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Diabetes health centre

Diabetes - Healthy living with diabetes

NHS Choices Feature

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If you've been diagnosed with diabetes, you will need to pay special attention to certain aspects of your lifestyle and health.

Diabetes doesn't have to stop you from leading the life you want. Nor does it mean you'll necessarily have other serious health problems in the future.

With careful management you can ensure you control the condition and it doesn't control you. This will allow you to stay healthy, active and to live a full life.

Without taking these measures, you are putting yourself at an increased risk of health problems, which could force you to change your lifestyle entirely.

Structured education programmes can teach you more about managing diabetes. Learn more in diabetes education.

After diagnosis

When you were diagnosed, you should have been assigned to a diabetes care team who will have explained the most important aspects of managing your condition.

You may also have learned to monitor your blood glucose (sugar) level regularly, and to understand how it is affected by food and exercise.

If you need help to keep your blood glucose level stable, you may have been prescribed diabetes medication, or insulin to inject.

In order to stay well, it's important to use these aspects of your treatment properly. But it's also important you take other steps to help manage the condition and lower your risk of further health problems.

Learning to manage your diabetes takes time, patience and effort. You may also be coping with difficult emotions after diagnosis, such as anger, confusion or depression.

Diabetes health risks

Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes put you at increased risk of:

  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • circulation problems
  • nerve damage
  • foot ulcers
  • blindness, caused by diabetic retinopathy
  • kidney damage
  • skin lesions
  • damage to breast tissue in women
  • muscle-wasting and damage to ligaments and joints

Healthy living with diabetes

There's a lot you can do to minimise your risk of these problems.

First, it's important you take your insulin and other medicines properly.

As well as taking your medicines or insulin, there are a few key steps you can take to prevent or delay the health complications associated with diabetes.

  • Maintain a healthy weight - This will help control your blood glucose level, as well as your blood pressure and cholesterol. Learn more in our lose weight section.
  • Eat a healthy, balanced diet that's low in fat, salt and sugar - This doesn't mean you can never eat biscuits or cakes again, but try to eat sugary and fatty foods in moderation. Learn more in our food and diet section.
  • Don't smoke - If you do smoke, find support to help you stop. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease and stroke even further. For help with giving up smoking, see our stop smoking section.
  • Get active for 30 minutes a day, five times a week - This helps you stay at a healthy weight and maintain good general health. It doesn't have to be the gym: there are plenty of other ways to keep active, such as playing with your kids, gardening, or any activity that gently raises your heart rate. Learn more in the fitness section.
  • Check your feet every day - The nerve damage that can occur in diabetes most commonly affects feet. Learn more in diabetes and foot health.
  • Keep your appointments with your diabetes care team - Regular check-ups once every three months are an important part of managing your diabetes.
Medical Review: October 08, 2012

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