If you’ve got type 2 diabetes, your risk of developing life-threatening health problems like heart disease and kidney disease is significantly greater than for people without diabetes. However, that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do about it.
Here are six things you can do to help minimize your risk factors, boost your longevity, and improve your general health and well-being.
1. Change your diet
A healthy diet is the first step toward decreasing heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and imbalanced blood sugar.
Try to plan out all your meals in advance. Make sure each one has a healthy balance of vegetables, fruits, fats, starches, and proteins.
Do your best to eliminate excess sodium, fat, and sugar from your diet. One easy way to do this is to choose whole-grain and low-fat options whenever possible. Opt for lean, skinless meats like poultry and fish over red meat or bacon. And make sure to avoid sugary drinks like soda and juice, unless you’re using them to boost your blood sugar levels.
2. Get more exercise
Another great way to boost your longevity and protect yourself against heart disease is to make exercise a part of your daily routine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends getting at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week. Moderate-intensity aerobics include brisk walking, cycling, and gardening. The CDC also recommends doing strength training on two nonconsecutive days every week. Make sure to incorporate all the major muscle groups, including the arms, legs, hips, chest, shoulders, abs, and back.
If you prefer your workouts to be a bit more physically demanding, you can aim for an hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise instead. Vigorous-intensity aerobics include running, cycling on hilly terrain, or going for an uphill hike. As a general rule, one minute of vigorous-intensity aerobics is roughly equal to two minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.
3. Watch your levels
Type 2 diabetes is typically associated with high or imbalanced levels of blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. So it’s a good idea to monitor your levels of all three as closely as possible.
Your doctor should be checking these regularly, but you can also check your blood pressure and blood sugar levels at home with self-monitoring tools. You can purchase home blood pressure and blood sugar monitors online or at your local pharmacy. Your health insurance provider may even help you cover the cost.
If you decide to purchase a home monitor, bring it with you to your next checkup so your doctor can inspect it for quality and make sure you’re using it properly. You’ll also want to establish a regular self-check routine.
Consult your healthcare provider about the timing and frequency they recommend in your case for blood glucose checks. Then start recording all of your data in a journal or spreadsheet, and take your log with you to review with your doctor at every checkup.
4. Manage your stress
Elevated levels of stress can often lead to high blood pressure. This significantly increases your risk of developing heart disease if you have diabetes.
If you feel like you’re constantly stressed out or anxious, there are a number of simple techniques you can teach yourself to help moderate your stress. Deep breathing, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation exercises are all easy to learn and can be done in 10 minutes or less. Look online for guides and tutorials, as well as smartphone apps.
Talk to your doctor about which type of stress reduction exercises may be most effective for you.
5. Stop smoking
Everyone knows that smoking is hazardous to your health, but for people with type 2 diabetes, the harmful effects can be even more severe. Cigarette smoke can significantly damage your heart and blood vessels. It can also increase your risk for a number of serious issues like kidney disease, vision trouble, and nerve damage.
Regardless of how long you’ve been a smoker, quitting is always an option. Make a commitment to yourself and your loved ones, and talk to your doctor about which methods for quitting may be most effective for you.
6. See your doctor regularly
Even if you don’t feel like you need a checkup, scheduling regular appointments with your doctor every six months or so is an excellent way to help manage your diabetes and boost your longevity. Your doctor can check your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels so you stay on top of these things. These checkups are also an ideal time to discuss any questions or concerns about your type 2 diabetes that may have come up since the last time you and your doctor spoke.
Keep in mind that your doctor isn’t going to judge you, and don’t be afraid to discuss issues that you may be embarrassed to talk about with friends or family. Being open about any health issues you may be experiencing is the best way to help your doctor assess and treat them.