Taking care of yourself is an important part of managing type 2 diabetes.

It often involves making changes to your diet and lifestyle, developing a workout plan, taking your medications, and monitoring your blood sugar level throughout the day.

While managing diabetes can feel overwhelming at first, a certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) can help set you up for success.

More commonly known as certified diabetes educators, these healthcare professionals specialize in educating, supporting, and promoting self-management of diabetes.

Certified diabetes educators work alongside people with diabetes to create customized goals that may help improve both care and health outlook.

Given their training and expertise, certified diabetes educators have unique insight to share about the condition. Here are the top things they want people to know about managing type 2 diabetes.

Keeping your blood sugar levels at a healthy level when you have type 2 diabetes may require you to make changes to your diet and lifestyle.

Figuring out exactly which changes you want to make can help you overcome obstacles along the way.

“Goal setting is a big part of successful diabetes self-care,” said Kerri Doucette, a certified diabetes educator and diabetes nurse specialist at Glytec, an insulin management software company.

The goals should be challenging yet realistically achievable. They should also be specific, so you know exactly what you’re working toward.

For example, a goal like “exercise more” is somewhat vague and hard to measure. A more concrete goal, such as “take a 30-minute bike ride 4 days per week,” helps you align your focus and make progress.

And if a particularly busy week is making it hard to achieve your goal, give yourself the flexibility to make adjustments, advised Doucette. The key is to figure out what you can realistically accomplish — then set a plan to make it happen.

“Be gentle on yourself when you need to be, but continue to work on smaller, more realistic goals for achieving a healthy lifestyle when life gets tough,” said Doucette.

Losing between 5 percent and 10 percent of your overall body weight can help make your blood sugar levels more manageable and potentially reduce your need for diabetes medication, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

While you might want to change the number on the scale as quickly as possible, patience is key when it comes to weight loss, Doucette said.

“Rapid weight loss strategies may not be a long-term solution for maintaining your weight loss,” Doucette said. “Most patients I have worked with over the years were able to keep the weight off much longer when they lost weight slowly and steadily.”

People who lose weight gradually tend to have more success maintaining a healthy weigh in the long term, per the CDC.

That generally means about 1 to 2 pounds per week, but you can work with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to develop an individualized weight loss plan.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends that people with diabetes maintain a blood sugar level between 80 and 130 mg/dL before eating, and no more than 180 mg/dL an hour or 2 after the start of a meal.

That doesn’t mean you have to be in that range 100 percent of the time, though.

Spending about 70 percent of your day within the target range could lead to a hemoglobin A1C of 7 percent or less — the goal for most adults living with diabetes — said Diana Isaacs, a certified diabetes care and education specialist and remote monitoring program coordinator at the Cleveland Clinic Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute.

Staying within the target range at least 70 percent of the time “greatly reduces your risk of diabetes-related complications,” Isaacs said. “This is good news because it means that your blood sugars don’t have to be perfect to have good outcomes.”

Sleep plays an essential role in maintaining both physical and mental health. For people with diabetes, getting adequate rest can also help control blood sugar levels.

“There are many factors that can cause blood sugars to rise, including lack of sleep, which puts additional stress on the body,” said Isaacs, “Getting a good night’s sleep of 7 hours or more can help keep your blood sugars better regulated.”

Getting a good night’s rest isn’t always easy for people with diabetes, though.

Research from 2017 found that many people with type 2 diabetes have a higher risk of sleep disorders, such as restless legs syndrome and insomnia.

Establishing healthy sleep habits, known as sleep hygiene, can help improve your ability to fall and stay asleep.

Here are a few ways to sleep better:

  • Set a sleep schedule and stick to it.
  • Avoid using electronic devices before bedtime.
  • Limit your caffeine consumption late in the day.
  • Use shades to block out light from your bedroom windows.
  • Do relaxing activities, like taking a bath or journaling, before bed.

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition. The changes your body goes through as you get older can impact the way you manage the condition and the risk of complications.

“It’s very common that medications are added over time,” said Isaacs. “It doesn’t mean that you did anything wrong.”

Rather than blaming yourself if medication stops working, work with your diabetes care team to adjust goals for managing your condition and explore other treatment options.

“Sometimes the pancreas is damaged and just can’t make the insulin it needs,” said Stephanie Redmond, a certified diabetes educator and doctor of pharmacy. “If this is the case, medications can be essential and even life saving to replace that insulin the body is missing, regardless of diet, exercise, or other lifestyle variables.”

When you consume carbohydrates, your body breaks the food down into glucose, a type of sugar. As a result, you tend to have a higher blood sugar levels after eating carbs compared with proteins and fats.

Decreasing the amount of carbs you eat can help you stay within your target blood sugar range, but that doesn’t mean you have to give them up completely, said Isaacs.

She recommended adjusting the ways you consume carbs to make them part of a more balanced diet.

“A good rule of thumb is to never eat a naked carb,” Isaacs said. “Foods like cereal, rice, pasta, candy, and potatoes raise blood sugar very quickly. Adding protein like chicken, eggs, meat, or tofu with carbohydrates will prevent blood sugar from spiking up as quickly.”

Physical activity can be an important part of managing type 2 diabetes, but the way you move matters.

Certain exercises can increase blood sugar levels, said Redmond. Working out can also increase your body’s sensitivity to insulin, which can reduce your blood sugar for 24 hours or more, according to the ADA.

“Some workouts, although ultimately beneficial, may temporarily spike blood sugars,” Redmond explained. “Specifically high-intensity intervals like sprints or weightlifting and resistance training can release adrenaline, which can indirectly increase sugars.”

Redmond added that any exercise can help support sensitivity to insulin over time, but it’s important to be aware of the more immediate effects of working out on your blood sugar.

When it comes to developing a type 2 diabetes management plan, remember to consider different areas of your life that can all impact your overall wellness.

Sleep, nutrition, medication, and exercise are great places to start, but it’s important to understand that every person is different. What may work for someone else may not be right for you, and vice versa.

Consider working with a certified diabetes educator who can help you develop an individualized approach to managing your diabetes.