It is not true that if you have diabetes you will need to eat special diet. Eat a healthy diet that is high in fibre, fruit and vegetables and low in fat, salt and sugar. Read more about healthy eating.
Different foods will affect you in different ways, so it is important to know what to eat and when to get the right amount of glucose for the insulin you are taking. A diabetes dietitian can help you work out a dietary plan that can be adapted to your specific needs.
As physical activity lowers your blood glucose level, it is 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.
As exercise will affect your blood glucose level, you and your care team may have to adjust your insulin treatment or diet to keep your blood glucose level steady.
Do not smoke
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 will be able to provide you with advice, support and treatment to help you quit.
If you have diabetes, drink alcohol in moderation (if you drink), 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 limit is three-to-four units for men and two-to-three units for women.
People with a long-term condition, such as type 1 diabetes, are encouraged to get a flu jab each autumn to protect against flu (influenza). An anti-pneumoccocal vaccination, which protects against a serious chest infection called pneumococcal pneumonia, is also recommended.
Having diabetes means you are more likely to develop problems with your feet, including foot ulcers and infections from minor cuts and grazes. This is because diabetes is associated with poor blood circulation in the feet, and blood glucose can damage the nerves in your feet.
To prevent problems with your feet, keep your nails short and wash your feet daily using warm water. Wear shoes that fit properly and see a podiatrist or chiropodist (a specialist in foot care) regularly so any problems are detected early.
Regularly check your feet for cuts, blisters or grazes because you may not be able to feel them if the nerves in your feet are damaged. See your GP if you have a minor foot injury that does not start to heal within a few days.
If you have type 2 diabetes, you should have your eyes tested at least once a year to check for retinopathy.
Retinopathy is an eye condition where the small blood vessels in your eye become damaged. It can occur if your blood glucose level is too high for a long period of time (hyperglycaemia). If left untreated, retinopathy can eventually cause blindness
Learn about your condition and be proactive. The NHS website, NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence), your GP, Diabetes UK all have enormous amounts of information. There are help groups, diabetic groups, health groups and many more. Drop into our of our charity shops if you’re stuck for support locally – we’re building relationships with all sorts of local groups in the community that are there to help.