Living with diabetes type 2

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Diabetes and Life Expectancy: Ending Myths and Getting Started on Your Best Life Yet

For far too long, diabetes has been associated with shorter-than-average life spans and a lower quality of life for those people with the condition. But as it turns out, when diabetes is managed well, this is often not the case. With the proper tools, attitude, and support system, anyone with diabetes can change the course of their health.

Why Having Diabetes Doesn’t Necessarily Mean You’ll Die Sooner

It’s true that, when you consider heart-related cardiovascular complications, men and women with diabetes tend to have higher rates of early death than their peers without the disease, according to research. But it’s also true that no two people with diabetes are the same, and how a person manages his or her blood sugar is key when considering how the disease might affect your life span.

“Having diabetes won’t necessarily change someone’s life expectancy — it’s how diabetes progresses. For every individual, diabetes is going to progress differently,” says Joanne Rinker, RD, CDE, director of practice and content development at the American Association of Diabetes Educators. “If it progresses at an extremely slow rate, because diabetes is so individualized, it might be so slow that it does not impact their life expectancy whatsoever.”

Instead of thinking only about how diabetes will impact your life span, experts suggest that people with the condition should take a broader look at their overall health. “Diabetes is not a singular disease that one should focus on. Focus on how you can improve the different risk factors that can impact the functioning of the heart and other organs,” says Medha Munshi, MD, director of geriatric diabetes programs at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston. “It’s important to think, ‘What are the factors that would impact my length of life?’”

Some factors, such as genes, can’t be changed, but modifying diet, exercise, and smoking habits can have positive health effects when it comes to managing diabetes, and have been associated with an increase of life span, according to a study published in June 2017 in the journal Diabetic Medicine.

How a Diabetes Diagnosis May Actually Improve Life Quality

Many people live with diabetes for years before being diagnosed, but once they are, they can approach the condition head on. As a result of their efforts, many people may actually find their quality of life is better than it was before diagnosis.

“Once they have the diagnosis and take action — whether that action is just behavioral change because they didn’t have diabetes for long, or behavioral changes combined with a medication regimen — they feel that they have a much higher quality of life after they were diagnosed,” says Rinker.

The Importance of Preventing Diabetes Progression and Heart Disease

“What’s important to remember, in the absence of cardiovascular disease, is life expectancy is going to depend on the progression of diabetes,” Rinker says. This means it’s important to eat well, exercise, and take medicine if recommended by your doctor.

Equally crucial, be sure to prevent or manage any additional conditions, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or chronic inflammation. When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, their healthcare provider will require them to be examined for heart disease and take care to reduce their risk of developing it in the future. To that end, a diabetes diagnosis can be the first step to managing or reversing more life-threatening conditions, potentially leading to a longer life.

“To someone who is depressed about the diagnosis of diabetes, I’ll say, ‘This disease is going to make you do things you should be doing anyway. You should be eating well and exercising anyway.’ It might actually prolong their lives because they’ll be doing things they wouldn’t have done before the diagnosis,” Dr. Munshi says.

For some people, these measures can have incredible benefits: A report published in September 2017 in the British Medical Journal suggested maintaining a healthy weight and lowering blood glucose levels may even help reverse type 2 diabetes.

How Advocating for Your Health Can Help Extend Your Life With Diabetes

As always, the most important step a person living with diabetes can take to improve the quality of their life — and potentially extend it — is to speak up for themselves to get the quality of social and medical support they need. “Ask your provider questions, request the ability to access a diabetes educator, and make an effort to be as proactive as possible,” Rinker says.

Self-advocacy shouldn’t stop at the doctor’s office door, though; it’s important to speak with family members and friends so that they understand how to lend a hand, whether it’s recognizing signs of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or knowing which snacks to stock up on before the next holiday get-together. A review published in November 2013 in the journal Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity suggested that support from friends and family can help you adhere to your diabetes management plan.

