If you have type 2 diabetes, you will need to look after your health very carefully. Caring for your health will also make treating your diabetes easier and minimise your risk of developing any complications.
Self-care is an integral part of daily life. It means that you take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing with support from the people involved in your care. Self-care includes the things you do each day to stay fit, maintain good physical and mental health, prevent illness or accidents, and effectively deal with minor ailments and long-term conditions.
People living with long-term conditions can benefit enormously if they receive support for self-care. They can live longer, have less pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue, have a better quality of life and be more active and independent.
Because type 2 diabetes is a long-term condition, you will be in regular contact with your healthcare team. A good relationship with the team will allow you to easily discuss your symptoms or concerns. The more the team knows, the more they can help you. Your GP or diabetes healthcare team will also need to check your eyes, feet and nerves regularly because they can be affected by diabetes.
The belief that if you have diabetes you will have to eat special foods is untrue. Your diet should be a healthy diet, high in fibre, fruit and vegetables and low in fat, salt and sugar.
You may have been advised to try to make changes to your diet. Your diabetes dietitian can advise you about a dietary plan that can be fitted to your specific needs.
Physical activity lowers your blood glucose level, so it is particularly important to exercise regularly if you have diabetes.
Like anyone else, aim to do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (i.e. cycling or fast walking) every week. However, do not start a new activity without consulting your GP or diabetes healthcare team first.
As exercise will affect your blood glucose level, you and your care team may have to adjust your insulin treatment or diet plan to keep your blood glucose level steady.
Do not smoke
If you have diabetes, you have an increased risk of developing a cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke. If you smoke, you increase this risk even further, as well as increasing your risk of many other serious smoking-related conditions, such as lung cancer.
If you smoke and you would like to give up, your GP can give you advice, support and treatment to help you quit.
Drink alcohol in moderation
If you have diabetes, drink alcohol only in moderation and never drink on an empty stomach. Depending on the amount you drink, alcohol can cause either high or low blood glucose levels (hyperglycaemia or hypoglycaemia).
Drinking alcohol may also affect your ability to carry out insulin treatment or blood glucose monitoring, so always be careful not to drink too much. The recommended alcohol limit is 3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 units a day for women.
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