Adopting a healthy lifestyle can help you manage your diabetes. It may also improve your critical health numbers, including weight, blood sugar, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol.
Overweight and obesity
Being overweight or obese make it hard to manage Type 2 diabetes. It also increases the risk for high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure — risk factors for cardiovascular disease the leading cause of death for people with diabetes. Two ways to manage weight are to:
Making healthy food choices, including controlling portion sizes and reading food labels, is key to maintaining the right weight and preventing or managing diabetes.
With prediabetes or diabetes, you have additional issues with food. For example, it’s important to limit simple carbohydrates that are in foods such as table sugar, cake, soda, candy, and jellies. Consuming them can increase blood glucose.
With so many food options, it can be hard to know which ones are healthy. This chart can help you make the best choices.
|Fiber-rich whole grains
(such as oatmeal, barley, brown rice, whole grain pasta, whole wheat, and corn)
|Sweets and added sugars
(such as table sugars sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrups, high-fructose corn syrup, concentrated fruit juice, honey, soda, fruit drinks, candy, cake, and jellies)
|Non-fried fish at least twice per week, especially those high in omega-3 fatty acids
(such as salmon, lake trout, mackerel and herring)
|Fatty and processed meats
(such as fatty beef and pork, salami and hot dogs)
|Chicken or turkey
(Consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day. An ideal limit is less than 1,500 mg per day for most adults.)
(round, sirloin, chuck, and loin)
(Consume less than 300 mg per day)
|Fruits and vegetables
(deeply colored such as spinach, carrots, peaches and berries)
|Partially hydrogenated or trans fats
(contained in hard margarine, shortening, cakes, cookies, crackers, pastries, pies, muffins, doughnuts, and French fries)
|Vegetable oils and margarines
(soft/tub or liquid)
(contained in dairy products such as butter, whole milk, 2% milk and cheese, fatty meats and poultry, coconut oil and palm oil, hydrogenated oils, and foods made with these ingredients).
|Fat-free, 1-percent fat, and low-fat dairy products||Alcohol
(Females should limit to one drink a day; males limit to two drinks a day)
|Unsalted nuts, seeds, and legumes|
Keep a food and blood glucose log.
By writing down what you eat, when you eat, and how it affects your glucose levels, you can keep better track of how foods affect your body. Check your blood sugar one hour to one-and-a-half hours after eating to see how your body reacts to various foods.
Healthy eating and a busy lifestyle
Many of us on the go and don’t spend a lot of time at home. But even when your kitchen isn’t convenient, eating right should still be a priority.
“After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, I took some time off to reflect and realized that due to my busy work schedule, I would put in 14 to 16-hour days with erratic meal schedules,” said Barbara, who was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes in 2006. “When I ate at work, I didn’t make good food choices. Then I decided that no matter how much I loved to eat unhealthy foods, it wasn’t worth dying for, and it was time to make a change.”
With a little forethought, you can properly nourish your body wherever life takes you. Remember these tips for eating on the go:
- Bring a healthy lunch and snacks to eat throughout the day. This will help you stick to healthy food options and be less tempted by unhealthy ones that are more convenient.
- Reduce your caffeine intake and stay hydrated. Keep a bottle of water handy to drink throughout the day.
Eat healthy on a budget
Check out our Top 10 Tips for making healthy choices without breaking the bank.
Use diabetes-friendly recipes
“Being from North Carolina, a lot of my favorite home-cooked dishes are — unfortunately — unhealthy,” Janet said. “Fortunately, after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, I learned that a few small changes to my favorite recipes allow me to continue eating my favorite Southern recipes.”
The American Heart Association’s online collection of tasty, diabetes-friendly recipes can satisfy your cravings, whether sweet, savory, or somewhere in between.
Visit the American Heart Association’s online Nutrition Center to find out how small changes in your diet can put you and your family on the road to healthier hearts and longer lives. Get more diet and shopping tips.
Regular physical activity
Being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day and losing 7% of your body weight (about 5 pounds for a 200-pound person) can lower your risk of developing diabetes by about half. And your risk continues to decrease as you lose even more weight. If you’ve already been diagnosed with diabetes, physical activity and weight management can help control the disease and minimize negative health consequences.
For good health, healthy adults need at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity, or an equivalent combination of both. For example, you can meet the recommendation by walking briskly 30 minutes twice during the week and then jogging 20 minutes on two other days. Moderate-intensity aerobic activity is generally equivalent to a brisk walk that raises your heart rate.
“After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, I knew it was time to get serious about my health,” said Harry, who also struggled with obesity. “I started by making small changes, such as walking for 10 minutes each day, to stay active and lose weight. Each week, I increased my walking by one minute. A year later, I was walking 60 minutes a day, seven days a week, and lost 139 pounds.”
Work with your health care team to customize a plan for you to get moving and get resources about getting active from the American Heart Association.
Other important facets of a healthy lifestyle are:
Cigarette smoking is the leading avoidable cause of death in the United States. It’s also the most important modifiable cause of premature death.
What people with diabetes should know about smoking
“Most people don’t understand that having diabetes means they are two to four times more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke. Add in smoking, and that risk is multiplied,” said Richard Nesto, M.D., chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Lahey Clinic Medical Center in Burlington, Massachusetts and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. “The earlier you can quit smoking once you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, the better your chances are of preventing coronary artery disease and other deadly complications.”
Even for people who don’t have diabetes, smoking has serious health implications. Smoking can:
- Decrease good cholesterol.
- Temporarily raises blood pressure.
- Increases the blood clots.
- Makes it more difficult to exercise.
If you have diabetes, smoking is even worse because you’re:
- More likely to get nerve damage and kidney disease
- Three times more likely than nonsmokers to die of cardiovascular disease
- More likely to raise your blood sugar level — making it harder to control your diabetes
Get help to quit smoking
Learn how to deal with those urges and get resources to kick the habit.
Stress affects people in different ways. It can:
- Impact emotional well-being.
- Cause various aches and pains, from headaches to stomach aches.
- Diminish energy level.
- Interrupt sleep.
- Trigger various unhealthy responses, including overeating, drinking too much alcohol, smoking, procrastinating and not sleeping enough.
We can’t get rid of stress, but we can deal with it in a healthy way. Find out more about stress management.