Follow these steps to help manage diabetes and potentially lengthen your life:

  • Know that a diagnosis is not a death sentence.
  • Take steps to prevent progression and complications. “Everything about diabetes is about prevention. Once you are diagnosed with diabetes, there’s not a lot one can do to reverse it, but now we have a lot of tools to prevent complications. Making sure your blood sugars are well controlled is one part of it. But then there are also associated conditions that are important to consider, like high blood pressure, like high cholesterol,” says Munshi.
  • Work with a nutritionist or doctor to create an individualized eating plan, and then follow it.
  • Start a fitness routine that fits your lifestyle and activity level. Iif you are not currently active, get permission from your doctor first.
  • Take medication if recommended.
  • Be consistent with your diabetes management.
  • Be patient. “Instead of getting overwhelmed, have a plan to have a healthy lifestyle, that perhaps improves the risks even more,” says Munshi.
  • Get friends and family involved.
  • Speak up! Ask questions, and tell your doctor if you notice any changes in your health.

Aging With Diabetes: Why the Outlook Is Bright

Due to a constant stream of new research and medical advances, people with diabetes have good reason to be optimistic about the future. “Every day we’re finding new ways to improve quality of life, and better ways to manage diabetes, better medicines, and better care. Certainly, controlling high blood pressure improves it over time,” says Munshi.

For example, new research is pointing to inflammation as a cause of type 2 diabetes, and multiple clinical studies are underway to explore medication to reduce the incidence of the condition. Additionally, breakthroughs are being made in drugs, such as ruboxistaurin (RBX), which could reduce the likelihood of complications associated with diabetes, such as loss of eyesight.

Also, don’t underestimate your own control in your future with diabetes. “Think of the factors you can modify improve not only your life expectancy but your quality of life,” Munshi says.

What Is the Life Expectancy For Diabetics?

Diabetes is recognized as one of the leading causes of disability and death worldwide. There was a time when Type 2 diabetes was common in people in their late forties and fifties. However, thanks to the easy availability of processed foods, sedentary lifestyles, poor sleep and a host of other unfavorable factors, type 2 diabetes affects millions of young adults throughout the globe today.

A report was commissioned in 2010 by the National Academy on an Aging Society. It showed that diabetes cut off an average of 8.5 years from the lifespan of a regular, diabetic 50-year-old as compared to a 50-year-old without the disease. This data was provided by the Health and Retirement Study, a survey of more than 20,000 Americans over the age of 50, done every two years by the University of Michigan.

Characterized by high blood glucose levels, T2D can be the result of a combination of genes, obesity and an unhealthy lifestyle. If left untreated, diabetes can be life-threatening. Complications of this disease can take a serious toll on a patient’s health and well-being. So, how long do diabetics live, you ask? Does having diabetes shorten one’s life? Let’s address these questions, one by one.

How Long Do Diabetics Live?

Diabetes is a system-wide disorder which is categorized by elevated blood glucose levels. This blood travels throughout the human body and when it is laden with sugar, it damages multiple systems. When the condition is left unchecked or is managed poorly, the lifespan of diabetic patients is reduced due to constant damage.

Early diagnosis and treatment of diabetes for preventing its long-term complications is the best coping strategy. So, don’t ignore your doctor’s advice if you’re pre-diabetic right now. Keep in mind that if you’re at a high risk of developing T2D, a normal meal followed by a professionally done PP blood test is of high priority. It will help in detecting impairment in early phase insulin release, a condition which is, almost, always present in the early stages of type 2 diabetes. But, the sad truth is that depending solely on fasting blood glucose measurement for diagnosis is not sufficient. We may miss out on those individuals who have isolated postprandial hyperglycemia, which is elevated blood glucose levels only post a meal, and normal fasting plasma glucose levels. A research study has compared the diagnostic criteria of the World Health Organisation and American Diabetes Association. It has proven that this is a common occurrence and it doubles mortality risk, since this condition can go undetected for longer periods. Those who want to be extra sure that their blood sugar is always under control should opt for a more elaborate version of the prediabetes tests at home.

Life expectancy of a diabetic patient decreases when Type 2 diabetes has accompanying conditions like:

  • Nerve Damage
  • Hyperglycemia and Ketoes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • High Blood Pressure
  • High Cholesterol Levels
  • Kidney Damage
  • Gum Disease
  • Retinopathy
  • Digestive Ailments
  • Atherosclerosis

Diabetes Life Expectancy

The lifespan of diabetic patients can decrease by 10 to 15 years, according to a report titled ‘Diabetes in the UK 2010 – Key Statistics on Diabetes’. However, the improvements made in diabetic care since then mean that diabetic patients today can live a significantly longer life, with proper T2D management.

