Diabetes: Habits to reduce the risk of complications

Published Jan 13, 2023 • By Rahul Roy

Diabetes is a lifelong disease that requires constant care and attention. Daily self-management tasks are necessary to properly control the disease and its management may depend on its severity and on the individual.

What are the best habits for managing diabetes? How beneficial are they? What habits should be avoided? 
We discuss all and more in this article! 

Diabetes: Habits to reduce the risk of complications

What is diabetes and its symptoms? 

Diabetes is a medical condition where the affected person has higher blood sugar levels than normal. It is mainly classified into 2 types- 

Type 1 diabetes: Type 1 diabetes is relatively rare and accounts for 5-10% of all diabetes cases. It is an autoimmune reaction whereby the pancreas produces very little or no insulin at all, causing high blood sugar. The immunity system mistakenly views the cells producing insulin as a threat and destroys them. It is most commonly found in children and young adults. It is a lifelong disease that often begins in childhood or adolescence and persists throughout an individual's life. Insulin may be needed daily for the person to survive and to live well with the disease. 

Type 2 diabetes: Type 2 diabetes is more easily found accounting for an estimated 90% of all cases of diabetes. It differs from Type 1 as insulin is still created but it is not well utilized by the body. It could result from the pancreas not creating enough sugar for the cells to absorb or the cells behaving abnormally to the insulin and absorbing less amount of sugar. It normally develops in adults and senior citizens but it can also develop in children, more so if they are overweight . 

Presently it is estimated that around 10% of the American population suffer from both types of diabetes.

Careful and considerate diabetes care can go a long way towards reducing the risk of serious complications, and living a fuller, healthier life. 

What are the best habits to manage diabetes and avoid complications? 

Here are a few habits to follow to inculcate that help to manage diabetes better- 

Avoid smoking 

Epidemiological studies have shown that the relative risk of developing type 2 diabetes increases by 37 to 44% in smokers, compared to non-smokers. It is followed by an increase in insulin resistance, called "insulin resistance", due to tobacco consumption. No matter the type of diabetes, smoking makes it harder to manage the condition and cause serious health complications such as - 

  • Heart Disease 
  • Kidney Disease 
  • Reduced blood flow, especially to the leg and feet, which in serious situation can lead to amputation 
  • Stroke 
  • Eye disease 
  • Worsened control of blood sugar levels 

Eat a healthy, reduced-fat and low salt diet 

A healthy diet for a diabetic is just like a healthy diet for a regular person – lots of veggies, healthy fats, lean proteins and sufficient fruits while reducing the salt and sugar intakes. Also limit foods that are high in refined carbs (Carbonated drinks, chips, cookies etc) and instead choose carbs that break down easily in the body like yams, pulses, oatmeal etc. Try to limit alcohol consumption as much as possible. Drink plenty of water and try to maximize eating food that keep the cholesterol and blood pressure under control.  

Practice an active lifestyle 

In general, physically active individuals have a lower probability of being a Type-2 diabetic. Moreover, diabetics who are physically inactive are reported to have a mortality rate 2 times higher than that of an active diabetic as per reports by researchers from Cooper Clinic. The recent rise in obesity amongst teens and adults, has propelled the rise in diabetes cases in recent years, especially with respect to Type 2 diabetes. Weight loss even in small margins has been linked with improvements in glycemic control, decrease in the need for diabetes medication and improvements in the quality of life of a diabetic. There are lots of activities that a diabetic can do to be more physically active. It is important to undertake such activities after consultation with a health professional. 

Get plenty of sleep 

Getting inadequate or too much sleep can increase the appetite, impact what a person chooses to eat, alter the response of the body to insulin and also affect the mental health. It is recommended that adults get at least 7-8 hours of sleep at night with that number rising between 9-10 hours for children and teens. A consistent sleep schedule will help put a person in a better mood while also keeping energy levels at a good level. Avoid caffeine and large meals before calling it a night and also avoid using light emitting screens such as mobile phones and television before sleeping. 

Monitor blood sugar on a daily basis 

Monitoring the blood sugar on a daily basis will help keep track of the body’s response to the medication, diet and general lifestyle of an individual. It can make a diabetic aware of any complications and it is good to sit down with the doctor to understand what the ideal glucose level range for the person is, so he/she can target that everyday during tests. 

Be mindful of bruises 

High blood sugar increases inflammation in the cells, prevents nutrients from reaching the cells and generally negatively impacts the immunity system. This also has an effect on the healing capabilities of a diabetic and can also raise the risk of infection, especially the feet. Diabetics are more likely to develop foot ulcers and that is why it crucial to regularly do self-checks and pay close attention to wounds and cuts, however small or insignificant they may seem. 

Manage stress 

Everybody experiences stressful situations, but it is more dangerous for diabetics than others due to its capacity to influence blood glucose levels. That is why it is important to learn how to effectively cope with stress. There are plenty of relaxation exercises such as yoga, meditation, tai chi etc that help to settle the nerves and better control breathing

Keep regular appointments with the doctor 

It is advisable to meet the doctor as regularly as possible so that he/she can monitor the progress of the patient as well as make recommendations based on the condition. It is also recommended to be screened for eye, nerve, kidney damage and other complications that may arise. Be frank with the doctor and answer all his/her questions.   

Diabetes may seem hard to manage at the time of diagnosis but with regular care and attention it is possible. Try to stay positive and manage the condition to the best of your abilities. It is important to realize that everyone’s diabetes is different, and some people may still face complications even with optimum care. Do not be discouraged if the positive results do not show up immediately but understand that it is a gradual process that will take time. Most importantly, do not hesitate to regularly get in touch with your doctor to keep track of the disease's progress. Managing diabetes may not be easy, but its worth it


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