If you have type 2 diabetes, leading a healthy lifestyle can help you manage your blood sugar levels and lower your risk of complications. It might be challenging to overhaul your habits all at once. But even small changes can make a difference.
Here are five simple steps that you can take to help manage the condition and improve your overall well-being.
Regular physical activity is important for good mental and physical health. Along with other benefits, exercise can help you manage your blood sugar levels and weight.
To meet your recommended fitness targets, try to schedule multiple workouts into your weekly routine. When you don’t have time for a full workout, even a short walk can help get your heart, lungs, and muscles working.
Here are some strategies to add extra steps to your day:
- If you drive to work or other destinations, park on the far side of the parking lot so you have to take more steps to get from your car to where you’re going.
- If you travel on public transit, get off the bus or train a couple of stops early to add more blocks of walking to your commute.
- When given a choice, take the stairs instead of the elevator to get from one floor of a building to the next.
Even if you exercise multiple times a week, prolonged periods of sitting can have negative effects on your health.
If your day-to-day duties require you to sit for long stretches of time, make a point of standing up and moving around on a regular basis. If you need a reminder, consider using a timer on your phone or computer to schedule short but frequent breaks.
Taking breaks from sitting may help you manage your blood sugar levels, suggests a 2016 study of inactive and overweight adults with type 2 diabetes. When participants took three-minute activity breaks from sitting every 30 minutes, it helped to improve their blood sugar levels. During each activity break, they did three minutes of light walking or resistance exercises, such as calf raises and half-squats.
To manage your blood sugar levels and weight, it’s helpful to practice portion control. That can be tricky to do, especially when you’re eating out.
To keep your portion sizes in check, consider bringing a reusable container with you to restaurants and cafeterias. You can also ask staff members for a takeout container. Before you dig into your meal, decide how much of it you want to eat. Package the rest of it up, so you won’t be tempted to eat more than you planned.
You can save the leftovers for another meal.
Do you have trouble remembering to take your prescribed medications? Consider setting a reminder for yourself with a smartphone app.
There are many different medication reminder apps to choose from. After installing one of these apps on your phone, you can use it to schedule reminders as needed.
In some cases, you can use the same app to schedule reminders to check your blood sugar, refill your medication prescriptions, or attend doctor’s visits. Some of these apps even have fitness tracking functions, which allow you to log your weight, blood sugar levels, or other health metrics.
Over time, type 2 diabetes can cause changes to your skin, nerves, and blood vessels. This can lead to a variety of complications, including foot problems. Compared to the general population, people with diabetes are much more likely to have a foot or leg amputated, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
To help protect your feet, check them regularly for redness, swelling, cuts, and blisters. If you develop nerve damage from type 2 diabetes, you might not be able to feel injuries to your feet. That’s why it’s important to visually inspect them.
If you can’t see the bottom of your feet, use a mirror to look at them or ask a loved one to help.
The ADA also recommends the following good foot care practices:
- Wash your feet every day and carefully dry them afterwards.
- Keep your toenails trimmed and filed.
- Wear comfortable shoes and socks.
If you notice signs of injury or infection on your feet, let your doctor know right away. They can examine your feet and prescribe treatment if needed.
To help manage type 2 diabetes, your doctor may encourage you to make changes to your exercise routine, diet, or other habits. Over time, even small changes can make a big difference. Ask your doctor for more tips for developing a healthy lifestyle.
It might also be helpful to reach out to others for support. Our free app, T2D Healthline, connects you with real people living with type 2 diabetes. Ask questions and seek advice from others who get it. Download the app for iPhone or Android.