The ABCs of Diabetes Management

Diabetes significantly increases the risk of heart disease. In fact, people with type 2 diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to have heart disease and stroke than people who do not have diabetes, and approximately two-thirds of people with diabetes die of complications, such as heart attack or stroke. That’s why it’s important to control blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as blood sugar levels.

How can you get started? It’s simple — just learn your ABCs!

Paying attention to all 3 of the ABCs is important. Talk to your doctor about how to manage your ABCs to help reduce your risk of diabetes-related complications, like heart disease. Click on each of the ABCs below to learn more!

You can help control your ABCs in a variety of ways, including healthy eating, getting more active, taking medication, and keeping track of your ABC goals. Talk to your doctor about an ABC management plan that’s right for you. Click on each of the options below to learn more!

Download and print this Daily Diabetes Management Journal to keep track of your blood sugar levels, eating and exercise between doctor appointments.

Bring this Checkup Chart to every doctor appointment to keep track of your current health and future goals.


A1C is a blood test taken at your doctor’s office that shows what your average blood sugar has been over the last 2-3 months. It’s a great measure of your blood sugar levels over time and can help your doctor to determine the appropriate diabetes treatment plan or whether your current treatment plan needs to be changed.

The AACE-recommended A1C goal for many people with diabetes is 6.5% or less, but some people may need a higher goal. Ask your doctor what A1C goal is right for you. Guidelines recommend that you get an A1C test 2 to 4 times a year.

Talk with your doctor about your A1C goals and how to achieve them.

Blood Pressure

When your blood pressure is taken, your doctor is measuring force of blood as it presses against the inside walls of your blood vessels. When blood moves through these vessels with too much force, your blood pressure is high, called hypertension, and your heart has to work harder.

AACE-recommended blood pressure goal: Less than 130/80 mm Hg  
Systolic pressure (mm Hg)
(the pressure as your heart beats)
Diastolic pressure (mm Hg)
(the pressure when your blood vessels relax between heart beats)

If you are not meeting your blood pressure goals, your risk for diabetes-related complications can increase. Hypertension may not cause symptoms, but over time it can damage the heart and blood vessels and other organs such as kidneys and eyes and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Get your blood pressure checked at every office visit and talk with your doctor about your blood pressure goals.


Cholesterol is important for your body to function properly, and you need it to help you digest food, produce hormones, and build new cells. However, if certain types of cholesterol are too high, it can lead to heart attack or stroke.

There are two different types of cholesterol your doctor measures:

    • LDL (bad) cholesterol increases your risk for heart attack
    • HDL (good) cholesterol works to reduce your risk for heart attack

Your doctor will also measure your triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, on a regular basis. Most fat from food and in the body exists as triglycerides. When you eat food, it may be converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells.

Cholesterol goals for most people with diabetes include an LDL of less than 100 mg/dl, an HDL of more than 40 mg/dl for men or more than 50 mg/dl for women, and triglyceride levels less than 150 mg/dL. Lowering LDL cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of heart disease. Talk with your doctor about specific cholesterol and triglyceride goals for you.

Healthy Eating

Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins is especially important for people with type 2 diabetes. Eating these foods at the right times and in the right amounts can help get you to your ABC goals.

To help manage A1C, watch your intake of calories, especially carbohydrates and sugar. Cut back on refined grains, like white rice and pasta, and added sugars from soda, fruit juices, and processed baked goods.

To help achieve blood pressure control, reduce the amount of calories and salt in your diet. You should be consuming no more than 1,500 mg of salt per day. When cooking, season with lemon or lime juice, herbs, and spices instead of salt — you don’t have to sacrifice flavor!

To help achieve your cholesterol goals, limit your intake of calories, including saturated fats, which are found in animal products like meats, cheeses, and butter. Try opting for lean proteins like skinless chicken breast or fish, low-fat dairy, and foods that are baked, grilled, or broiled instead of fried.

Getting More Active

Research has shown that physical activity can lower blood sugar, blood pressure, and LDL (bad) cholesterol, raise HDL (good) cholesterol and help you lose weight.

To get started, make a list of physical activities that you like to do, either alone or with others — you’re more likely to do them more often! Here are a few simple examples:

     Walk 10 to 15 minutes during your lunch break, perhaps getting some errands done as part of
      your walk
     Go on a bike ride, and ask a family member or friend to join you!
     Walk a few laps around the shopping mall

It may also help to start keeping a log of your activities in the Daily Diabetes Management Journal, to help you stay on top of your exercise program. Just remember to check with your doctor before getting started!

Taking Medication

There are medications that you can take to help manage your ABCs. If you haven’t already, talk with your doctor about medications that may be matched to your needs.

If you’re already taking medication to help manage your ABCs, make sure you are taking it as prescribed and do not stop taking it without first talking to your doctor, even if you feel good!

If you often experience symptoms of low blood sugar, talk to your doctor about whether alternative medications are appropriate for you.

Tracking Your Goals

It is important to keep track of your current ABC levels, as well as the target levels you’re working to achieve, so that you and your doctor can determine whether you’re meeting your goals.

You can bring the Checkup Chart to each doctor’s appointment to record current and target levels for your ABCs, blood sugar, diet, exercise, and weight.

You should also talk with your doctor to set a target blood sugar range and determine a schedule for checking your blood sugar regularly.

The Daily Diabetes Management Journal is an easy-to-use, printable resource that you can use to keep track of your blood sugar levels, diet, and exercise between appointments.

Fast 5 Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Make your next conversation with your diabetes healthcare team count by asking these five questions about blood sugar!

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Blood Sugar Checklists

Make sure you're checking off these boxes in addition to checking your blood sugar!

Low Blood Sugar Checklist  High Blood Sugar Checklist

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