If you have type 2 diabetes, you'll need to look after your health very carefully.
Caring for your health will make treating your diabetes easier and minimise your risk of developing complications of diabetes.
Self care is an integral part of daily life. It means you take responsibility for your own health and wellbeing, with support from those involved in your care.
Self care includes 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 self care support. They can live longer, experience less pain, anxiety, depression and fatigue, have a better quality of life and be more active and independent.
Read more about self care.
As type 2 diabetes is a long-term condition, you'll be in regular contact with your diabetes care team. Developing a good relationship with the team will enable you to freely discuss your symptoms or any concerns you have.
The more the team knows, the more they can help you. Your GP or diabetes care team will also need to check your eyes, feet and nerves regularly, because they can also be affected by diabetes.
You should be tested regularly (at least once a year) to check how well your diabetes is being controlled over the long term.
A blood sample will be taken from your arm and a test known as the HbA1c test carried out. It measures how much glucose is in the red blood cells, and gives your blood glucose levels for the previous two to three months.
The HbA1c target for most people with diabetes is below 48 mmol/mol. There's evidence that this level can reduce the risk of complications, such as nerve damage, eye disease, kidney disease and heart disease.
An HbA1c of less than 58 mmol/mol is recommended for those at risk of severe hypoglycaemia (an abnormally low blood glucose level).
The Diabetes UK website has more information about the HbA1c test.
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is very important if you have diabetes. However, you don't need to avoid certain food groups altogether.
As long as you eat regularly and make healthy choices, you can have a varied diet and enjoy a wide range of foods.
You can make adaptations when cooking meals, such as reducing the amount of fat, salt and sugar, and increasing the amount of fibre.
You don't need to completely exclude sugary and high fat foods from your diet, but they should be limited. It's possible to achieve good blood glucose control by including sugary foods in your diet.
The important thing in managing diabetes through your diet is to eat regularly and include starchy carbohydrates, such as pasta, as well as plenty of fruit and vegetables. If your diet is well balanced, you should be able to achieve a good level of health and maintain a healthy weight.
Read more about healthy recipes. Further dietary advice and cooking tips are also available on the Diabetes UK website.
As physical activity lowers your blood glucose level, it's very important to exercise regularly if you have diabetes.
Like anyone else, you should aim to do at least 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as cycling or fast walking, every week.
However, before starting a new activity, speak to your GP or diabetes care team first. As exercise will affect your blood glucose level, your care team may have to adjust your insulin treatment or diet to keep your blood glucose level steady.
If you have diabetes, your risk of developing a cardiovascular disease, such as a heart attack or stroke, is increased.
As well as increasing this risk further, smoking also increases your risk of many other serious smoking-related conditions, such as lung cancer.
If you want to give up smoking, your GP can provide you with advice, support and treatment to help you quit.
If you have diabetes and decide to drink alcohol, avoid drinking more than the recommended daily amounts (see below), and never drink alcohol 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 daily alcohol limits are:
- 3-4 units for men
- 2-3 units for women
People with long-term conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, are encouraged to get a flu jab each autumn to protect against flu (influenza).
A pneumoccocal vaccination, which protects against a serious chest infection called pneumococcal pneumonia, is also recommended.