6 Bad Habits to Nix If You Have Diabetes

Bad health habits can lead to diabetes complications. Get a handle on diabetes with expert tips to keep blood sugar steady, avoid weight gain and more.

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Managing a chronic condition like type 2 diabetes requires your full attention. You need to stay on top of what you eat, how much you exercise, even how much you sleep. And with all those “musts” it can be easy to slip up. Falling into bad health habits can lead to dangerous complications, such as kidney and nerve damage, vision problems, heart health issues and more. That's why it’s crucial to be vigilant and not let a slip-up turn into a routine.

Rosemary Thuet, MSN, RN, registered nurse and Director of Education at MountainView Hospital in Las Vegas, lets us in on why getting a handle on these six not-so-healthy habits can help you better manage type 2 diabetes.

Medically reviewed in October 2018.

Sipping on Sugary Drinks

2 / 7 Sipping on Sugary Drinks

Unless you’re dealing with low blood sugar, reaching for a sugary drink is a surefire way to wreak havoc on your glucose levels.

One can of soda has a whopping 40 grams of carbs; a 12-oz serving of fruit juice can contain nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar. These dangerous amounts will not only skyrocket your blood sugar, they can also trigger weight gain, potentially leading to insulin resistance and other diabetes-related health problems. Artificial sweeteners can also be harmful since they may increase cravings for sugary foods and drinks.

Thuet recommends reaching for water, unsweetened iced tea or other low-carb, low-sugar sports and power drinks. 

Depending Too Much on Insulin

3 / 7 Depending Too Much on Insulin

Having insulin available doesn’t mean you get to eat an entire pint of ice cream or take two helpings from the bread bowl. Even a pattern of small blood sugar increases ups the likelihood of dangerous diabetic complications.

“If you have a piece of birthday cake, even if you’re going to cover it later with insulin, at some point your blood sugar is going to spike,” warns Thuet. “And the more it goes out of that healthy range, the more likely you are to have complications such as neuropathy, and complications with your kidneys and eyes.”

Talk with your doctor to determine an insulin routine and practice self-monitoring. That way, you can stay on track and enjoy cake every now and then. 


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Carb-loading is common among athletes and fitness buffs: Eating foods such as pasta and bread gives them extra energy to compete or finish long workouts. And while exercise is a great way to manage your condition, carb-loading before a workout isn’t the best idea if you have type 2 diabetes.

According to Thuet, “A woman should never have more than three to four carbs a meal and one carb for a snack and a man four to five carbs per meal.” Instead, Thuet suggests reaching for a protein like lean chicken breast to stabilize your blood sugar and power up before your workout.

She also recommends checking your numbers before and after exercising to better understand its affects on your glucose.

Skipping Meals

5 / 7 Skipping Meals

From work meetings and running errands, to dropping the kids off at practice, it can be easy to opt out of breakfast or forego a midday snack. But if you have diabetes, this can make it harder to stay healthy.

“You want to keep your blood sugar even,” says Thuet. “So if you’re trying to keep it between 120 and 130, you don’t want to have periods [without eating] where it drops.”

She advises the students in her diabetes education class to eat a snack, such as string cheese, nuts or a small apple between regular meals. “If you eat breakfast at eight o’clock, 10 is a good time to have your first snack. Then have a snack between lunch and dinner and another before bed.”

Late-Night Snacking

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Heading to the fridge after dinner isn’t always a bad idea for people with diabetes (it can help prevent hypoglycemia while you’re sleeping), but you do have to make smart choices. Unhealthy snacking can lead to weight gain, and eating too late at night can lead to a high blood sugar reading the next morning.

If you do want to graze after your last meal, reach for a small piece of fruit with cottage cheese or peanut butter. This will help you feel full, provide you with some protein and keep your A1C levels in a healthy range.

Thuet also recommends having that last snack a couple of hours before going to bed. 

Losing Your Cool

7 / 7 Losing Your Cool

Poor stress management is dangerous for anyone’s health, but it can be especially damaging to people with diabetes.

Increased stress hormones can make your cells more resistant to insulin, says Thuet. “A lot of people with diabetes will find that when they’re in stressful situations, they have more trouble controlling their blood sugar.” Stress can also make you less likely to practice good habits like eating healthy and exercising.

To get a better handle on stress, Thuet suggests getting enough sleep, trying a yoga class, learning to meditate or seeking a counselor. Journaling or reaching out to friends and family can help, too. 

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