There is a lot a person with type 2 diabetes can do to improve their health. “Basic principles of good health like eating right, exercising regularly, and maintaining a healthy weight can be as effective as medicine in the management of type 2 diabetes for most people,” says dietitian Sue McLaughlin, RD, diabetes educator and president of health care and education for the American Diabetes Association. If you have diabetes and are ready to make some positive changes to your lifestyle to help control your diabetes, here is how to get started:
- Improve Your Diet: Watching your diet is a major way to manage your type 2 diabetes. A healthy diet for those with type 2 diabetes include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, lean meats, and low-fat dairy. Try to limit your portions of starchy foods, meat, and dairy products. Be very careful about loading up on foods that are high on the glycemic index, which is a system that ranks foods according to how they affect glucose levels. These foods include white breads, white rice, and soda.
- Lose Weight: Losing weight can improve your blood sugar levels and help to keep type 2 diabetes under control. You don’t need to lose a lot of weight to make a difference. “If you already have type 2 diabetes, losing just 10 to 15 pounds can lower your glucose levels,” says McLaughlin.
- Exercise Regularly: Exercise can help to keep your diabetes under control. As you are exercising, your muscles help transfer the glucose out of your blood and into your cells, resulting in better blood sugar levels.
- Control Sleep Apnea: Many people who are overweight with type 2 diabetes also have sleep apnea. It is a condition in which a person stops breathing temporarily while sleeping. People with sleep apnea and type 2 diabetes are at a higher risk of death from a heart attack and stroke. Talk with your doctor if you think you may have sleep apnea.
- Soothe Stress: Stress can make it harder to control your blood sugar levels. Try out some relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, massage and soothing music, to chase away your stress. Stress relief can also help you sleep better, and studies have shown that not getting enough sleep can worsen type 2 diabetes.