The average life expectancy of a type 2 diabetic patient is between 77 to 81 years. However, it is not uncommon for diabetics to live past the age of 85, should they be able to maintain good blood sugar levels and lengthen their lifespan. Bear in mind that the age at which T2D is diagnosed and the combination of risk factors also play a major role here.

The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) Outcomes Model is a computer simulation model that forecasts the first likely occurrence of major diabetes-related complications, and death, in patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes (8). According to UKPDS:

If you are a 55-year-old man diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, five years post-diagnosis, your life expectancy can vary between:

13.2 years for a patient who –

  • Smokes
  • Has systolic blood pressure (SBP) of 180 mmHg
  • A total/HDL cholesterol ratio of 8
  • An HbA1c of 10%

AND

21.1 years for –

  • A non-smoker
  • With SBP of 120 mmHg
  • A total/HDL cholesterol ratio of 4
  • An HbA1c of 6%

MORE: Signs Of Diabetes In Men

Which Is Worse? Type 1 or Type 2?

This is a common question among diabetics and the general populace alike. Type 1 diabetics have it rough since the condition sets in from childhood; and hence live with the condition for longer. With Type 2, while it is detected much later in life, the condition brings with it a host of other complications.

If you have type 1 diabetes, you aren’t able to produce insulin and you’ll have to depend upon insulin every single day for the rest of your life. If you are a type 2 diabetic, over time, your cells will become insulin resistant and insulin that your body does produce finds it exceedingly difficult to control your blood sugar. While type 1s can be diagnosed rather quickly and can start taking action immediately, type 2s can remain undiagnosed for years in which time they would have many health complications.

Type 1 diabetes is extremely difficult and cumbersome to manage – taking insulin every day and eating the right diet at the right time. With type 2 diabetes comes several comorbidities, which are more difficult to manage and may lead to damaging outcomes. Research tells us that type 2 diabetes is more of an inflammatory disease than a result of just insulin resistance. This means that type 2 diabetes has a far reaching and more damaging effect on the body of the sufferer.

In terms of fatalities, type 2 kills more than 3 million people worldwide, while type 1 is responsible for the deaths of around 350,000 people. But then, why has life expectancy been lower for people with type 1 diabetes? Earlier when the life expectancies of the two types of diabetes were compared, it was found that type 2s had a 10-year reduction in life expectancy as compare to almost 20 years for type 1s. But through the years, this gap has been closing. This is due to advancements in medical technology as well progress in the healthcare system.

That said, we believe (and many mainstream doctors agree) that type 2 diabetes can be reversed and you can lead a normal healthy life. To achieve reversal, you need a disciplined and a well-rounded approach that includes diet, lifestyle modifications and stress management. We say “reversal” and not “cure,” because if you go back to your old lifestyle, your condition will come back.

How to Live A Long Life With Diabetes

The most important thing about living with T2D is its constant management. Proper diabetes management goes a long way. The life of a diabetic person can be improved greatly by making a few simple and daily lifestyle changes.

Maintain healthy blood sugar levels

Nothing is worse than fluctuating blood glucose levels. Regular blood glucose tests while fasting and post a meal, both, are important to keep a close check on the numbers.

Monitor your Fasting Insulin Level

This is almost as important as your fasting blood sugar level. The ideal level is between 2 and 4. The higher your level, the less sensitive your cells are to insulin. The more cells refuse to let insulin bring in sugar, the more sugar stays in your blood.

Lose weight

Even losing as little as 5-7 percent of one’s body weight drastically reduces the risk for diabetes-related complications. Intermittent fasting is a fantastic way to achieve weight loss and improve insulin sensitivity. So, start gently but make it a critical part of your arsenal in dealing with diabetes.

There is no substitute for exercise

It helps to lose weight and improves mental health.

Chose the right diabetic diet plan

Give up on grains and sugars. These types of carbs will raise your insulin levels. We highly recommend a Low Carb-High Fat diet (LCHF Diet) for all diabetics.

