Having diabetes doesn't automatically put you on the road to complications like heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure. A healthy lifestyle, along with insulin treatments, can keep your risk for these conditions low.
"Complications are not inevitable," says Robert E. Ratner, MD, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association.
To reduce your risk, he says, take control of your:
- Blood sugar
- Blood Pressure
Follow a simple daily care plan to help keep complications away:
Check Your Blood Sugar Levels
Daily finger sticks help you and your doctor see how well your blood sugar is controlled and make adjustments to manage it better.
- Ask your doctor when and how often to check, and what your target numbers should be.
- Keep a log with dates, times, and blood sugar numbers to share with your care team.
- Learn what steps you can take to adjust your routine when blood sugar levels are off target.
Eating well can help you stay at a healthy weight, lose weight, or lower your cholesterol or blood pressure. A nutritionist or diabetes educator can help you create a meal plan that spreads carbohydrates throughout the day and works with your lifestyle.
Also try to:
- Eat a wide variety of healthy foods and watch portion sizes.
- Make vegetables half of every meal.
- Keep healthy snacks handy, like celery and peanut butter, instead of junk food.
- Consider prepackaged meals that tell you exactly how many calories you're eating.
Move Your Body
Regular exercise helps you control your weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Exercise at least 30 minutes total a day, 5 days a week.
If you're not used to exercising:
Try brisk walks. "Even if you have bad arthritis or back pain, most people can walk 15 minutes twice a day," says Marjorie Cypress, PhD, RN, president of health care and education at the American Diabetes Association.
Find ways to fit in exercise. Maybe you can wake up 15 minutes earlier to walk in the morning and do another session on your lunch hour, for example. Or lift hand weights or march in place while you're watching TV.
Smoking damages and tightens your blood vessels. It doubles your chances of heart disease and makes nerve damage and eye and kidney problems more likely. Talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
"When your body secretes adrenaline, which it does when you're stressed, your blood pressure and blood sugars go up," Cypress says.
Long-term stress can lead to long-term high blood sugar levels.
Cut out any sources of stress you can. Then carve out at least 15 minutes a day to do something that relaxes you. For example, you can:
- Do deep breathing
- Listen to music
- Do stretches
- Work at a hobby or craft