Tips for Teens with Diabetes

Diabetes can happen to anyone at any age.  

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) occurs when the body makes little or no insulin – a hormone that helps sugar move from our blood into our cells. Without insulin, blood sugar can’t get into our cells and builds up in our bloodstream. This can be dangerous and cause damage to our organs and tissues.  

Type 2 diabetes (T2D) occurs when the body may make enough insulin, but the cells are not as responsive to it. When our cells cannot use insulin properly, blood sugar builds up in our bloodstream – just like in T1D.  

Here are some tips for staying healthy if you have diabetes:  

  • Regularly meet with your diabetes care team – To learn how to manage diabetes, it can be helpful to regularly check in with your diabetes care team. Your care team might include the following: 
    • An endocrinologist – a doctor who oversees your diabetes management, prescribes and adjusts your insulin, and answers any questions you might have.  
    • A dietitian – a specialist who can teach you how to count carbs, read food labels, and plan balanced meals and snacks. 
    • A mental health provider – a social worker, psychologist, or counselor that can support you in coping with new feelings or routines. They can also give you ideas about how to live healthy with diabetes and connect you with support groups. 
  • Manage your blood sugar – Keeping your blood sugar in the healthy range – not too high and not too low – can give you more energy. You can keep your blood sugar in the healthy range by taking your insulin as directed, following your meal plan, being physically active, and checking your blood sugar as needed. To manage your blood sugar, ask your doctor how often they recommend that you check it.  
  • Take your insulin – You might take your insulin using a syringe or an insulin pump. However you take it, make sure to take your insulin exactly how your health provider tells you to. 
  • Be mindful of what you eat – Learning to balance the carbs, protein, and fat you eat is one of the keys to managing your diabetes successfully. Contrary to popular belief, people with diabetes can eat various foods – as long as it is in moderation! This includes counting carbs, which helps you figure out how much insulin you need. It’s okay not to fully understand how to count carbs, read food labels, or know what to eat. Your dietitian can teach you. 
  • Get daily exercise – Exercise makes insulin work better, keeping your blood sugar in a healthy range. It can also strengthen your muscles and bones, clear your mind, and help you think better. All exercise is great, whether you are playing ball with your friends or taking a walk solo. Just be sure to do it every day. Changing exercise habits can be hard for anyone, but most say they’re hooked once they start feeling the benefits. Here are some facts you need to know about exercise and diabetes. 
  • Talk about it – Talking with loved ones and friends is a great way to get support and brainstorm ways to stay healthy. Plus, it might help you feel more comfortable checking your blood sugar, counting carbs, and taking your insulin around them.  
  • Know when to get help – Managing your diabetes includes knowing when to call your doctor and get medical help. If you have high or low blood sugar levels throughout the day or you know something is not right – like you are drinking or peeing a lot more than normal – let those around you know. They can help you get the medical care you need. 

For more information about T1D and T2D and living your best life, check out these resources:  

  1. Treating Type 1 Diabetes
  2. I’m a Teenager with Type 1 Diabetes
  3. Type 2 Diabetes: How Is It Treated?
  4. Tips for Teens with Diabetes – Be Active!

Author: Stephanie Paz is a Tigua Indian of Ysleta del Sur Pueblo. She has a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from The University of Texas at El Paso and is working towards a Master of Public Health in Health Behavior and Health Promotion from New Mexico State University.

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