Stop smoking

Diabetics who smoke are at a higher risk of serious health complications that include diseases of the heart, eyes and the kidneys. They also have poor blood circulation in the legs and feet that can lead to infections and ulcers that are difficult to heal. This may lead to amputation that could have been avoided by just giving up smoking.

Lead a stress-free life

Stress, even everyday stress of missing the train or flight can put a severe strain on the body’s metabolism. Stress activates the fight-or-flight mechanism of the body which is an evolutionary feature of humans. This activation leads to high blood sugar levels that can remain elevated for a long time, leading to long term complications. We’ve explained how stress is bad for diabetics. Practicing stress management techniques like deep relaxation, yoga and meditation go a long way in helping control blood sugar levels by keeping stress at bay.

Sleep well

This advice has been given to us by all and sundry since ages and yet sleep is probably the most underrated of all human functions. Its importance in keeping our body healthy has been researched comprehensively and results suggest that not only is sleep important for rest and repair of the body, it also helps keep diseases and biochemical disorders at bay. Sleep loss can gradually cause insulin resistance which is the precursor to full blown type 2 diabetes.

It is best to reverse type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes, rather than just focusing on medicines. Let’s not be naive and assume that just because blood sugar levels can be brought to acceptable lab values through medications, no other damage is being done. Research shows that when fasting blood glucose levels are over 80 mg/dl, oxidative damage from diabetes has already begun.

Try natural medicine – A holistic approach towards keeping blood glucose levels stable (with a healthy lifestyle and supplements) may keep unwanted side effects of diabetes medication at bay.

Continuous lab tests are a must to stay at the top of your physical and mental conditions. Diagnosing further complications (which are a result of diabetes) in a timely fashion is, thus, also taken care of.

How long a person can live with type 2 diabetes depends on how well they manage their diabetes. Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to lengthen your lifespan today and live a happy, healthy and long life without letting diabetes affect you.

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Maneera Saxena Behl

Health and Fitness Enthusiast Maneera is a health and fitness enthusiast who is also a firm believer in the power of dietary supplements. A health buff, she likes to help others improve their overall well-being by achieving the right balance between nutrition, exercise and mindfulness.

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Type 2 diabetes

Medicines for type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition and usually gets worse over time. Making lifestyle changes, such as adjusting your diet and taking more exercise, may help you control your blood glucose levels at first, but may not be enough in the long term.

You may eventually need to take medication to help control your blood glucose levels.

Initially, this will usually be in the form of tablets and can sometimes be a combination of more than one type of tablet. It may also include insulin or another medication that you inject.

Metformin

Metformin is usually the first medicine used to treat type 2 diabetes. It works by reducing the amount of glucose your liver releases into your bloodstream. It also makes your body’s cells more responsive to insulin.

If you’re overweight, it’s also likely you’ll be prescribed metformin. Unlike some other medicines used to treat type 2 diabetes, metformin shouldn’t cause additional weight gain.

However, it can sometimes cause mild side effects, such as nausea and diarrhoea, and you may not be able to take it if you have kidney damage.

SGLT2 inhibitors

SGLT2 inhibitors work by increasing the amount of glucose excreted in urine. They’re particularly useful in people with type 2 diabetes and who have cardiac disease.

The three SGLT2 inhibitors that may be prescribed include:

  • dapagliflozin
  • canagliflozin
  • empagliflozin

Each medication is taken as a tablet once a day. The main side effect is a higher risk of genital and urinary tract infections.

If you’re unwell and have a dehydrating illness (e.g. fever, vomiting or diarrhoea), it’s important you stop these medications. Get your glucose and ketone level checked by your healthcare professional to prevent diabetic ketoacidosis developing.

GLP-1 agonists

GLP-1 agonists acts in a similar way to the natural hormone GLP-1 (see the section on gliptins, below).

They’re given by injection and boost your own insulin production when there are high blood glucose levels, reducing blood glucose without the risk of hypoglycaemia episodes (“hypos”). They’re also particularly useful for people with type 2 diabetes and cardiac disease.

Sulphonylureas

Sulphonylureas increase the amount of insulin that’s produced by your pancreas.

