Make daily changes to stop diabetic neuropathy in its tracks

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Diabetic neuropathy — a type of nerve damage that can occur if you have diabetes — is a common, serious complication of diabetes that most often affects the legs and feet. But by making some healthy lifestyle changes and tightly controlling your blood sugar, you can often prevent diabetic neuropathy or slow its progress.

These lifestyle measures can help you keep diabetic neuropathy in check.

  • Keep your blood pressure under control. People with diabetes are more likely to have high blood pressure than are people who don't have diabetes. Having both high blood pressure and diabetes greatly increases your risk of complications because both damage your blood vessels and reduce blood flow. Try to keep your blood pressure in the range your doctor recommends, and be sure to have it checked at every office visit. Also consider checking it regularly at home. The American Diabetes Association recommends keeping your blood pressure below 130/80 millimeters of mercury.
  • Make healthy food choices. Eat a balanced diet that includes a variety of healthy foods — especially fruits, vegetables and whole grains — and limit portion sizes to help achieve or maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be active every day. In addition to helping you achieve a healthy weight, daily activity protects your heart and improves blood flow. It also plays a major role in keeping your blood sugar and blood pressure under control. The American Diabetes Association generally recommends about 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day at least five times a week. However, if you have severe neuropathy and decreased sensation in your legs, your doctor may recommend that you participate in nonweight-bearing activities, such as bicycling or swimming.
  • Stop smoking. If you have diabetes and use tobacco in any form, it increases your risk of circulation problems in your feet and amputation. If you use tobacco, talk to your doctor about ways to quit.
Feb. 27, 2014 See more In-depth