by Katie Risch Little, MS, CNP, Institute Fellow
Once diagnosed and living with diabetes (Type 1 or Type 2), a change in lifestyle is required in order to be healthy. These lifestyle changes include things such as diet, exercise, medication/insulin, and daily blood glucose checks. Education around these lifestyle changes comes quickly during a diagnosis. It will take time for an individual living with diabetes to process all the new information, and put it to practice, in order to feel like they are at their peak health. For this reason, diabetes requires a willingness to learn and grow throughout one’s life.
Blood Glucose (Blood Sugar) Testing
It is necessary that people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes check their blood glucose levels as prescribed by their diabetes care team. The information provided by a blood glucose test can help a person make appropriate decisions related to their diabetes medication. There are two ways a blood glucose reading can be achieved. The first is by using a blood glucose meter. Learning to check your blood glucose levels with a blood glucose meter is common with a new diabetes diagnosis, and is generally more affordable than the alternative. The second way is by using a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). This device is worn on the body for roughly a week, and provides data every 5 minutes. This data is graphed on a receiver that the person carries, or on their phone through an app. There is also an implantable GCM that can be worn for 90 days. While a CGM may be helpful in managing diabetes, it is not a device that people with diabetes have equal access to due to the high cost.
Type 1 Diabetes
For individuals with Type 1 diabetes, their body does not make insulin at all. People with Type 1 diabetes are able to manage their diabetes with adherence to a healthy diet, exercise, and proper amounts of insulin. There are multiple types of insulins available, but for the purpose of this post, we will focus on short-acting insulin and long- acting insulin. Insulin can be administered or delivered in multiple ways, and the way you deliver insulin will impact what kind of insulin (short-acting or long-acting) you will use.
Multiple daily injections (MDI) or insulin shots is one way insulin can be administered. A person using injections to manage their diabetes will need short-acting insulin for any food they eat, and for correcting high blood glucose levels. They will require long-acting insulin daily as well. With injections, a syringe and insulin vial are needed, or an insulin pen and pen needle. A person using insulin injections may inject themselves with insulin 4 or more times a day.
A short-acting inhalable insulin is also an option, and would oftentimes be paired with a long-acting insulin injection daily. An insulin pump is another way that insulin may be administered. There are multiple brands of insulin pumps on the market, each with different features. Most insulin pumps are attached to the body with tubing, but one cordless option does exist. Some insulin pumps are integrated with a CGM system as well.
Regarding insulin therapy, no one type of therapy is best for everyone. Each person must work with their diabetes care team to discuss and try out different options that may work for their lifestyle. While an insulin pump may be the desired insulin therapy for an individual, it is not a device that people with diabetes have equal access to due to the high cost. An individual, and their diabetes care team, must take this into consideration when discussing and prescribing an insulin therapy.
Type 2 Diabetes
For individuals with Type 2 diabetes, their body does not use insulin properly, resulting in insulin resistance. People with Type 2 diabetes may be able to manage their diabetes with adherence to a healthy diet and exercise. Additionally oral medications, and sometimes insulin, may be necessary for a person living with Type 2 diabetes.
Below are some resources that you may find helpful. The author of this post is not sponsored by any of the companies listed as resources. She is writing from her own knowledge and lived experience with diabetes and has tried to be as inclusive as possible when sharing information and resources related to the above topic.
Blood Glucose Meters:
Continuous Glucose Meters (CGM’s):