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Helpful Tips for Lifestyle Changes If You Have Type 2 Diabetes

by Matt Weik

Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease and a growing problem in the United States. The number of Americans with type 2 diabetes has doubled since 1995, and it’s estimated that one in three Americans will have diabetes by the year 2050.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by high blood sugar levels and can lead to serious health issues such as heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, nerve damage, and even lower-limb amputations.

If you have type 2 diabetes, you can make many lifestyle changes to help control your blood sugar levels and prevent complications from the disease. While it may feel overwhelming to make these changes at first, remember that you don’t have to make all of them at once — start small and work your way up.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. It is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. If you have type 2 diabetes, it is recommended that you speak with your doctor and abide by their guidelines as they have a better grasp of your personal health, more so than what would be found in any article online. You should also speak with your doctor before adding anything mentioned in this article to your daily exercise and nutrition regimen.


Here are some helpful tips for lifestyle changes if you have type 2 diabetes:

1.      Eat Healthy

A healthy diet consists mainly of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. It also includes lean meats like turkey and chicken (without the skin and not fried), fish, legumes (beans), eggs, unsalted nuts, and seeds in small portions.

By following this diet plan, you can avoid trans fats (found in processed foods), saturated fats (found in animal products like butter), and all types of sugar (except natural sugar from fruits). You should also limit alcohol consumption as well as salt intake.

2.      Regular Exercise

Try to exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week. Aim for at least five days per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or an equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity activity. Include strength training workouts at least twice per week.

If you haven’t been active in a while, start with 5 to 10 minutes each day and gradually increase the amount of time you’re active. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends getting a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every week.

3.      Regular Blood Sugar Monitoring

Monitoring your blood sugar is important to see how what you eat, drink, and do impact your numbers. It also helps you see how well your diabetes treatment plan works. It’s best to monitor before meals and two hours after the start of each meal.

Consider keeping a logbook or using an electronic record to track your readings over time.

4.      Manage Stress

Stress is your body’s natural reaction to changes in life. Whether good or bad, stress can affect your blood sugar levels. For example, after a stressful event, such as an argument or a traffic jam, your blood sugar may rise for about two hours afterward. You may also notice spikes or drops in blood sugar when you’re under high levels of emotional stress or anxiety.

Managing stress can help keep your blood sugar levels from fluctuating too much. Try these techniques:

  • Deep breathing exercises
  • Daily meditation
  • Exercise
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (it is a form of psychotherapy that focuses on changing negative thoughts)

5.      Stop Smoking

Smoking can make the health problems caused by type 2 diabetes even worse, such as heart disease, nerve damage (neuropathy), and erectile dysfunction in men with type 2 diabetes who smoke.

Smoking can also make insulin less effective in lowering blood sugar levels, which raises the risk of high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia) — a dangerous condition that requires emergency medical care.

If you smoke, talk with your doctor about ways to quit smoking and get the help you need to kick the habit.

6.      Limit Alcohol Consumption

If you drink alcohol, limit the amount of alcohol you consume. It can also cause your blood sugar levels to rise or fall if combined with the medications you’re taking for diabetes management.

Changes in Your Diet If You Have Type 2 Diabetes

When you have type 2 diabetes, what you do and don’t eat can help lower and control your blood sugar levels.

A registered dietitian can help you make a meal plan that fits your specific lifestyle and health concerns.

Unfortunately, many people with type 2 diabetes are overweight or obese. Losing weight may help you better control your blood sugar and could even reduce the amount of insulin you need daily (but only your doctor can tell you if you’re able to do such). And eating healthy foods can reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

When it comes to eating healthy, the same basic rules apply to everyone:

  • Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.
  • Limit high-fat foods, like fried options and fatty cuts of meat that can increase cholesterol and contribute to weight gain.
  • Avoid sugary drinks (including soda and juice), which can increase blood sugar and weight gain.

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