We’ve all seen the numbers – people with Type 1 diabetes are expected to have a shorter lifespan than non-diabetics by about 20 years, and people with Type 2 diabetes are expected to have a shorter lifespan than non-diabetics by about 10 years. These are positive numbers compared to previous studies ten to twenty years. People with Diabetes have a lot more resources at their disposal to help them live a healthy life, and a long and prosperous life.
That being said, life expectancy has a lot to do with what an individual does to manage his or her diabetes and other lifestyle factors. There is no getting around the fact that diabetes is hard one your body, but you have the power to ameliorate some of the effects of diabetes with your lifestyle choices. It’s not so much diabetes itself but how it progresses that will affect not only how long you live but your quality of life. You have the power to affect both your choices.
Review Your Diet and Exercise Regimen
A diagnosis of diabetes may just prompt you to do what you should have been doing all along – eating well and exercising. A recent report suggested that reaching and maintaining a healthy weight and lowering blood glucose levels can help to reverse Type 2 diabetes. This isn’t always the case for everybody, so please consult with your medical advisors.
Your medical provider can help you create a diet and exercise regimen, or you can consult with a nutritionist and/or personal trainer. Either way, making healthier choices will help you physically as well as emotionally. Be aware though that you must commit to these healthier choices for the long run – while weight loss can result in remission of Type 2 diabetes if you regain that weight you are likely to relapse due to the fat in the liver and pancreas. So, for this reason, you want to start a fitness routine that you can stick to.
Physical activity not only helps you burn calories and lose weight but keeps muscles insulin-sensitive and keeps excess carbs from being converted to fat and stored in the liver and pancreas. To maximize the benefit of your workouts, you should be sure to include both aerobic and anaerobic (strength training) exercises. But start slowly! If you are new to working out, start with walking and lifting light weights. This will avoid the injuries and/or strain, cramp, or other discomforts that could dissuade you from continuing to workout.
Once you start to see results and feel and look at bit better, you will stay motivated to eat right and exercise. A little goes a long way! Find a physical activity you enjoy. Try walking in your neighborhood or around the track at a local school. Give yoga a try at your house, or a gym with your friends.
Reduce Stress and Inflammation
The medical establishment has long linked stress with inflammation in the body, and now new research shows that inflammation is a cause of Type 2 diabetes.
You may already be taking medication for high blood pressure, a condition that is often stress-related. In addition to taking medication, you need to take stock of the environmental factors that are causing you stress. Be honest – are there areas in your life that, with small adjustments in attitude, might seem less stressful for you? What you feel emotionally is largely a result of your choices of how to think about something. Simply changing your mind might make you feel better.
If you are struggling with stress and can’t seem to reduce stress on your own, consult with a mental health professional. There are techniques you can learn to reduce stress. Also, practices such as meditation, yoga, Tai Chi and others can help you reduce stress. These calming exercises are perfect for many of us who live with diabetes.
Quit Smoking and Reduce Inflammation
Smokers are at a 30% to 40% higher risk of being diabetic than nonsmokers. It is well established that people with diabetes who quit smoking have better control of their blood sugar. The CDC reports that as little as eight weeks after quitting smoking, you will see that your insulin is more effective at lowering blood sugar.
Quitting is not easy. There are many aids available to help someone quit smoking, including:
- Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes)
- Nicotine patch
- Nicotine gum
- Nicotine lozenges
- Prescription nicotine nasal spray or inhaler
- Prescription stop-smoking medication (Zyban or Chantix)
- Behavioral Therapy such as hypnosis
- Alternative therapies such as acupuncture, magnet therapy, cold laser therapy, herbs
- Practices such as yoga, mindfulness, and meditation
- Quit-smoking apps for your phone or tablet
Talk with your medical provider to find out which combinations of therapies and techniques might work for you.
Take Your Medication
If your medical provider has prescribed medication, take it – whether it is meant to control blood sugar or to help with associated conditions, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol. It’s important that you take any medications as directed and consistently to ensure optimal effects.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, your medical provider will likely want to see you every three months or so to monitor the progression of your condition(s). It may be that if you lose weight and get more fit, reduce your stress and inflammation, and quit smoking, you will be able to reduce or eliminate some of the medications you must take now. Attending regular doctor visits are important for this reason.
Over time, your body may not react to certain medications like it once did. Fortunately for those with diabetes, there are several medications to choose from to help control your condition. Visit with your doctor and ask them for their opinions on removing or adding medications for your unique situation.
Enlist the Help of Your Support System
Your family and friends can help you or hurt you during your quest to make positive lifestyle adjustments. Sure, they mean well when they offer you a snack you know you should not have, or when they ask you to do something with them that interferes with your scheduled workout, or when they offer you a cigarette, but you have to stay strong. Be sure to explain to everyone important to you why you are making the lifestyle changes you must make, and ask them for their understanding and support.
Friends and family can help you with your diet choices, or sabotage them. Enlist their help to stay on track and if they just won’t help you (“just one little bite won’t hurt!”) avoid sharing meals with them or if attending gatherings with them, supply appropriate snacks rather than rely on others to make or bring appropriate food for you.
Friends or family may want to work out with you! Make your daily walk social and you are getting double the benefit from it. You’d be surprised how many people in your network would be willing to partner up, and to help challenge you along the way.
Go online and find a website that focuses on being a Diabetes resource. There are lots of great websites such as Beyond Type 1 or Beyond Type 2. They provide great content, and information on meetups with others who have Diabetes in your area. This is a great way to stay on top of all things Diabetes, and maybe make some new friends.
Making these five changes to your lifestyle will not only remediate your diabetes but will make you physically and emotionally healthier overall. Remember, this is not just about the quantity of life, but also the quality of life!
People with Diabetes who live healthy lifestyles are also rewarded with lower life insurance rates. Life insurance with Diabetes can be discounted if you are able to show insurance companies that your Diabetes is well managed, and you’re physically active and being compliant with your doctors orders. This is a great way to save money on premiums! For many people, you will not need a medical exam to qualify for life insurance coverage.
About the Author
Veronica Baxter is a blogger and legal assistant living and working in the great city of Philadelphia. She frequently works with busy Philadelphia life insurance lawyer Chad Boonswang, Esq.