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Living with Diabetes: Best Practices for Taking Medications

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Living with Diabetes: Best Practices for Taking Medications

If you are taking diabetes medications to help control your blood sugar, keep the following things in mind to maximize your diabetes regimen.


While some people can manage their diabetes with only healthy eating habits and exercise, others need assistance from medications. Suppose you are taking oral medications or injectables (such as daily insulin or a once-weekly/daily injection for diabetes that's not insulin). In that case, it is essential to know how they work, when to take them, and if they have interactions with other medications you are taking. 



Hectic mornings can make even the most organized people forget to take their medications. If this is you, try taking your meds with a habit. Some people take their medication right after brushing their teeth, as the container might be in their medicine cabinet and easy to see. If you need to take your medicine before eating and at a consistent time each day, setting an alarm to take your medication before the meal can help with remembering.  

Your smartphone can also make it easier to remember your meds. Use the Notes app or download a different app to keep an up-to-date list of your prescriptions. If you take more than a few, the log can help you keep track.  


Ask Questions 

Did you start a new diabetes medication? Were you explained how the drug works, when to take, and what are possible side effects? It is important to be your own advocate and ask questions about what you are taking. When your doctor prescribes a new medication, ask about side effects, warnings, how long you can expect to be taking it, and any other need-to-know facts about the drug. 


Expiration Dates 

Medication loses its effectiveness over time. Insulin, if not kept in the refrigerator, lasts approximately 28 days (depending on the type). Take time to notice the expiration date on your insulin pen. Use a permanent marker to note the date the pen is first accessed. 

Oral medications have expiration dates too. Do a spring-cleaning of your medicine cabinet by checking the expiration dates and tossing anything that's expired. To do so safely, first mix the meds with something inedible, such as used coffee grounds or dirt, and place in a plastic zip-lock bag. Or you can bring it to your pharmacist for disposal. It is not recommended to throw the expired medicine in the trash or flush it down the toilet.  


Save Time 

Ask your pharmacist to synchronize your refills so that you can cut back on the number of trips you make to the pharmacy. Or ask about home delivery options, which may allow you to get a larger supply of medication in each order. 



Some over-the-counter medications, supplements, vitamins, and herbs can interfere with your prescribed medications effectiveness. Be sure to tell your health care provider about everything you're taking so that he or she can make the best recommendations for your care. If you have a cough, look for an over-the-counter cough syrup with "sugar-free" on the label or ask your pharmacist or health care provider to recommend one. Cough and cold medications can be loaded with sugar. 


Side Effects 

Almost every medication on the market has a possible side effect. It is essential to know the possible side effects of the medication(s) you are taking so that if you experience it, you can correctly identify it and let your provider know. Some diabetes medications, such as sulfonylureas and insulin, can cause a low blood sugar episode. If you experience shakiness, sweaty palms, or feelings of nervousness, these are common signs of low blood sugar. Check your blood sugar and if it is below 70, drink half a cup of juice to bring your blood sugar up. Recheck your blood sugar in 15min to make sure your blood sugar is rising appropriately.  


If you want to learn more about managing your diabetes, please schedule an appointment with one of ACPNY’s Registered Dietitian-Nutritionists.  



In observance of Memorial Day, most ACPNY offices will be operating on a holiday schedule. For your convenience, select offices will remain open. Learn more.