7 Long-Term Goals for Better Diabetes Management

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on January 27, 2017Written by Annette McDermott on January 27, 2017
type 2 diabetes

Some short-term type 2 diabetes goals are universal, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising more. But diabetes impacts many areas of your health and your lifestyle over the long term, too. It’s important to consider long-term goals as you move forward with your diabetes management plan.

Long-term goals for people with diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, your immediate goal should be to get and/or keep your blood sugar levels under control through diet, exercise, and, if needed, medications. Once you’ve accomplished that, it’s time to think about long-term goals to help you stay as healthy as possible and prevent diabetes complications.

1. Manage your cholesterol

Your body needs cholesterol to perform many functions, and your liver makes all it needs. People with diabetes tend to have higher “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and triglyceride levels and lower “good” cholesterol (HDL).

Eating a diet high in saturated and trans fats can increase your body’s production of bad cholesterol. High blood sugar levels and increased intake of simple sugars can increase triglyceride levels, as can chronically high alcohol intake. Smoking can decrease HDL levels.

If you’ve never had your cholesterol levels checked, ask your doctor to order a lipid profile. If you know your levels are high, talk to your doctor about taking a cholesterol-lowering statin. Set a long-term goal to lower your levels by eating a heart-healthy diet and exercising regularly. Once your numbers are stable, have them checked at least once a year.

2. Stop smoking

Smoking is bad for everyone, but even more so for people with diabetes. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking can increase your risk for developing type 2 diabetes. It also makes it more difficult to control the condition and more likely you’ll have complications such as poor blood flow, heart disease, and eye problems.

If you smoke, set a long-term goal to quit. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for assistance. It may take some time to kick the habit, but you’ll reap immediate benefits.

3. Keep your eyes healthy

Diabetes may cause or increase the risk of a range of eye conditions such as cataracts, retinopathy, and glaucoma. Left untreated, these conditions may lead to vision loss. The longer you have diabetes, the higher your risk. And, according to the National Eye Institute, many eye conditions don’t produce symptoms until vision is impaired. To help reduce your risk, set a goal to have a dilated eye exam with an ophthalmologist once a year.

4. Prevent foot problems

Another long-term goal should be to maintain healthy feet. Foot problems are common in people with diabetes and may cause serious complications including:

  • ulcers or sores that won’t heal
  • nerve damage
  • loss of sensation
  • dry, cracked skin
  • calluses
  • poor blood flow
  • amputation

Check your feet daily for wounds, ulcers, and skin problems. Walk regularly to improve circulation, and make a long-term goal to treat your feet with tender loving care. Have your doctor examine your feet at every visit and do a comprehensive foot exam at least once a year.

5. Manage chronic stress

Dealing with a chronic condition is stressful. Add on the daily grind of normal life, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. Chronic stress may make it difficult to manage your blood sugar levels. It may also make you less apt to eat healthy or exercise.

Setting long-term goals to manage stress can help you take control of the situation. Set a goal to complete a yoga class or learn to meditate. If you feel you can’t handle stress on your own, contact your doctor for help.

6. Maintain a healthy weight

You may achieve your weight loss goals by changing your diet in the short term, but maintaining that healthy weight is challenging. Many things other than diet and exercise impact the numbers on your scale such as hormone levels, lifestyle habits such as sleep, and stress. Setting long-term goals to continue to lose a set number of pounds or to maintain a healthy weight can help you stay motivated.

If your weight loss has plateaued or you’re gaining weight, consider setting a goal to increase your physical activity. Maybe you’d like to run or walk a 5K within the next year or walk a 15-minute mile. Set a goal to reach that milestone.

7. Journal your blood sugar levels

If your blood sugar levels are well-managed, you may not be monitoring them as often as you should. Even if you’re checking your levels regularly, you may not be tracking them. Keep an electronic or written blood sugar log along with what you were eating and doing at the time of the test. This helps you identify how your blood sugar responds to certain foods, heavy or light meals, stress, and exercise. Think about setting a long-term goal to regularly monitor and identify patterns that can help you make changes as needed.

The takeaway

Setting long-term health goals can help you manage your diabetes. When setting goals, make sure they’re achievable and realistic, or you may give up. A good way to start is by setting S.M.A.R.T. goals, which are:

  • Specific: Ask yourself what you want to accomplish, how long it will take, and if the goal is ongoing.
  • Measurable: Decide how you’ll measure the goal. Maybe you’ll have a cholesterol blood test, an A1c test, or go by your weight.
  • Achievable: Be sure the goal is achievable. Brainstorm ways to track your progress.
  • Realistic: Unrealistic goals set you up for failure. Keep your goals sensible, and consider setting smaller goals along the way to help you reach the finish line.
  • Timed: Create a realistic timeline to reach your goals. Long-term goals take time, but if they take too long, you may lose motivation.

Consider enlisting a trusted ally and sharing your goals with them. Let them know what they can do to help you stay motivated and accountable such as a daily or weekly phone call or email, or being an exercise buddy.

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