How To Stay Healthy With Type 2 Diabetes
Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
Type 2 diabetes can place you at risk of developing other serious medical conditions.
Simple diet and lifestyle changes can help you lead a healthy life and avoid further diagnoses.
A team of healthcare providers can help you navigate your health care and increase your longevity.
A type 2 diabetes diagnosis might not have been what you were expecting. Still, the good news is that this disease is manageable with a few simple lifestyle changes and the help and direction of your healthcare provider.
Because of your diabetes, you are at higher risk of developing other diseases which could negatively impact your health. These life-threatening conditions can make it harder for you to continue doing the things you love.
In addition to covering the risks of living with type 2 diabetes, we’ll also give you six ways to stay healthy and maintain your blood sugar levels.
What Are the Risks of Type 2 Diabetes?
Your doctor has probably warned you that living with type 2 diabetes increases your risk of developing other diseases. Uncontrolled blood sugar can affect your blood vessels, heart, eyes, nerves, and kidneys.
Even if you control your blood sugar levels with medications, you can be at a higher risk of developing these diseases.
- Heart disease. Diseases of the heart and blood vessels, including heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, and atherosclerosis, are more common in people with type 2 diabetes than in people who do not have type 2 diabetes.
- Nerve damage. If you’ve already experienced neuropathy in your fingers or toes, you know how painful and frustrating it can be. Diabetic nerve pain happens over time as blood sugar levels slowly destroy nerves, leaving you with foot problems that can rob you of your ability to walk.
- Kidney disease. Having diabetes that is not well managed can lead to kidney damage and kidney disease, and in some cases, kidney failure.
An important facet of diabetes care is developing a lifestyle that fosters your well-being and lowers your risk of developing these additional diseases.
Six Ways To Stay Healthy With Type 2 Diabetes
In addition to your doctor's care, you’ll need to be proactive about managing your disease. Here are six ways to take better care of yourself, increase your longevity, and live a healthy life with type 2 diabetes.
1. Manage Your Cholesterol
Having unhealthy cholesterol levels and type 2 diabetes can go hand in hand. According to the American Diabetes Association, type 2 diabetes tends to lower high-density lipoprotein (good cholesterol) levels and raise triglycerides and low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) levels.
The combination of high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes can increase your risk of developing heart and blood vessel diseases.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight
One of the two factors that most frequently exist before a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes is obesity. Your doctor can help you determine if weight loss is necessary. Generally, obesity refers to a body mass index (BMI) over 30.0.
Losing weight can be difficult, and adding a dietitian, personal trainer, or other professionals to your health care team can help you become successful if you are struggling on your own.
3. Stay Active
If you aren’t physically active, now is the time to start. The second factor that commonly exists before diabetes is inactivity. Leading a sedentary lifestyle not only contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes but can also worsen your condition.
A physical exercise routine is important for staying healthy and balancing your blood glucose levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity per week.
Examples of moderate-intensity activities include:
- Brisk walking
- Yard work
- Some sports
Try to include both aerobic exercise and weight training to keep your bones and muscles strong and your body healthy.
Finding something you enjoy is the best way to ensure you’ll actually do it. If you love tennis, break out your old rackets and catch a few matches. Pump the tires in your old bicycle and go for a spin. No matter what you choose, keep moving. Your body depends on it.
4. Eat a Healthy Diet
A diet high in processed carbohydrates, trans fats, excess sodium, and sugar can not only cause you to pack on extra pounds, but they can also provide empty calories that aren’t meeting your body’s dietary needs.
As a type 2 diabetic, choosing foods with a low glycemic index is essential. These foods have ingredients that don’t cause your blood sugar to spike and drop rapidly. They can also make it easier for your pancreas to produce insulin to help remove the glucose from your blood and regulate your blood sugar levels effectively.
Examples of preferable foods include:
- Whole grains (whole wheat bread, steel cut oats, brown rice, unsweetened whole grain cereals)
- Low-fat dairy products
- Lean meats like chicken and fish
- Fruits (especially berries)
Your food choices matter, and simply asking yourself if what you’re about to eat will benefit your body can help you make healthier food choices.
Another consideration to make is portion sizes. Using your plate as a guide, divide it into quarters. Fill half of your plate with salad or vegetables, a quarter of your plate with complex carbs like sweet potatoes, and the last quarter of your plate with protein.
Meal planning can help you be more successful with your healthy eating goals and prevent you from turning to fast food or other less healthful options when you are hungry.
5. Keep Your Healthcare Team Close
Your doctor is your number one ally in helping you manage your disease. It is your primary diabetes educator’s responsibility to offer you options for diabetes management and help you understand your increased risk factors for other diseases.
In addition to routine checkups, your doctor may also recommend regular A1C testing to make sure your high blood sugar levels are controlled. The A1C test is a blood test your doctor may order to measure your blood sugar levels over three months.
6. Stop Smoking
Smoking is generally discouraged for everyone, but it can be especially risky for those with type 2 diabetes. Smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels. When combined with type 2 diabetes, this damage can be more severe and may happen faster than in the body of a smoker who does not have type 2 diabetes.
Additionally, smoking can exacerbate the effects of nerve and eye damage from type 2 diabetes, making conditions worse than they would be if you stopped smoking.
Being Healthy With Your Diabetes
Regarding your type 2 diabetes, you’re in the driver’s seat. Better diet and exercise choices can help support a healthier and longer life. For more information on type 2 diabetes and how to live a healthy, longer life, check out our other guides to help you age healthfully.
Eric Venn-Watson M.D.
Senior Scientist, Co-Founder
Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.
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