Over 34 million people in the United States have diabetes, meaning as of 2020, 10.5% of the population is living with this disease. There are two types of this condition: type 1 diabetes and type 2. Type 1 is something you are born with and type 2 is a condition you develop over time.
That said, both types present the same symptoms and if left untreated, both can lead to permanent disability or even death. Although diabetes takes time and dedication to manage, it’s not impossible to have a great quality of life with this disease.
In fact, living well with diabetes is achievable with only a few positive lifestyle changes. To learn what you can do to improve your health and quality of life with diabetes, just keep reading!
Get More Exercise
The two pillars of health are diet and exercise, and in order to reach your full potential in terms of your health, you need to chase both. Aim for a minimum of 150 minutes per week (30 minutes per weekday) of moderate-intensity physical activity.
Remember, however, that this is just as minimum. More exercise is almost always better!
Unfortunately, one of the side effects of diabetes is poor circulation, but you don’t have to let that prevent you from getting the exercise you need. Compression socks are an excellent option, as well as diabetic sneakers, which are designed with preventing complications associated with diabetes in mind.
Don’t feel pressured to buy an expensive gym membership in order to get your physical activity. You can, of course, go to the gym if you enjoy it, but if the gym isn’t for you, find an activity that you look forward to doing. This can be walking, biking, swimming, dancing, anything that gets your body moving – you can’t go wrong.
Improve Your Diet
While you’re experimenting to find the physical activity you enjoy most, you need to take an honest look at your diet. Don’t feel ashamed if your diet isn’t where it should be. The standard American diet contains far more sugar, unhealthy fat, sodium, and additives than a healthy diet should. You’re not alone!
Beating yourself up for your food choices is unproductive, simply make a plan to change for the better and start working towards it.
A healthy diet is one primarily made up of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, supplemented with healthy fats and carbs. With type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you have to pay very close attention to the foods you’re consuming, as keeping your blood sugar at a healthy level is even more important.
Unhealthy, processed foods have a tendency to make your blood sugar spike and then drop, which is the last thing you want. Instead, look for foods that keep your glucose levels steady. Try to include things like fatty fish, avocados, leafy greens, berries, beans, and nuts.
When in doubt, foods with no ingredients are probably safe. For example, a strawberry has no list of ingredients, it’s just a strawberry. Eating whole, nutrient-dense foods can do wonders for your physical and mental health and make managing diabetes a far easier task.
Improve Your Sleep
One of the many great things about healthy habits is that each one boosts the others. Making an effort to optimize your sleep length and quality, for example, will help to improve your mental health, make your diet changes more effective, and give you more energy to tackle your daily workout.
Using your age, you can find the recommended window of time you need to sleep. If you’re of working age (between the ages of 18 and 65), for instance, you need 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
Determining a more exact amount will take some trial and error. Make small adjustments until you find the length of sleep that leaves you feeling your best.
That said, the key to getting the most out of your sleep is to focus not only on quantity but quality as well. It won’t do you much good if you’re in bed for 8 hours but only asleep for 5 of them.
Do your best to avoid afternoon caffeine and to put away screens at least an hour before bed. It’s also a good idea to create a nighttime routine that tells your mind and body it’s time to rest.
Build Positive Mental Health Habits
When you’re on any health journey, be it managing diabetes or simply trying to improve your quality of life, it’s important to focus not only on your physical health but your mental health as well. Poor mental health can have a greater impact on your physical health than you might think.
Stress alone can wreak havoc on your body and mind, and that’s without the additional anxiety or depression diagnosis that so many people are living with. Now, as mentioned above, making positive lifestyle changes in other areas, such as your diet and sleep schedule, can have a significant impact on your mental health.
However, you should be setting time aside specifically for your mental health and wellbeing as well. Consider taking up yoga or meditation to relax your mind and body. You can also start a gratitude journal or just carve out time in the day to do something you love.
Use This Guide to Begin Living Well With Diabetes
There’s no question that a diabetes diagnosis is a life-changing event. However, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Living well with diabetes is entirely possible, as long as you’re willing to put in the effort and always put your health first.
Work hard and be patient with yourself. Soon, you’ll be able to look back with pride at how far you’ve come with your health and your lifestyle.
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