How Can I Control My Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a long-term condition. Find out what you can do to manage the disease and live well with diabetes

February, 2021

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Type 2 diabetes is a long-term condition. There are lots of things you can do to manage the disease and live well with diabetes.

Taking your medicine, staying active, and eating a healthy balanced diet will all help keep your condition under control. By doing this, you can reduce your risk of developing complications such as heart disease, stroke, and nerve damage.

Why do I need to control my Type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, meaning it tends to get worse over time.

Insulin is a hormone that regulates the amount of sugar, or glucose, in the blood. When the body stops making insulin properly, this process doesn’t work properly and can lead to Type 2 Diabetes.

Controlling levels of glucose, the body’s main energy source, in the blood can:

  • give you more energy
  • make you less thirsty
  • stop excessive urination
  • reduce the risk of skin and bladder infections

Over time, too much glucose in the blood can damage the blood vessels and the organs. This is what leads to long-term complications such as:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • kidney problems
  • nerve damage
  • foot ulcers which may eventually require amputation
  • eye problems
  • skin conditions
  • teeth and gum problems

Not everyone with Type 2 diabetes will develop complications and it is worth remembering that uncontrolled blood glucose levels can cause these problems – not diabetes itself. By managing your condition effectively, you can significantly reduce your risk of developing complications

How can I control my Type 2 diabetes?

The good news is that there are lots of ways to manage your Type 2 diabetes. It will make you feel happier and healthier in the short term – in the long-run, it will help you to avoid complications like heart disease and foot ulcers.

Diabetes medication

Most people with Type 2 diabetes are on medication. There are lots of different medicines, and your healthcare team will help work out which one is best for you.

Remember, medicine will only work if you take it regularly and on an ongoing basis. Why not try setting an alarm on your phone, or asking a family member to remind you to take it?

If you have problems taking your medication as your doctor has advised, speak to your healthcare team.

Maintain a healthy weight

Maintaining a healthy weight is a really important part of controlling your diabetes.

It can help to keep your blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels. It can also increase insulin sensitivity, which means it helps your body to use insulin more effectively.

All this will reduce your chances of developing serious complications. Lots of people say losing weight makes them look and feel better, too.

Losing weight and keeping it off is not always easy. For most people, the best approach is to eat a balanced diet and to stay physically active.

Some doctors recommend the Mediterranean diet, which contains lots of fish, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Small steps can all add up. Try avoiding fast and processed foods, and swapping sugary drinks for fizzy water, or white bread and pasta for wholemeal versions.

Physical activity will also help you to lose weight. If you are just starting out and getting more active, try starting small. Aim for a 10-minute walk three times a week, for example, and build up from there.

Remember, it is easier to stick with exercise if it is fun. Choose something that you enjoy doing. That might be brisk walking, swimming, dancing, or even gardening.

Stay active

When you exercise, you breathe harder, your heart beats faster, and your body uses more glucose as fuel, lowering blood sugar levels. What’s more, regular exercise also increases insulin sensitivity.
For adults, the NHS recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity a week. This can be split out over the week and can be taken 20 minutes a day.

Of course, you may already be active. Maybe you could try adding another session to your routine, or an extra few minutes to your walk or run?

If you smoke, try stopping

Every cell in the body needs a ready supply of oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood to repair and maintain itself. But, by damaging the blood vessels, high blood sugar levels can reduce blood circulation.

Over time, this can lead to complications such as diabetic foot ulcers and even leave people needing amputations.

Smoking also worsens blood circulation. That is why smokers who have Type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk of complications, including nerve damage, heart disease, and stroke.

Cigarette smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals. At least 250 of these are harmful, and almost 70 are known to cause cancer.

Giving up is not always easy but it can make such a difference to your health. It can help the body to use insulin more effectively and drastically cuts the risk of cancer.

Remember, there is lots of help out there. Your healthcare team will be able to introduce you to local smoking cessation services.

Work with your healthcare team

Always attend your healthcare appointments and ask as many questions as you need. Never be embarrassed – remember, they have heard it all before.

Your diabetes team is there to help you on your healthcare journey. They will give you the support and advice you need to control your Type 2 diabetes.