Lifestyle and home remedies

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Diabetes is a serious disease. Following your diabetes treatment plan takes round-the-clock commitment. Careful management of diabetes can reduce your risk of serious — even life-threatening — complications.

No matter what type of diabetes you have:

  • Make a commitment to managing your diabetes. Learn all you can about diabetes. Establish a relationship with a diabetes educator, and ask your diabetes treatment team for help when you need it.
  • Choose healthy foods and maintain a healthy weight. Losing just 7 percent of your body weight if you're overweight can make a significant difference in your blood sugar control. A healthy diet is one with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes, with a limited amount of saturated fat.
  • Make physical activity part of your daily routine. Regular exercise can help prevent prediabetes and type 2 diabetes, and it can help those who already have diabetes to maintain better blood sugar control. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise — such as brisk walking — most days of the week is recommended. A combination of exercises — aerobic exercises, such as walking or dancing on most days, combined with resistance training, such as weightlifting or yoga twice a week — often helps control blood sugar more effectively than does either type of exercise alone.

Lifestyle for type 1 and type 2 diabetes

In addition, if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes:

  • Identify yourself. Wear a tag or bracelet that says you have diabetes. Keep a glucagon kit nearby in case of a low blood sugar emergency — and make sure your friends and loved ones know how to use it.
  • Schedule a yearly physical and regular eye exams. Your regular diabetes checkups aren't meant to replace yearly physicals or routine eye exams. During the physical, your doctor will look for any diabetes-related complications and screen for other medical problems. Your eye care specialist will check for signs of retinal damage, cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Keep your vaccinations up to date. High blood sugar can weaken your immune system. Get a flu shot every year, and your doctor may recommend the pneumonia vaccine, as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also currently recommends hepatitis B vaccination if you haven't previously been vaccinated against hepatitis B and you're an adult ages 19 to 59 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The most recent CDC guidelines advise vaccination as soon as possible after diagnosis with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. If you are age 60 or older, have diabetes, and haven't previously received the vaccine, talk to your doctor about whether it's right for you.
  • Pay attention to your feet. Wash your feet daily in lukewarm water. Dry them gently, especially between the toes. Moisturize with lotion, but not between the toes. Check your feet every day for blisters, cuts, sores, redness or swelling. Consult your doctor if you have a sore or other foot problem that doesn't heal promptly on its own.
  • Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control. Eating healthy foods and exercising regularly can go a long way toward controlling high blood pressure and cholesterol. Medication may be needed, too.
  • Take care of your teeth. Diabetes may leave you prone to more-serious gum infections. Brush and floss your teeth at least twice a day. And if you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, schedule regular dental exams. Consult your dentist right away if your gums bleed or look red or swollen.
  • If you smoke or use other types of tobacco, ask your doctor to help you quit. Smoking increases your risk of various diabetes complications. Smokers who have diabetes are more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than are nonsmokers who have diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. Talk to your doctor about ways to stop smoking or to stop using other types of tobacco.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so responsibly. Alcohol can cause either high or low blood sugar, depending on how much you drink and if you eat at the same time. If you choose to drink, do so only in moderation — one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger — and always with food.

    Remember to include the carbohydrates from any alcohol you drink in your daily carbohydrate count. And check your blood sugar levels before going to bed.

  • Take stress seriously. The hormones your body may produce in response to prolonged stress may prevent insulin from working properly, which will raise your blood sugar and stress you even more. Set limits for yourself and prioritize your tasks. Learn relaxation techniques. And get plenty of sleep.
Jul. 31, 2014

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.