Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Diabetes Health Center

Font Size

How to Lower Your Risk of Diabetes Complications

By Camille Peri
WebMD Feature

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.

Recommended Related to Diabetes

Gary Hall's Toughest Competitor: Diabetes

It was the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia. Eight of the top swimmers in the world were lined up, ready to hit the pool for the 50-meter freestyle. The buzzer sounded. They propelled themselves into the water. In just under 22 seconds, the race was over. American Gary Hall Jr. had won gold, tying with teammate Anthony Ervin for the medal. Only a few elite athletes can claim a gold win at the Olympic Games, but what makes Hall's achievement even more exceptional is that he did it only a...

Read the Gary Hall's Toughest Competitor: Diabetes article > >

To reduce your risk, he says, take control of your:

  • Blood sugar
  • Blood Pressure
  • Cholesterol

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.

 

Eat Right

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.

Don't Smoke

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.

Ease Stress

"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:

  • Meditate
  • Do deep breathing
  • Pray
  • Listen to music
  • Dance
  • Do stretches
  • Volunteer
  • Work at a hobby or craft

Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

Check Your Blood Sugar Level Now
What type of diabetes do you have?
Your gender:

Get the latest Diabetes newsletter delivered to your inbox!


or
Answer:
Low
0-69
Normal
70-130
High
131+

Your level is currently

If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Did You Know Your Lifestyle Choices
Affect Your Blood Sugar?

Use the Blood Glucose Tracker to monitor
how well you manage your blood sugar over time.

Get Started

This tool is not intended for women who are pregnant.

Start Over

Step:  of 

Today on WebMD

Woman holding cake
Slideshow
feet
Slideshow
 
man organizing pills
Slideshow
Close up of eye
Slideshow
 

Woman serving fast food from window
Video
Can Vinegar Treat Diabetes
Video
 
Middle aged person
Tool
are battery operated toothbrushes really better
Video
 

Prediabetes How to Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
Article
type 2 diabetes
Slideshow
 
food fitness planner
Tool
Are You at Risk for Dupuytrens Contracture
Article