Depending on what type of diabetes you have, blood sugar monitoring, insulin and oral medications may play a role in your treatment. Eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight and participating in regular activity also are important factors in managing diabetes.
Treatments for all types of diabetes
An important part of managing diabetes — as well as your overall health — is maintaining a healthy weight through a healthy diet and exercise plan:9
Contrary to popular perception, there's no specific diabetes diet. You'll need to center your diet on more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains — foods that are high in nutrition and fibre and low in fat and calories — and cut down on saturated fats, refined carbohydrates and sweets. In fact, it's the best eating plan for the entire family. Sugary foods are good once in a while, but as long as they're counted as part of your meal plan.9
Aim for at least 30 minutes or more of aerobic exercise most days of the week. Bouts of activity can be as brief as 10 minutes, three times a day. If you haven't been active for a while, start slowly and build up gradually.8,9
Treatments for type 1 and type 2 diabetes5,7
Treatment for type 1 diabetes involves insulin injections or the use of an insulin pump, frequent blood sugarchecks, and carbohydrate counting. Treatment of type 2 diabetes primarily involves lifestyle changes, monitoring of your blood sugar, along with diabetes medications, insulin or both.
Your target A1C goal may vary depending on your age and various other factors, such as other medical conditions you may have. However, for most people with diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends an A1C of below 7 percent. Ask your doctor what your A1C target is.5, 7, 8
People with type 1 diabetes need insulin therapy to survive. Many people with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes also need insulin therapy. Many types of insulin are available, including rapid-acting insulin, long-acting insulin and intermediate options. Depending on your needs, your doctor may prescribe a mixture of insulin types to use throughout the day and night.
Sometimes other oral or injected medications are prescribed as well. Some diabetes medications stimulate your pancreas to produce and release more insulin. Others inhibit the production and release of glucose from your liver, which means you need less insulin to transport sugar into your cells.
In some people who have type 1 diabetes, a pancreas transplant may be an option. Islet transplants are being studied as well. With a successful pancreas transplant, you would no longer need insulin therapy.
Although it is not specifically considered a treatment for type 2 diabetes, people with type 2 diabetes who are obese and have a body mass index higher than 35 may benefit from this type of surgery.
5. Diagnostic Criteria and Classification of Hyperglycaemia First Detected in Pregnancy. World Health Organization. Geneva, WHO Press. 2013:20-23.
7. Zheng Y, et al. Global aetiology and epidemiology of type 2 diabetes mellitus and its complications. Nat Rev Endocrinol 2018: 14(2): 88-98.
8. American Diabetes Association. Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes Care 2013: 36(Suppl 1): S67-S74.
9. Diagnosis and Classification of Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes Care. 2013;37(Suppl 1):S81-S83. doi:10.2337/dc14-s081.