Type 1 diabetes treatment is all focused on maintaining your goal blood glucose levels. The various ways of taking care of your type 1 diabetes are all supposed to work together to keep your blood glucose level from going too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia). By taking insulin, paying attention to what you eat, monitoring your blood glucose levels, and exercising, you will also help prevent long-term complications from diabetes (such as diabetic neuropathy or diabetic retinopathy).
Insulin is the mainstay of type 1 diabetes treatment. Because your body doesn’t make insulin, you must give it to your body so that it can effectively use glucose.
There are many types of insulin available, and your diabetes treatment team will work with you to figure out the best insulin plan. Throughout your life, this insulin plan can readjust to better fit your needs.
Insulin is injected, although you can use an insulin pump that gives you a continuous stream of insulin. (Talk to your doctor about this type 1 diabetes treatment option.)
If you are injecting insulin, you will, most likely, do several injections a day. Again, your diabetes treatment team will walk you through how to inject insulin and how often you should be using it.
You can learn more about insulin in our article on insulin basics. It explains the different types of insulin and how they work to help you control your blood glucose levels.
By regularly checking and noting your blood glucose levels, you will know if you are meeting your type 1 diabetes treatment goals—the range your blood glucose levels should be in (as explained to you by your doctor). Blood glucose monitoring helps you and your doctor know if your insulin, diet, and exercise plans are working to adequately control your type 1 diabetes.
Your doctor will give you a blood glucose monitoring schedule, but most people with type 1 diabetes check their blood glucose level at least 4 times a day. You will most likely test before every meal and before bed. It is also very useful to test your blood glucose before and during exercise (especially if you have symptoms of low blood glucose), and you should test your blood glucose before driving. Occasionally, you may want to test your blood glucose about 2 hours after you eat, working with your doctor to better understand your blood glucose fluctuations after eating a meal.
You check your blood glucose using a glucose meter, which uses a small drop of blood to gauge how much glucose is in your blood. Continuous glucose monitoring sensors are also available now, and they help you not only monitor your blood glucose trends, but also alert you with alarms if your blood glucose is increasing or decreasing rapidly, so you can take action and prevent excessively high or low blood sugar levels.
Keep a log of your blood glucose numbers so that you can see how well you’re doing controlling your blood glucose levels. Also, carry your blood glucose meter with you at all times, so you are able to always test your blood glucose when needed, especially if you are experiencing symptoms of high or low blood glucose.
The log will also enable you to see patterns in what affects your blood glucose levels—for example, you’ll be able to keep track of how various types of exercise affect your glucose levels. You can make activity adjustments based on these patterns.
You’ve probably heard the phrase “diabetic diet,” and we’re here to tell you that there’s no magic way of eating when you have type 1 diabetes.
To work toward your blood glucose goals, it’s good to have a stable meal plan with meals scheduled throughout the day, at similar times during the day. Also, you’ll need to pay attention to the nutritional information of the food you’re eating.
The nutrition information labels will provide you with important information as far as how many grams of carbohydrates, fat, and protein are contained in each serving. This information will help you plan your insulin doses so that your body can process the food you’re eating.
You should consider working with a certified diabetes educator (CDE) or registered dietitian (RD). They can give you tips on meal planning and eating well with type 1 diabetes.
We have plenty of ideas for healthy dishes and meals: Check out our Diabetic Recipes Center.
Of course, everyone should exercise to stay healthy, and people with type 1 diabetes also benefit from exercising. Because you are taking insulin, you need to pay special attention to your blood glucose levels if you are planning to exercise.
Exercise increases your insulin sensitivity. That means that exercise makes it easier for your body to use insulin. However, because you are taking insulin, you may have increased frequency of low blood glucose, so you need to test your blood glucose frequently when exercising so that you can receive all the benefits of exercise without causing low blood glucose.
Exercise is also a way to prevent long-term diabetes complications. For example, exercise keeps your heart healthy, so it can reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular-related diabetes complications.
These are special precautions to take when exercising:
As you can see, every facet of taking care of your type 1 diabetes is about controlling your blood glucose level and working to keep it in your goal range.
By being committed to your insulin, diet, and exercise plans, you will be taking a proactive role in caring for your type 1 diabetes.