Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that requires constant planning and awareness. The longer you have diabetes, the higher your risk of experiencing complications. Fortunately, you can make several lifestyle changes that can prevent complications.

Here are some steps you can take now to plan for your future with type 2 diabetes.

Physical activity is essential for diabetes management. Any type of movement is helpful, so feel free to choose something you truly enjoy. The goal is to get about 30 minutes of activity at least five times per week, or at least 150 minutes in total per week.

You can start with short walks. If you love to dance, perhaps you can enroll in a dance class that meets a few times per week. Even gardening or raking leaves can be considered aerobic activity.

The more you move now, the easier it’ll be to manage your blood sugar levels. Talk with your healthcare team before you start a new physical activity routine.

Improving the quality of your diet is another important way to help you manage your diabetes. A registered dietitian is a great resource for learning how to do this.

The American Diabetes Association recommends eating a low-carbohydrate diet. Aim to include more fruits and vegetables, as well as lean proteins and whole grains. Avoiding foods that increase your blood sugar levels can reduce your risk of future complications.

Foods to add to your diet

  • fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, anchovies, and mackerel
  • leafy greens
  • colorful fruits and vegetables
  • nuts and seeds
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • nonfat or low-fat dairy
  • eggs
  • avocado
  • whole grains
  • lean meat

Foods to cut out of your diet

  • sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sweet tea, juice, and soda
  • white bread
  • pasta
  • white rice
  • sugar, including brown sugar and “natural” sugars like honey, agave nectar, and maple syrup
  • pre-packaged snack foods
  • fried foods
  • foods high in salt
  • dried fruits
  • ice cream and other sweets
  • beer

If you’re overweight, losing just a few pounds can really make a difference in diabetes management. As you get older, maintaining a healthy weight may become more difficult, but it’s not impossible.

A registered dietician can work with you to determine your weight loss goals and methods. Simple changes to your diet, such as switching sugary sodas for water, can really add up.

Poor blood flow and nerve damage caused by high blood sugar can lead to foot ulcers. To prevent this, you should wear comfortable, supportive shoes with comfortable socks. Make sure to check your feet often for signs of blisters or sores.

You can prevent many diabetes complications with early detection and treatment. This means you’ll need to visit your doctor on a regular basis, even if you don’t have any new symptoms.

Schedule your appointments in advance and keep them on a calendar so you don’t forget or try to put them off. At each checkup, your doctor will run important tests to monitor the effectiveness of your current medications. They’ll also ensure you aren’t developing any other problems, like high blood pressure or kidney disease.

Diabetes is a complicated illness. Because it can lead to many possible complications, you’ll need to visit more than just a primary care doctor. Assemble a diabetes care team now to confirm you’re well taken care of in case any complications arise.

Your diabetes care team may include:

  • registered dietician
  • diabetes educator
  • pharmacist
  • dentist
  • endocrinologist
  • eye doctor
  • neurologist
  • mental health provider
  • social worker
  • physical therapist
  • nephrologist

Healthcare is expensive, and paying for care for a chronic condition can be incredibly challenging. At least 70 percent of people over the age of 65 will need some kind of help as they age, according to the American Diabetes Association. Eventually, you may need assistance for everyday activities.

Long-term care can be provided at home or at an assisted living facility. It’s a good idea to start setting aside some funds now so that you can pay for this type of care in the future. Medicare and other insurance don’t usually cover this type of care.

If you’re in a pinch, there are resources available to help you pay for your diabetes medications. Here are some tips for lowering the cost of medications and supplies:

  • Ask your doctor if you can be put on a payment plan.
  • Find a free or low-cost health clinic.
  • Ask hospitals about compassionate care programs.
  • Find the manufacturer of your prescribed medications to see if they offer financial assistance or copay assistance programs.
  • Call the American Diabetes Association Center for Information and Community Support at 1-800-DIABETES.

Smoking greatly increases your risk of developing heart disease, especially when you have diabetes. Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can also worsen your blood sugar levels and overall health. The sooner you quit these habits, the better.

Your diabetes care team, family, and friends are all there to help you plan for a successful future. But remember that you’re the one calling the shots. Eating healthier, getting more exercise, losing weight, making good financial decisions, and regular visits with your doctor can set you up for an easier future with diabetes.