanish)

The US Department of Health and Human Services' National Diabetes Education Program is jointly sponsored by the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention with the support of more than 200 partner organizations.

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