Working closely with your doctor, you can help manage your diabetes by focusing on six key lifestyle changes.
1. Eat healthy. Eating well is important when you have diabetes because what you eat affects your blood sugar. No foods are strictly off limits. It's just important that you eat in moderation. Eat lots 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.
2. Exercise. If you're not moving, start. You don't have to join a gym and do cross training. Just walk, swim, or do active video games. Exercise can help control diabetes by lowering your blood sugar and your risk of heart disease. It can help you lose extra pounds and ease stress. Your goal should be 30 minutes of moderate activity most days of the week.
3. Get checkups. If you're not getting regular checkups, now's the time to start. See your health care provider at least twice a year. People with diabetes have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. So learn your numbers: cholesterol, blood pressure, and A1C (average blood sugar over the past three months). Get an annual comprehensive eye exam. Because diabetes increases your risk of gum disease, see a dentist twice a year. Visit a podiatrist to check for problems like foot ulcers and nerve damage.
4. Manage stress. When you're stressed, your blood sugar levels go up. Plus, when you're anxious, you may not manage your diabetes well. You may forget to exercise, eat right, or take your medications. Find ways to relieve stress -- through deep breathing, yoga, or relaxing hobbies.
5. Stop smoking. People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing health issues like heart disease, eye disease, stroke, kidney disease, vascular disease, nerve damage, and foot problems. If you smoke, your risk of developing those problems can increase even more. Smoking also can make it more difficult to exercise. Talk with your doctor about ways to quit.
6. Watch your alcohol. Avoiding alcohol may make it easier to control your blood sugar, so if you choose to drink, use caution. When you have diabetes, drinking alcohol can affect your blood sugar. It can make it go too high or too low. Check your blood sugar before you drink. Some drinks -- like wine coolers -- are high in carbs. Your best choices are dry wine, light beer, or unsweetened liquor mixed with club soda or water. Never drink when your blood sugar is very low or on any empty stomach. The American Diabetes Association recommends that women with diabetes drink no more than one alcoholic beverage a day and men drink no more than two.