Managing your blood glucose levels well is the most important thing you can do to help prevent complications from type 2 diabetes—including heart attack, stroke, problems with your eyes and feet, and more.
Luckily, there’s a lot you can do by making changes to your lifestyle. It can be challenging, but you’ll experience both short and long term benefits.
Here are some tips to help you manage your condition:
Tip 1: Be active
Exercise is one of the best ways to control your blood glucose levels, keep your heart healthy and improve your overall health and wellbeing. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week (at least 150 minutes/week). Try to be as consistent as you can—joining a group or finding someone to exercise with can help. Mix up what you do, including the intensity of your exercise.
- Stop what you’re doing if you experience any chest or abdominal pain, discomfort, heart symptoms, cramping or pain in your legs, or feel unwell. Follow your symptom action plan if you have one.
- Make sure you know the symptoms of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) and what to do to prevent and treat them.
- Wear supportive shoes.
- Check your feet each day, as well as after you exercise. Let your doctor or podiatrist know if you notice any redness, warm areas or blisters.
- Always make sure you have some fast-acting glucose on hand when you exercise, such as jelly beans, glucose gel or drink, etc.
- Always follow the specific instructions from your healthcare professionals. Different conditions and complications or medications you are taking will change what you can safely do.
Set short term goals
As you achieve each goal, you can make the next one a little harder. Take a few minutes each week to note down what you’re doing in a diary or smart phone app to track your progress.
Lose a little bit of weight if necessary
If you’re overweight, losing 5-10% of your bodyweight can make a real difference to how well you manage your blood glucose levels, and can also improve your blood pressure and cholesterol. Talk to your GP for help.
Tip 2: Eat well
A balanced diet
Aim to eat a wide variety of vegetables, fruits and whole grains, as well as reduced fat dairy and proteins such as lean meat, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds, legumes and beans. The Australian Dietary Guidelines are a great place to start, but your GP can refer you to a dietitian to help you develop a nutrition plan for your specific needs
Limit processed food and drinks
Processed food and drink tend to have lots of added sugar or salt—you don’t have to cut them out of your diet completely but keep them as an occasional treat. Try stocking your freezer with healthy meals you can prepare quickly. When it comes to drinking, keep your alcohol intake to two or less standard drinks per day.
Time it right
Space your meals at regular intervals through the day. This will help keep your blood glucose levels at a consistent level so that you don’t experience symptoms that occur when it/they dip or spike.
Tip 3: Quit smoking
As you may already be aware, diabetes increases your risk of heart disease—and smoking increases this risk even more. If you smoke contact quit or talk to your doctor for help to quit.
Tip 4: Get support
There’s good evidence to show that support from a diabetes educator can help with weight loss and overall quality of life, and reduce the risk of complications. Talk to your GP or get in touch with Diabetes Australia.
Tip 5: Know the warning signs
One of the most important parts of managing your diabetes well is being able to spot early symptoms before they get worse—and knowing what to do to get things back on track—or when to seek urgent help. Learn more about how to spot the warning signs.
How well are you managing your diabetes? Read this checklist to find out.
Read more about diabetes here.