U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Points to Remember

  • Diabetes is when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. Blood glucose is the main type of sugar found in your blood and your main source of energy.
  • Prediabetes is when the amount of glucose in your blood is above normal yet not high enough to be called diabetes.
  • In type 1 diabetes, your body no longer makes insulin or enough insulin.
  • Type 2 diabetes develops when, over time, the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin when blood sugar levels increase, such as after meals.
  • People who are overweight and inactive are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
  • Gestational diabetes can develop when a woman is pregnant. Pregnant women make hormones that can lead to insulin resistance.
  • Gestational diabetes most often goes away after the baby is born.
  • The best way to take care of your health is to work with your health care team to keep your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels in your target range. Targets are numbers you aim for.
  • When you see members of your health care team, ask lots of questions. Prepare a list of questions before your visit.
  • Do four things each day to help your blood glucose levels stay in your target range:
    • Follow your healthy eating plan.
    • Be physically active.
    • Take your medicines as prescribed.
    • Monitor your diabetes.
  • Ask your doctor to give you the name of someone trained to help you create a healthy eating plan, such as a dietitian.
  • People with diabetes should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of activity most days of the week. Children and adolescents with type 2 diabetes who are 10 to 17 years old should aim for 60 minutes of activity every day.
  • See your doctor before becoming physically active.
  • Check your blood glucose levels before, during, and after physical activity.
  • Your doctor may prescribe you diabetes medicines that work best for you and your lifestyle.
  • If you have type 1 diabetes, you need insulin shots if your body has stopped making insulin or if it doesn’t make enough. Some people with type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes also need to take insulin shots.
  • Ask your health care team when you should take your diabetes medicines.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor if your medicines make you feel sick or if you have any other problems.
  • Checking and recording your blood glucose levels can help you monitor and better manage your diabetes. Ask your doctor how often you should check your blood glucose levels.
  • You may need to check your blood or urine for ketones if you’re sick or if your blood glucose levels are above 240.
  • Bring your blood glucose records to all visits with your health care team.
  • If your blood glucose levels stay above 180 for more than 1 to 2 hours, they may be too high. High blood glucose, also called hyperglycemia, means you don’t have enough insulin in your body.
  • If your blood glucose levels drop below 70, you have low blood glucose, also called hypoglycemia.
  • If you take diabetes medicines that can cause low blood glucose, always carry food for emergencies. You should also wear a medical identification bracelet or necklace that says you have diabetes.
  • If you take insulin, keep a prescription glucagon kit at home and at other places where you often go. If you have severe hypoglycemia, you’ll need someone to help bring your blood glucose levels back to normal by giving you a glucagon shot.
  • You can do a lot to prevent diabetes problems:
    • Follow your healthy eating plan every day.
    • Be physically active every day.
    • Take your medicines every day.
    • Check your blood glucose levels every day.
  • You should have a plan for managing your diabetes when you’re sick. You should call your doctor if you have questions about taking care of yourself.
  • Tell your teachers, friends, or close coworkers that you have diabetes and teach them about the signs of low blood glucose. You may need their help if your blood glucose levels drop too low.
  • Get all your vaccines and immunizations, or shots, before you travel. Find out what shot you need for where you’re going, and make sure you get the right shots on time.
  • When traveling, carry your diabetes medicines and your blood testing supplies with you on the plane. Never put these items in your checked baggage.
  • Always have a disaster kit ready. Include everything you need to take care of your diabetes in the disaster kit.
  • Keeping your blood glucose levels near normal before and during pregnancy helps protect both you and your baby.
  • If you’re already pregnant and you have diabetes, see your doctor right away.


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This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

The NIDDK would like to thank:
Michael L. Parchman, M.D., M.P.H., F.A.A.F.P., MacColl Center for Health Care Innovation, Group Health Research Institute; Marion J. Franz, M.S., R.D., L.D., C.D.E., Minneapolis, Minnesota

This information is not copyrighted. The NIDDK encourages people to share this content freely.


February 2014