8 Lifestyle Tips to Avoid Diabetes Complications
Maintaining proper control of your diabetes will help you avoid diabetes complications such as heart problems, nerve pain and neuropathy, and foot problems. Here's what you can do right now:
- Lose weight if you need to. About 80% to 90% of people with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Losing the excess weight helps control blood sugars.
- Monitor your blood sugar closely. Check glucose levels two or more times a day. Keep your blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible or within the range advised by your doctor. It helps to keep a log so you can track progress and determine the effect of diet and activity on your levels.
Know that high blood sugar levels can wreak much damage, including damaging the blood vessels that feed the eye's retina, leading to diabetic retinopathy, which can result in blurred vision and eventually blindness. High blood sugar levels can damage the kidneys, too. Get regular tests, called A1C, to find out your average blood sugar for the past two to three months. Most people with type 2 diabetes should aim for an A1C of 7% or lower. Ask your doctor how often you need to get an A1C test.
- Pay attention to your carbohydrate intake. Keep track of how many carbohydrates you eat, and how often. Managing your carbs can help keep blood sugar under control. Aim for high-fiber, complex carbs such as green vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole grains.
- Keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels under control. Heart disease is a common complication of diabetes, so try to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at normal levels. Ask your doctor to set goals for your cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. Work closely with your doctor to reach those goals, and take medications as prescribed.
- Keep moving. Regular exercise can help keep weight under control. Exercise also helps control blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels, and also reduces stress. Aim for at least 30 minutes a day of aerobic exercise five days a week. Start out more slowly if you have been sedentary. Exercises for diabetes control can include walking, dancing, low-impact aerobics, swimming, tennis, or a stationary bike. You can break up the 30 minutes -- by taking a 10-minute walk after every meal, for instance. Strength training and stretching are also recommended.
- Get sufficient sleep. When you are sleep deprived, you tend to eat more, and you can put on weight, setting you up for complications. People with diabetes who get enough sleep often have healthier eating habits and improvement of blood sugar.
- Manage stress. Stress and diabetes don't mix. Excess stress can elevate blood sugar. Learn stress reduction techniques that work for you. Among them: Sitting quietly for 15 minutes, meditating, practicing yoga.
- See your doctor at least yearly. At your annual physical, your doctor (or doctors) should give you a dilated eye exam, blood pressure check, foot exam, and screen for other complications such as signs of kidney damage, nerve damage, and heart disease.