Examples include:

  • glibenclamide
  • gliclazide
  • glimepiride
  • glipizide
  • gliquidone

You may be prescribed one of these medicines if you can’t take metformin.

Alternatively, you may be prescribed sulphonylurea and metformin if metformin doesn’t control blood glucose on its own.

Sulphonylureas can increase the risk of hypoglycaemia (low blood glucose) because they increase the amount of insulin in your body. They can sometimes cause side effects, including weight gain, nausea and diarrhoea.

Pioglitazone

Pioglitazone is a type of thiazolidinedione medicine (TZD), which make your body’s cells more sensitive to insulin so more glucose is taken from your blood.

It’s usually used in combination with other oral diabetes medication. It may cause weight gain and ankle swelling (oedema).

You shouldn’t take pioglitazone if you have heart failure or a high risk of bone fracture.

Gliptins (DPP-4 inhibitors)

Gliptins work by preventing the breakdown of a naturally occurring hormone called GLP-1.

GLP-1 helps the body produce insulin in response to high blood glucose levels, but is rapidly broken down.

By preventing this breakdown, the gliptins (linagliptin, saxagliptin, sitagliptin and vildagliptin) prevent high blood glucose levels, but don’t result in episodes of hypoglycaemia.

You may be prescribed a gliptin if you’re unable to take sulphonylureas or glitazones, or in combination with them. They’re not associated with weight gain and are often used with other oral diabetes medication for those who are obese.

Insulin treatment

If glucose-lowering tablets aren’t effective in controlling your blood glucose levels, you may need to have insulin treatment.

This can be taken instead of or alongside your tablets, depending on the dose and the way you take it.

Insulin comes in several different preparations, and each works slightly differently. Your treatment may include a combination of these different insulin preparations.

Insulin injections

Insulin must be injected because it would be broken down in your stomach like food and unable to enter your bloodstream if it were taken as a tablet.

If you need to inject insulin, your diabetes care team will advise you about when you need to do it.

They will show you how to inject it yourself, and will also give you advice about storing your insulin and disposing of your needles properly.

Insulin injections are given using either a syringe or an injection pen, also called an insulin pen (auto-injector). Most people need between two and four injections of insulin a day.

Your GP practice or diabetes nurse will also teach a relative or a close friend how to inject the insulin properly.

You can read more about insulin and how to inject it on the Diabetes UK website.

Treatment for low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia)

If you have type 2 diabetes that’s controlled using insulin or certain types of tablets (e.g. sulfonylurea), you may experience episodes of hypoglycaemia.

Hypoglycaemia is where your blood glucose levels become very low.

Mild hypoglycaemia (a “hypo”) can make you feel shaky, weak and hungry, but it can usually be controlled by eating or drinking something sugary.

If you have a hypo, you should initially have a form of carbohydrate that will act quickly, such as a sugary drink or glucose tablets.

This should be followed by a longer-acting carbohydrate, such as a cereal bar, sandwich or piece of fruit.

In most cases, these measures will be enough to raise your blood glucose level to normal. You should aim for a hypo to be treated and to recheck your blood glucose level within 15 minutes.

If blood glucose still less than 4mmol/l then repeat the treatment using a fast acting carbohydrate. When your blood glucose returns to normal then have your longer acting carbohydrate.

If you develop severe hypoglycaemia, you may become drowsy and confused, and you may even lose consciousness.

If this occurs, you may need to have an injection of glucagon into your muscle or glucose into a vein. Glucagon is a hormone that quickly increases your blood glucose levels.

You may require input from a health care professional. If the glucagon is not successful, you may require an injection of dextrose into your vein.

Your diabetes care team can advise you on how to avoid a hypo and what to do if you have one.

Other treatments

If you have type 2 diabetes, your risk of developing heart disease, stroke, foot problems, eye and kidney disease is increased.

To reduce your risk of developing other serious health conditions, you may be advised to take other medicines, including:

  • anti-hypertensive medicines to control high blood pressure
  • a statin, such as simvastatin or atorvastatin, to reduce high cholesterol
  • low-dose aspirin to prevent a stroke
  • an angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, such as enalapril, lisinopril or ramipril, if you have the early signs of diabetic kidney disease

Diabetic kidney disease is identified by the presence of small amounts of albumin (a protein) in your urine. If treated early enough, it may be reversible.

