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Using a Checklist to Manage Diabetes


Updated October 24, 2007

Checklists are useful tools that help people with diabetes effectively manage their disease by keeping track of test results, general health goals, questions to ask a doctor and more. Because diabetes is a complex condition, one checklist is not enough. Instead, it’s best to keep several checklists, one for each component of diabetes care.

Diabetes Medication Checklist

Whether someone with diabetes takes insulin injections, oral diabetes medication, blood pressure pills or something else, it’s important to know what each medication does and how to use it properly. At each office visit, make sure to get refills for prescriptions used on a regular basis. A medication checklist should include the following questions:
  • What medications are needed and what do they do?
  • What side effects are there?
  • When should they be taken?
  • How should they be stored?
  • What is the proper dosage?
  • When do they expire?
  • How do they interact with food?
  • What should be done if a dose is missed?

Blood Sugar Levels Checklist

The benefits of keeping blood sugar levels within a range specified by a doctor cannot be overstated. Research shows that controlling blood sugar levels can lower the risk for diabetes-related complications. People with diabetes should ask their health care provider these questions:
  • How often should blood sugar be tested?
  • How can a high blood sugar level be lowered?
  • Within what range should my blood sugar levels be?
  • How low is too low? What should be done if my blood sugar is too low?
  • What information is necessary to record each test?
  • How do I find patterns in my blood sugar readings? What do I do once I see a pattern?
  • Is my blood glucose meter accurate? When do I have to calibrate it?
  • When should I call the doctor with questions and when should I go to the emergency room instead?
Use a preprinted diabetes calendar/log book (available from a doctor or the American Diabetes Association) to keep track of blood sugar readings, food intake and medications. Online sources like Dia-Log.com can also be used.

Nutrition and Exercise Checklist

Understanding the relationship between food, diabetes medication and activity levels is essential to help control blood sugar levels. Each interacts with the others. Finding a balance can be time consuming, but will be well worth it. People with diabetes should ask their health-care provider the following questions:
  • Can you recommend a meal plan for me?
  • How much exercise do I need? If I’m not at that level, how can I improve?
  • What is my ideal weight? Is my meal plan helping me get there?
  • Do I have limitations on what I can do physically?
  • What are carbohydrates and how do they impact my blood sugar?
  • How can I add strength training to my daily life?
  • How much fat should be in my diet? What type of fat should it be?
  • Do I need more cardiovascular exercise?

Tests and Other Questions Checklist

Because diabetes can affect the entire body, people with diabetes need to monitor different body functions; they should also ask the following questions of their health-care provider:
  • What is my blood pressure reading? What should it be?
  • What other tests do I need? When do I need them?
  • What was my last HA1c result? What should it be? When do I need another?
  • Do I need a microalbumin urine test?
  • How should I care for my feet?
  • What are my total cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides levels? Are they where they should be?
  • When and where should I get my eyes tested?

Assembling a Medical Team Checklist

Managing diabetes can seem overwhelming at times. Most people find it helpful to assemble a team to help them achieve their goals. People with diabetes should ask their doctor the following questions:
  • Do I need a nutritionist or dietitian?
  • Should I see a physical therapist or personal trainer?
  • Will I benefit from seeing a social worker or psychologist?
  • Do I need a podiatrist?
  • Is it important for me to see an ophthalmologist?
  • Should I see a cardiologist?
  • Do I need a diabetes educator?
  • Are there other health care specialists I should see?
  • Can you recommend a support group for me to join?

When Is it an Emergency?

There are times when one shouldn’t wait to visit the doctor. Blood sugar levels that are too high or too low can sometimes become emergency situations. People with diabetes should be taken to the hospital's emergency department if they appear significantly ill, are very dehydrated, seem overly confused or are very weak.

Other reasons to seek immediate medical treatment include shortness of breath, high fever, chest pain and severe abdominal pain with vomiting.

The best way to avoid emergencies is to actively engage in managing one’s diabetes and controlling blood sugar levels. Call Your Doctor Immediately if Any of These Symptoms Occur:

  • Shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Foot or leg pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Weakness on one side


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“Diabetes Management Checklist.” Learn About Diabetes. Joslin Diabetes Center. 3 Sep. 2007. <http://www.joslin.org/managing_your_diabetes_648.asp>.

"Diabetic Ketoacidosis." eMedicineHealth. 30 Dec. 2005. eMedicineHealth. 3 Sep. 2007. <http://www.emedicinehealth.com/diabetic_ketoacidosis/article_em.htm>.

"Diabetes Care Checklist." Aetna InteliHealth. 04 Apr. 2005. Aetna InteliHealth. 3 Sep. 2007. <http://www.intelihealth.com/IH/ihtIH/WSIHW000/35072/35077/360564.html?d=dmtContent>.

“Questions to Ask Your Diabetes Team." Caremark. 29 Sep. 2006. Caremark. 3 Sep. 2007. <http://healthresources.caremark.com/topic/quesdiabetes>.

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