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Diabetes: How to Lower Your Risk of 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, says Robert E. Ratner, MD, chief scientific and medical officer for the American Diabetes Association. A healthy lifestyle, along with insulin treatments, can keep your risk low for these conditions.

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

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Follow a simple daily care plan to help keep complications away.

Check Your Blood Sugar

Daily finger sticks help you and your doctor see how well your blood sugar is controlled. Adjustments can be made to manage it better if need be.

  • 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 work with you to create a meal plan that spreads carbohydrates throughout the day and fits with your lifestyle.

You should also:

  • 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 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.

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