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Five lifestyle factors that impact diabetes

GEHA | November 11, 2022

Manage your diabetes better with positive lifestyle changes.

Your lifestyle impacts your diabetes. There are many small, yet positive, changes you can make to better manage your diabetes and live a healthier life. Diet, exercise, alcohol, stress and A1C levels are five contributing factors of your diabetes and overall health.

   1.  Diet

How much you eat, and the combinations of food you eat, affects your blood sugar levels. Carbohydrates often have the biggest impact on your blood sugar levels, so it is important to be selective with the carbohydrates you eat.

The best carbohydrates to fuel your body with are fruits, vegetables and whole grains. These carbohydrates are healthier and have fiber than can help keep your blood sugar level more stable.

It is also important to make sure you have a balanced diet. Each meal you eat should include starches, fruits, vegetables, proteins and fats.

   2. Exercise

Physical activity causes your muscles to use glucose for energy and helps your body use insulin more efficiently. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 30 minutes of exercise at least five days a week.

Before you exercise, make sure your numbers are safe and pay close attention to the warning signs of low blood sugar. Warning signs may include feeling shaky, weak, tired, hungry, lightheaded, irritable, anxious or confused.

While you exercise, stay hydrated and always be prepared with a small snack or glucose tablets.

   3. Alcohol

Since alcohol can aggravate diabetes complications, it is important to talk to your doctor prior to drinking. To help your body better process the alcohol, be sure to eat before drinking.

Additionally, be selective with your drinks. Find drinks with fewer calories and less sugar so that they do not negatively affect your blood sugar.

   4. Stress

Stress produces hormones in your body that may cause a spike in your blood sugar level. When you are experiencing a lot of stress, it may be more difficult to follow your usual diabetes management routine.

Combat your stress levels by looking for patterns. One way to do this is to log your stress level each time you log your blood sugar level. Once you are able to recognize a pattern, you can avoid triggers and learn new strategies to cope with stress. 

   5. A1C

The key to managing your diabetes is through an A1C test. An A1C test informs you and your health care team of your average blood sugar level over the past few months. This helps determine the type and amount of diabetes medication you need. These tests are usually needed twice a year.

For many patients with diabetes, the goal is to get an A1C number of 6.5 or below. Your health care team will help determine a target A1C number and a plan to meet it. If you have diabetes, are over 45 or overweight, find an in-network provider and then schedule your A1C test.

Learn more about A1C tests here:

A1C holds the key for diabetes
Over 45 or overweight get an A1C test
Keep tabs on your diabetes with your A1C

For additional information and resources on diabetes from GEHA visit our Diabetes resources page.

Disclaimer: This information contained herein is for informational and educational purposes only. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice and if you have questions regarding a medical condition, regimen, or treatment you should always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider. Never disregard or delay seeking medical advice from a qualified medical professional because of information you have read herein.

“Diabetes management: How lifestyle, daily routine affect blood sugar.”, Mayo Clinic, 3 June 2022
“Living healthy with diabetes.”, American Heart Association, 6 May 2021
“All about your A1C.”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 August 2021