According to the National Institutes of Health, people who have type 1 diabetes who intensively control their blood sugar early in their illness are likely to outlive those who do not.
“The outlook for people with type 1 diabetes continues to improve,” said
Catherine Cowie, Ph.D., of NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which funded the study, released in 2015. “These results show that by tightly controlling their blood glucose, people with type 1 diabetes can live longer.”
Once known as “juvenile diabetes”, type 1 typically affects younger people and occurs when the body does not make insulin. People who have type 1 must take daily doses of insulin to live.
Controlling your diabetes
The more common form is type 2 diabetes, typically found in people who are over 45, overweight and lead sedentary lives.
There are serious risks for people with diabetes: stroke and heart attacks, kidney failure, and blindness. Diabetes can cause nerve damage in the lower extremities, which leads some people lose their toes, feet or legs due to infections.
Studies have long shown that bringing down blood glucose levels lets diabetics live longer. But another part of early control with diabetes involves making lifestyle changes:
1. Stick to a healthy diet
Your diet should include plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains, as well as nonfat dairy products and lean meats. Go easy on foods with a lot of sugar and fat, and remember that carbohydrates also transform into sugars. Try to keep your meals consistent, which is even more crucial if you take insulin or other blood sugar medication.
2. Get some exercise
No one is saying you should be Olympics-level fit, but if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s time to start exercising. An active lifestyle will bring down your blood sugar, your stress level and your chances of developing heart disease. Go for a walk, ride a bike, or go swimming. Stick to 30 minutes of activity a day, enough to break a sweat.
3. See your doctor
Having diabetes means you’ll be seeing more of your doctor. Or at least, that’s what it should mean. You should aim for twice-yearly check-ups to learn your cholesterol, blood pressure and A1c numbers (this is your average blood sugar over a three-month stretch.).
And because diabetes affects the eyes and the feet, make sure you get a yearly eye exam and find a podiatrist to check for things such as ulcers. The doctor can also advise you about the right shoes and socks for diabetics to protect your feet.
4. Don’t drink, don’t smoke
With diabetes, you’re already at risk for things such as heart and kidney disease, nerve damage and foot problems. Smoking can only exacerbate those risks, and makes it hard to exercise. Consult with your doctor on ways to quit.
And while you don’t need to stop drinking altogether, it’s a good idea to go easy on alcohol, which raise or lower your blood sugar beyond a safe level. The American Diabetes Association says that women with diabetes should limit themselves to one drink a day (two for men).
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