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Living with Diabetes - 9 recommended lifestyle changes

By Oluwafisayomi Aturamu

For people living with Diabetes, lifestyle changes to make for the sake of their condition can influence how well or not it is controlled.

Globally, Diabetes is a major cause of illness and death.

Part of the succesful treatment of diabetes involves lifestyle modifications.

The following are 9 best-recommended lifestyle changes you must make if you have been diagnosed with diabetes.

  • Change your diet  

In newly diagnosed overweight diabetic individuals, a very low-calorie diet can lead to normal blood sugar levels in as short a time as 1 week.

Therefore, the benefits of a change in diet in diabetes cannot be overemphasised.

Thus, we recommend the following:

  • Eat foods high in fibre content like beans, lentils and legumes.
  • Cut our refined sugars, processed carbohydrates, and red meat.
  • Eat more plant-based diets like whole-grain cereal, vegetables, fruits and nuts.
  • Eat lean meats, such as skinless chicken and turkey that are low in saturated fat.
  • Serve your meals in smaller portions.

  • Engage in regular physical activity

Engaging in exercise regularly protects against diabetes.

On the other hand, a lifestyle without exercise (a sedentary lifestyle) is a major risk factor.

Regular physical activity also helps control sugar levels.

It does so by ensuring that glucose from the food eaten is pushed into the cells, therefore decreasing the sugar levels in the blood. [1]

Exercise can also lead to weight loss.

Weight loss, in turn, reduces 'insulin resistance'; that is the body's insensitivity to insulin.

All this means contributes to normal blood sugar control and the risk of developing complications from diabetes.

Recommendations include:

  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate to high-intensity five times a week.
  • You do not even need a gym for this.
  • You could engage in a variety of physical activities such as swimming, brisk walking or dancing.
  • Even engaging in household chores can count as physical activity.

Walking, though a simple exercise has been shown to reduce a person's risk of Diabetes.

Walking 5 times a week for (30 mins on each occasion) reduces the risk of diabetes by 60% compared to doing so for less than twice a week for the same duration.

  • Weight loss

Weight loss of just 5–10% in obese people has been found to decrease the amount of 'visceral' fat significantly.

Visceral fat refers to the fat that directly surrounds the body's organs within the abdomen.

It is different from the fat that lies just beneath the skin.

A slim person with a flat tummy can have high quantities of visceral fat.

Weight loss can be achieved by combining calorie restriction and regular exercise.

The advice for people with diabetes is to aim for a healthy body mass index depending on weight and height.

  • Quit smoking

Exposure to cigarette smoke has been linked with an increased risk of Diabetes.

Another reason to quit smoking is that it worsens symptoms in people living with Diabetes, making control of their blood sugar difficult.

  • Consume alcohol in moderate amounts

If you are diabetic, care should be taken with the quantity of alcohol you consume.

Excess alcohol consumption can affect the control of blood sugar.

Alcohol also contains calories therefore and so excessive intake may cause weight gain.

  • Eliminate stress

A little known fact is that Stress has been identified as a risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

When you’re stressed, hormones like cortisol are released.

Cortisol causes an increase in blood sugar levels.

Therefore, avoiding any stressors in your life is important since constant stress could make the blood sugar rise and difficult to control.

  • Drink Water

It is very important that you stay hydrated. This helps the body cells function more effectively.

Cut out all sugary and fizzy drinks and juices - they contain very high amounts of sugar.

Instead, take up the habit of drink water frequently instead.

For those who find water to be 'bland'; you may add flavour with slices of cucumbers, oranges, lemon or lime and mint leaves.

  • Green Tea

Drinking natural teas like green tea helps with hydration.

They are also a source of antioxidants which would help decrease injury to the body's cells, insulin resistance and promote the health of organs like the heart.

  • Never miss a doctor’s appointment

If you were the kind of person that would skip a doctor’s appointment before your diagnosis, that shouldn't happen anymore now that you are Diabetic.

  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.

  • Hypertension is twice as frequent in diabetic individuals when compared to non-diabetic peoples.

This means that individuals with diabetes are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular complications. 

Final Thoughts

Adhering to these lifestyle changes would not only improve the health condition of an individual who has diabetes mellitus but would also decrease the chances of developing diabetes in persons at risk.

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  1. Amy Freeth, 2019. Diabetes Causes, Myths, Treatment, and Home Care.
  2. Hubert Kolb and Stephan Martin, 2017. Environmental/lifestyle factors in the pathogenesis and prevention of type 2 diabetes. BMC Medicine.
  3. Wu et al, 2014. Risk Factors Contributing to Type 2 Diabetes and Recent Advances in the Treatment and Prevention. International Journal of Medical Sciences.
  4. The Global Diabetes Community, 2019. Lifestyle Changes for Type 2 Diabetes.
  5. Soo-Jeong Kim and Dai-Jin Kim, 2012. Alcoholism and Diabetes Mellitus. Diabetes Metab J.
  6. Hyun Min Kim and Jaetaek Kim, 2013. The Effects of Green Tea on Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes Metab J.

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