What lifestyle changes should I make if I am diagnosed with diabetes?

Uncontrolled diabetes can put a person at risk for heart attacks, strokes, kidney disease and even blindness. People with diabetes therefore need to be proactive when diagnosed. The most important thing is that you know as much as possible about your disease. This is a self-managing disease. Your doctor can only do so much. The more you know about your disease, the better off you are. Knowledge is power in diabetes.

Exercise, diet and lifestyle choices can make a big difference. An exercise goal for diabetics, for example, is getting up to 250 minutes of walking a week, as it really helps to control those sugars. People with diabetes should not smoke, and should watch what they eat. Watching how much sugar is going into your body, as well as carbohydrates such as rice, pasta and potatoes, which turn into sugar.

Remember that everyone has a different diabetes story. If you know someone who did not take care of their diabetes or who had severe medical problems from diabetes, it does not mean the same thing will happen to you. And if you already have medical problems from diabetes, it does not mean it is too late for you. By making lifestyle changes that help you manage your diabetes, you can improve your health. The following steps may be helpful to you:

  1. Learn what you need to do to take care of your diabetes. Diabetes educators are experts at helping you to learn about diabetes self-care. Some people feel their diabetes team is like a second family and can talk to them about anything. Take your questions to your nurse, diabetes educator, dietitian, therapist or doctor. Talk about your feelings and do not be afraid to ask for help.
  2. Become aware of what behaviors you want to change. It may be helpful to keep records of your blood glucose numbers, the food you eat, exercise and stress levels. By doing this you can learn how certain behaviors affect your blood glucose levels. You and your diabetes team can then set goals.
  3. Set up a plan for behavior change. Start with small changes and then make bigger changes. For example, do not expect to exercise for 30 minutes at a time if you have never exercised before. Start with setting aside 10 minutes a day to be active. When you start a new habit, it works best to follow routines at home and at work. Allow for changes if unexpected things come up. Life is not always the same. Changing old habits can be hard.
  4. Be good to yourself. It is important to be good to yourself when you make changes that improve your health. You are not expected to be perfect. Try not to say hurtful things to yourself like "I was bad" or "I cheated." Saying hurtful things to yourself only sets you up to fail the next time you try to make a change. Saying encouraging things to yourself, like "I'm trying my best," helps you reach your goals. You may want to set up a plan to reward yourself that includes fun activities with a friend or family member when you reach your goals.
  5. Ask for help from friends and family. People can not read your mind. Tell your family and friends how they can help you. One way friends and family members can help is by making changes with you. They might start exercising with you by joining a dance class or walking with you.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.