Monitoring blood glucose levels

If you have type 2 diabetes, your GP or diabetes care team will need to take a reading of your blood glucose level about every two to six months.

This will show how stable your glucose levels have been in the recent past and how well your treatment plan is working.

The HbA1c test is used to measure blood glucose levels over the previous two to three months.

HbA1c is a form of haemoglobin, the chemical that carries oxygen in red blood cells, which also has glucose attached to it.

A high HbA1c level means that your blood glucose level has been consistently high over recent weeks, and your diabetes treatment plan may need to be changed.

Your diabetes care team can help you set a target HbA1c level to aim for. This will usually be less than 53 mmol/mol (7%) or individualised as agreed with your diabetes team.

Read more about the HbA1c test

Monitoring your own blood glucose

If you have type 2 diabetes, as well as having your blood glucose level checked by a healthcare professional every two to six months, you may be advised to monitor your own blood glucose levels at home.

Even if you have a healthy diet and are taking tablets or using insulin therapy, exercise, illness and stress can affect your blood glucose levels.

Other factors that may affect your blood glucose levels include drinking alcohol, taking other medicines and, for women, hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle.

A blood glucose meter is a small device that measures the concentration of glucose in your blood. It can be useful for detecting high blood glucose (hyperglycaemia) or low blood glucose (hypoglycaemia).

If blood glucose monitoring is recommended, you should be trained in how to use a blood glucose meter and what you should do if the reading is too high or too low.

Blood glucose meters aren’t currently available for free on the NHS but, in some cases, blood monitoring strips may be. Ask a member of your diabetes care team if you’re unsure.

Diabetes UK also provides further information about the availability of blood glucose test strips.

Regularly monitoring your blood glucose levels will ensure your blood glucose is as normal and stable as possible.

As your blood glucose level is likely to vary throughout the day, you may need to check it several times a day, depending on the treatment you’re taking.

In home testing, blood glucose levels are usually measured by how many millimoles of glucose are in a litre of blood.

A millimole is a measurement used to define the concentration of glucose in your blood. The measurement is expressed as millimoles per litre, or mmol/l for short.

A normal blood glucose level is 4-7 mmol/l before meals (preprandial) and less than 8.5 mmol/l two hours after meals (postprandial), although this can vary from person to person.

Your diabetes care team can discuss your blood glucose level with you in more detail. It’s important to know your individual targets.

Type 2 diabetes and life expectancy

Recommendations for increasing life expectancy in people with diabetes are similar to management and prevention tips.

1. Eating healthfully

A person should limit the consumption of foods that contain simple sugars, such as juices and candies, as these can cause blood sugar spikes.

Also, it is better to eat complex, rather than simple, carbohydrates. These are in whole grains and legumes, for example.

People should also limit their alcohol intake. A doctor will advise on diet and alcohol consumption.

2. Exercising

The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommend that adults get at least 150–300 minutes of moderately intense aerobic exercise each week, such as brisk walking or dancing.

3. Losing weight

In people with excess weight, losing 5–10 percent can significantly reduce the impact of diabetes.

4. Monitoring and treating blood sugar levels

Tracking these levels allows a person to identify peaks, and they can then address the cause. Also, medications such as metformin can help stabilize blood sugar levels, but only if a person takes them as the doctor prescribes.

5. Following the treatment plan

This includes attending regular screenings and following the doctor’s instructions about lifestyle strategies and medications.

Blood glucose monitoring kits are available for purchase online.

6. Managing cardiovascular risks

Many health conditions can increase the effects of diabetes, such as kidney and heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Cardiovascular disease is the main cause of death among people with diabetes.

For people with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, 2018 guidelines recommend that doctors prescribe medications for these issues as part of an overall diabetes treatment plan.

7. Preventing infections

Share on PinterestRegular hand​-washing can reduce the risk of infections.

People with diabetes have a higher risk of developing infections, such as influenza, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections.

An infection that is relatively minor in a person without diabetes can become life-threatening in a person with the disease.

Also, skin wounds can take longer to heal, and if they become ulcerated, amputation may be necessary. This can reduce a person’s life expectancy, according to the research charity Diabetes UK.

