Type 2 diabetes is a disease. Not a personal failure. Not a criticism. Not a devaluation of worth. Sure, lifestyle factors definitely raise diabetes risk. But if you end up with type 2 diabetes, it doesn’t mean you asked for it or deserve it. It isn’t a fun reality. If you have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, there are some important actions you can take to improve health and enjoy life. 

If you can't join a diabetes prevention program right now, there are some things you can do in the meantime to lower your risk for type 2 diabetes or improve symptoms of existing type 2 diabetes. These are the kinds of tips you'll receive through such programs to improve blood sugar along with other common and key measures of physical and mental health. You are more than your health condition. But as a person with a health condition, it is important help yourself.

Manage Your Weight

Diabetes and “overweight” are not synonymous, despite the misconceptions commonly perpetuated in media, and even from some health care professionals. Some people are diagnosed with diabetes and find that the medications needed cause weight gain. Others find that small adjustments upon diagnosis help trim some weight off. While making changes can seem tough, losing weight can often improve health and sometimes even eliminate symptoms. Many people with prediabetes may even delay or avoid a type 2 diabetes diagnosis. 

  • Losing just 5-7 percent of body weight can slow or even reverse prediabetes. For a person who weighs 200 pounds, that's only 10-15 pounds [1].

  • Staying at a healthy weight long-term is very important to prevent, delay or treat type 2 diabetes. Being more active and eating healthier are great ways to help manage weight.

  • Set realistic goals and make a realistic plan to achieve them. Maybe start with one change in diet and one new type of activity. Stick with the change until it’s just what you do. 

  • Remember to take it one step at a time, and be patient with your progress. Permanent weight loss won't happen overnight.

Get Active

Our bodies are meant to move. We consume calories for fuel, but if we don’t use them, they simply store up. Movement of any kind will burn up at least a few. You don’t have to jump into a daily gym routine at 5am to make exercise productive. Here are some ways to get active:

  • Get at least 2.5 hours (150 minutes) of light aerobic activity every week. This could be as simple as going for a brisk 30-minute walk 5 days per week. Even 10 minutes at a time adds up. Small steps can lead to big changes.

  • Find simple ways to be more active throughout the day, like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or parking farther away from the entrance of a storefront when hitting the shops. 

  • Whatever will get you moving is a step in the right direction.

  • At the start of each week, create a schedule of when you will exercise and make it a priority to stick to it!

Eat Healthier                                             

Food isn’t just fuel. It’s also pleasure, comfort, bonding and often a profound life experience. There are so many options to choose from. Foods range from simple and nutritious to complicated and less-healthy. However you view food, it is essential and you have choices to make.

  • Believe it or not, salads CAN be delicious. Look up interesting ways to prepare salads and other vegetables, and aim to eat at least one at dinner every night. Filling space with healthy vegetables will increase nutritional intake and help with moderation of less-healthy foods without feelings of deprivation. 

  • To reduce unhealthy fats try roasting, broiling, grilling, steaming or baking instead of deep-frying or pan-frying. Cook with healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil [2].

  • Read food labels. The more you know about what goes into your food, the better decisions you'll be able to make. Cut down on foods labeled with saturated fat or trans-fat, and hydrogenated fat or partially hydrogenated fat. Be mindful of carbohydrates.

  • Choose foods with less sodium usual choices. While sodium is an essential nutrient, most people consume far more than is needed. With the exception of other health concerns that must be considered, adults should use 1,500 mg per day as the target.

  • Plan meals with fewer total carbohydrates, more protein and healthy fats.

  • Avoid extreme or fad diets. Making sustainable adjustments, like gradually reducing total carbohydrate intake, are key to long-term lifestyle changes.

Quit Smoking

There are countless reasons to quit smoking. Make a list of reasons that make the most sense for you. Here are some ways to tackle tobacco:

  • Ask others for their help and understanding. Ask a friend who smokes to consider quitting with you. It can often be easier that way.

  • Talk with your doctor about treatments or programs that can help you quit smoking.

  • Smoking isn’t just about the nicotine. Often, the act of smoking becomes routine and habitual [3]. Try replacing smoke breaks with another activity that can consume your attention and calm your nerves.

Type 2 diabetes can be very manageable. These steps will help not just with blood sugar, but with overall health. Start making changes today and see where it can lead you! 

Be sure to check your blood sugar frequently to see the difference your new goals are making for your diabetes management. See how affordable testing blood sugar can be here!


[1] American Diabetes Association. Weight Loss.   http://www.diabetes.org/living-with-diabetes/recently-diagnosed/where-do-i-begin/weight-loss.html

[2] Healthline.10 High-fat Foods That Are Actually Super Healthy1, section 8.  https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-super-healthy-high-fat-foods#section8

[3] Mental Health Foundation. Smoking and Mental Health. Smoking and addiction, paragraph 4.  https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/smoking-and-mental-health

Originally published 8/9/2017

Last updated 12/4/2018

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