If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes there’s a lot you can do to boost your overall health. Some simple lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on how you feel physically and mentally. Exercising regularly, eating well, taking any prescribed medications, making the most of your appointments and maintaining a healthy weight are important factors that you need to stay on top of.
These handy tips will help set you up for success in four key areas of managing type 2 diabetes and creating healthier habits on a regular basis.
1. Be ready for your exams and appointments
Living with type 2 diabetes means keeping up with all the physical checks, lab tests, and other appointments your healthcare provider might set up to make sure you’re regularly screened for any possible complications. It’s much easier to deal with a problem you catch early, so try to think of these exams as an important and proactive way to stay healthy and stop issues before they start.
Your own yearly appointment schedule will be as unique as you are and based on your own needs and goals set out by your doctor. Some of the most common include:
- Weight and height measurements for calculating Body Mass Index (BMI)
- Blood pressure measurement
- Foot check with a diabetes care provider
- Discussing medications as well as refills of prescriptions
At least once a year:
- Setting goals for food and exercise with a diabetes care provider, nurse, or certified diabetes educator
- Teeth cleaning and mouth exam by a dental hygienist and dentist
Every other year:
- An eye exam by optometrist or ophthalmologist if your eye specialist recommends it
Each visit, remember to bring:
- Your blood glucose meter or logbook with levels recorded
- A list of all your current medications including non-diabetes medications
- A list of questions or concerns to discuss with your provider
- A list of your treatment goals
- Anything else your healthcare provider asks you for
2. Stay on top of your medications
Taking new medications can feel overwhelming. There’s a lot to know and be careful about to make sure you take them properly, get their maximum benefit and don’t experience any harmful side effects.
Your doctor, pharmacist and other healthcare providers are there to help you feel comfortable and to answer all your questions.
- Learn about what you’re taking and how it could benefit you. Knowing the “why” behind your prescription can help you feel motivated to remember to take them regularly.
- Ask about potential side effects, like low blood sugar (or hypoglycemia), and how to spot them. (If you do ever experience side effects, bring this up with your doctor before stopping medication on your own. This can do more harm than good.)
- Keeping track of your medications and taking them regularly is crucial. Build habits that make it simple for you, like keeping medications in the same, safe place and putting reminders in your calendar or setting an alarm on your phone. Talk to your pharmacist about services they may offer, like compliance packs and reminders.
- Plan ahead for refills. If you’re going on vacation or will be away from home (not as much of a concern during COVID-19, but someday we’ll all be traveling again!), make sure you’ve got enough of your meds to last. Many pharmacies offer online refills and reminders to help you stay on track.
- Life gets busy and you might be tempted to skip your follow-up appointments. These check-ins are crucial to make sure everything is on track and give you a chance to talk about all your concerns.
3. Choose your carbohydrates wisely
There are three main types of carbohydrates (carbs):
Sugars can occur naturally, like those in milk or fruit, or can be added during processing, like those in soda or candy. Both types of sugar can raise your blood glucose, so it’s important to monitor your intake.
Starches are considered “complex carbohydrates.” Examples include potatoes, beans, and whole grains. Eventually, starches are broken down into sugars, causing your blood glucose to rise.
Unlike sugars and starches, fiber isn’t broken down by the body. Because of this, it helps you feel full, keeps your digestive tract healthy, and can slow the absorption of sugars from other foods. Fiber helps your body handle the sugar load more effectively, which prevents spikes in blood glucose. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and nuts are all examples of high-fiber foods.
When choosing carbs, do your best to opt for higher-fiber options and limit sources of simple sugars. Food labels can be helpful when you’re making your choices.
- All the information on a Nutrition Facts label is for one serving of the food or drink, so make sure you check the serving size. Sometimes, a container might look like a single serving but actually contains multiple.
- Look for “Total Carbohydrate” on the label. This is the value that will tell you how many grams of carbohydrates are in one serving of that item. The Total Carbohydrates section is often broken down even further to list the dietary fiber and/or added sugar. Remember, aim for more fiber and fewer added sugars.
- Choose grain options with “whole grain” or “whole wheat” as the first ingredient instead of “enriched wheat.” Whole grains are higher-fiber ingredients that help stabilize blood sugar.
Some people work with their healthcare team to set specific carb gram goals for each meal, also known as carb counting. This is a more personalized way to manage blood sugars that depend on a lot of factors, like blood sugar trends, activity levels, medications, and more. Ask your healthcare provider or dietitian if carb counting is right for you.
4. Let’s get physical
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to naturally manage type 2 diabetes. Adding some physical activity to your daily lifestyle should be one of your top diabetes management goals. Plus, getting started is easier than you might think.
Your goal should be to get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. This breaks down to at least 20-25 minutes each day.
Some of the things you already do might even count toward your daily goals. Moderate-intensity activities include:
- Walking at a brisk pace
- Doing housework
- Mowing the lawn
- Dancing on the spot
- Playing sports
- Playing with your kids
- Moving your body vigorously to get your heart pumping
Here are some tips to help you feel motivated when building an exercise routine into your daily life:
- Find something you genuinely like. Even with the best intentions, forcing yourself to do something you don’t enjoy will make it harder to stick with it. Find an activity that you and your healthcare provider agree you can do regularly, and that you’ll have fun doing, for the best results.
- Start small. If you’re new to regular exercise, begin with small changes and gradually add a little more time and intensity each week. You could park farther from the door, take the stairs, do yard work, or walk your dog, if these activities are available to you. If not, explore other activities to find the ones that work for your body and get your heart pumping.
- Find an exercise buddy. It’s more fun when someone else is counting on you to show up.
- Pick an attainable goal and work towards it. It could be to walk a mile every day for a month or to be active every weekday for 25 minutes. Be specific, realistic and always discuss your activity goals with your healthcare provider.
- Think of ways to link activity to your daily life and then schedule it. The more regular activity you do, the quicker it will become a habit. This could be scheduling a walk or activity session with a family member after supper or with a co-worker at lunchtime.