Lifestyle and home remedies
Careful management of type 2 diabetes can reduce your risk of serious — even life-threatening — complications. Consider these tips:
- Commit to managing your diabetes. Learn all you can about type 2 diabetes. Make healthy eating and physical activity part of your daily routine. Establish a relationship with a diabetes educator, and ask your diabetes treatment team for help when you need it.
- Schedule a yearly physical exam and regular eye exams. Your regular diabetes checkups aren't meant to replace regular physicals or routine eye exams. During the physical, your doctor will look for any diabetes-related complications, as well as screen for other medical problems. Your eye care specialist will check for signs of retinal damage, cataracts and glaucoma.
- Identify yourself. Wear a necklace or bracelet that says you have diabetes.
- Keep your immunizations up to date. High blood sugar can weaken your immune system. Get a flu shot every year, and your doctor will likely recommend the pneumonia vaccine, as well. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends the hepatitis B vaccination if you haven't previously received this vaccine and you're an adult age 19 to 59 with type 1 or type 2 diabetes. The CDC advises 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.
- Take care of your teeth. Diabetes may leave you prone to more-serious gum infections. Brush your teeth at least twice a day, floss your teeth once a day and schedule regular dental exams. Consult your dentist right away if your gums bleed or look red or swollen.
- Pay attention to your feet. Wash your feet daily in lukewarm water. Dry them gently, especially between the toes, and moisturize with lotion. Check your feet every day for blisters, cuts, sores, redness and swelling. Consult your doctor if you have a sore or other foot problem that isn't healing.
- 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 also may be needed.
- If you smoke or use other types of tobacco, ask your doctor to help you quit. Smoking increases your risk of various diabetes complications. 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, as well as drink mixers, 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 in moderation and always with a meal.
The recommendation is no more than one drink daily for women, no more than two drinks daily for men age 65 and younger, and one drink a day for men over 65. If you're on insulin or other medications that lower your blood sugar, check your blood sugar before you go to sleep to make sure you're at a safe level.
Coping and support
Type 2 diabetes is a serious disease, and following your diabetes treatment plan takes round-the-clock commitment. But your efforts are worthwhile because following your treatment plan can reduce your risk of complications.
Talking to a counselor or therapist may help you cope with the lifestyle changes that come with a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. You may find encouragement and understanding in a type 2 diabetes support group. Although support groups aren't for everyone, they can be good sources of information. Group members often know about the latest treatments and tend to share their own experiences or helpful information, such as where to find carbohydrate counts for your favorite takeout restaurant. If you're interested, your doctor may be able to recommend a group in your area.
Or, you can visit the American Diabetes Association to check out local activities and support groups for people with type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Association also offers online information and online forums where you can chat with others who have diabetes. The phone number is 800-DIABETES (800-342-2383).
Healthy lifestyle choices can help you prevent type 2 diabetes. Even if you have diabetes in your family, diet and exercise can help you prevent the disease. If you've already received a diagnosis of diabetes, you can use healthy lifestyle choices to help prevent complications. And if you have prediabetes, lifestyle changes can slow or halt the progression from prediabetes to diabetes.
- Eat healthy foods. Choose foods lower in fat and calories and higher in fiber. Focus on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
- Get physical. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day. Take a brisk daily walk. Ride a bike. Swim laps. If you can't fit in a long workout, spread 10-minute or longer sessions throughout the day.
- Lose excess pounds. If you're overweight, losing 7 percent of your body weight can reduce the risk of diabetes. To keep your weight in a healthy range, focus on permanent changes to your eating and exercise habits. Motivate yourself by remembering the benefits of losing weight, such as a healthier heart, more energy and improved self-esteem.
Sometimes medication is an option as well. Metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza, others), an oral diabetes medication, may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes — but healthy lifestyle choices remain essential.