Diabetes, if not controlled, can cause blindness, amputation, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke, among others. Lifestyle changes combined with the right medications can help control diabetes and prevent or delay its serious complications.
Work closely with your doctor to manage your diabetes and focus on the following lifestyle changes:
Eat healthy. What you eat affects your blood sugar. Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Choose nonfat dairy and lean meats. Limit foods that are high in sugar and fat. Remember that carbohydrates turn into sugar, so watch your carb intake. Try to keep your carb intake about the same from meal to meal, especially if you take insulin or oral anti-diabetes medications.
Maintain a healthy body weight. Many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Losing weight and keeping it off will help you control your blood sugar and make you feel better.
Body mass index (BMI) is a measure of body fat. It is based on your height and weight. A healthy BMI is less than 25. If your BMI is more than 25, talk with your doctor about ways to lose weight. Combining a healthy diet with exercise is the best way to lose weight and keep it off.
Exercise regularly. Getting at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, like walking, biking, and swimming, will help you lose weight and keep it off, and it can help keep your heart healthy.
Spread your exercise out over several days each week (for example, five sessions of 30 minutes each). Try not to go more than two days without exercising. Your goal should be 30 minutes of activity that makes you sweat and breathe a little harder; do this on most days of the week.
If you do not have any major health problems that limit your activities, add resistance exercises to your routine. For example, you can lift weights three times a week, targeting all the major muscle groups.
Get regular medical checkups. See your doctor at least twice a year. Diabetes raises your risk for stroke and heart attack, so it’s important to monitor your cholesterol, blood pressure, and A1c (average blood sugar over 3 months). Get a full eye exam every year. Have your feet checked for problems like foot ulcers and nerve damage.
Manage stress. Stress raises your blood sugar levels. And anxiety can hinder your ability to manage your diabetes well. You may forget to exercise, eat right, or take your prescribed drugs. Find ways to relieve stress, such as deep breathing, yoga, or hobbies that relax you like listening to your favorite music or walking your dog.
Stop smoking. Diabetes raises your risk of developing heart disease, eye disease, stroke, kidney disease, blood vessel disease, nerve damage, and foot problems. If you smoke, your chance of developing these problems is even greater. Smoking can also make it harder for you to exercise. Talk with your doctor about ways to quit smoking.
Watch your alcohol. Drinking alcohol in moderation may make it easier to control your blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association advises that women who drink alcohol have no more than one drink a day and men who drink have no more than two. Drinking alcohol can make your blood sugar go too high or too low. Check your blood sugar before you drink, and take steps to avoid low blood sugar (hypoglycemia). If you use insulin or take drugs for your diabetes, eat when you’re drinking. Some drinks, such as wine coolers, may be higher in carbohydrates, so take this into account when counting carbs.
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