A diagnosis of diabetes does not mean you are destined to have a more difficult life. You can take control of the situation with a few simple lifestyle changes. These five tips will help you live a full and healthy life with diabetes.
- Maintain a healthy weight through proper diet. Being overweight or obese puts you at a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. People with diabetes need to maintain a healthy weight and eat a well-balanced diet. Losing ten pounds or 5-7% of your total body weight can greatly improve glycemic control. Use portion control plates based on the latest USDA nutrition guidelines to reinforce balanced eating. Half your plate should be fruits and vegetables. Eat more whole grains. Avoid having oversize portions. Meat portions should be about the size of your hand. Steer clear of salty and sugary snacks. If you want a treat, try special snacks made for people with diabetes.
- Exercise regularly. Regular exercise improves circulation, reduces stress and burns fat. Exercise for at least a half hour each day, five days a week. Take a brisk walk, go for a bike ride, take aerobic classes at the gym or invest in home workout equipment such as a treadmill. Play with the kids or join an adult sports team to fit exercise into your routine. If you have a hectic schedule, take a walk during your lunch hour or wake up early to fit exercise into your day. You can break up your routine to 3 –ten minute walks and still get benefits.
- Monitor your blood sugar levels. Blood sugar fluctuations can lead to other diabetes-related problems. Use a blood sugar monitor to keep track of your blood sugar levels. Write down the results after testing to share with your doctor during the next visit. Extreme highs or lows should be reported to your doctor right away. Maintain a regular schedule for taking insulin and diabetes medications. If your schedule changes or you go on vacation, discuss it with your health care provider to stay on track.
- Go for regular health exams and testing. People with diabetes on medications typically see a doctor every three or four months. People who are managing diabetes through diet usually schedule exams every four to six months. Your doctor will establish a schedule and you need to stick to it. Blood sugar testing is done, blood pressure is taken and areas of your body are checked such as your feet and skin for signs of diabetes-related problems. If there is an issue, your doctor will refer you to a specialist. It is also important to get an annual eye exam and dental exam, as diabetes problems are often reflected in your vision, gums and teeth.
- Minimize stress and live well. Minimize the stress in your life that can cause contribute toward health problems. Try meditation, yoga, tai chi or deep breathing exercises to relax. Enjoy life everyday and do the healthy things you like. Steer clear of unhealthy habits such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption that make you feel worse. Enlist the assistance of your family, friends and a health care team. Work with a registered dietitian and physical trainer if you have trouble dieting and exercising. Look for diabetes education to improve diabetes self-management. Discuss persistent feelings of anxiety, sadness or depression with a counselor or therapist.
Research reveals lifestyle changes such as diet, physical activity, weight, smoking and alcohol use make a big difference in the quality of your life. Diabetes risks can be reduced 39 percent for women and 31 percent for men with each positive lifestyle change. These five simple guidelines help you live a happier, healthier life with diabetes.