To prevent these complications:

  • practice good hygiene, including hand-washing
  • get routine vaccinations to protect against the flu and other illnesses
  • check the feet and the rest of the body regularly for wounds that may need attention
  • seek medical help early for infections, including chest infections

8. Reducing stress

Stress stimulates the release of hormones that can raise blood sugar and interfere with insulin regulation. Yoga, meditation, and speaking with a mental health professional or counselor can help combat stress.

9. Other healthful lifestyle choices

These include getting enough sleep and refraining from smoking.

10. Learning about diabetes

Share on PinterestLearning how to manage diabetes can improve a person’s quality of life and lower the risk of complications.

A 2016 meta-analysis that included data from over 13,000 people found that those who engaged in self-management diabetes plans appeared to have longer life expectancies than those who did not.

Learning about the condition can equip people to manage their diabetes more effectively than if they are solely dependent on their healthcare provider.

In a self-management education program, a person learns the skills they need to manage their condition. This can improve quality of life, reduce costs, and reduce the risk of complications, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Anyone interested should ask a doctor about programs in their area.

Why and How the Body Ages With Diabetes — and How to Help Extend Your Longevity and Boost Your Quality of Life

Eat a healthy diet. There’s no specific diabetes diet, but consuming more fruits, veggies, and whole grains and fewer animal products, sweets, and processed foods can help you control your blood sugar and prevent complications. It’s also important to stay hydrated throughout the day. A registered dietitian can help you create a meal plan.

Check your blood sugar level often. Checking your blood sugar level regularly throughout the day can help you gauge how well you’re controlling diabetes. Ask your doctor how many times you should check daily, as there’s no one-size-fits-all approach.

Take medicines on schedule. It’s important to take your medicines exactly as directed by your doctor. Some of them are time released. Try not to skip doses and never use more or less of a medication without checking with your physician. (16,17)

Quit bad habits. Quitting smoking and limiting drinking can lower your chances of developing diabetes complications. (5,18)

See your doctor regularly. Don’t skip doctor’s appointments. Your healthcare provider can help you monitor type 2 diabetes better if you make your visits a priority.

Create reminders. Setting alarms or putting other systems in place to alert you when it’s time to have a meal or take your medicine can help keep you on track.

Be prepared for low blood sugar. Always carry glucose tablets or gels or juice boxes in case you experience a low blood sugar episode. If you have episodes of low blood sugar for too long, there can be serious complications, such as seizures, loss of consciousness, or even death. (19)

Lower your stress level. Stress can negatively impact your health and blood sugar level. (20) Certain activities like meditation or yoga may help you lower your stress level. (21)

RELATED: 6 Surprising Alternative Treatments That Worked for People With Type 2 Diabetes

What We Don’t Know About Aging with Diabetes

Today, people with diabetes are living longer, healthier lives, thanks to improvements in treatment and care. (12,22)

While there’s still a lot that researchers don’t know about how this disease affects a person’s health later in life, they do know that proper management is key for a good prognosis.

The bottom line: Taking care of yourself as you age could help you live better with type 2 diabetes.

Don’t Freak Out! 10 Things to Know If You’ve Been Diagnosed with Type 2

  • Get a yearly kidney function test
  • Keep a close eye on your feet, especially if you have neuropathy or a lack of sensation, and have your provider inspect them at least once a year (more if you have neuropathy).
  • Have your blood pressure checked every time you see your provider, and your cholesterol checked annually (more frequently if your levels are high).
  • See your dentist twice per year for regular cleanings and prevent tooth and gum disease by brushing and flossing every day, not just one week before you go to the dentist!
  • Learn all you can about diabetes…knowledge is power!

    Attend one of our in-person conferences (), explore our online video library here, check out our extensive blog archives here or grab a copy of Dr. Edelman’s 5th edition of Taking Control of Your Diabetes by calling our office at 800-998-2693.

    3. Diabetes Is Not Your Fault

    Don’t blame yourself for developing type 2 diabetes, and don’t let anyone else blame you either. It is not caused by laziness or a lack of will power. Eating sweets didn’t do it. Type 2 diabetes is a genetic disease. And when you have these genes, certain factors – like being overweight – can trigger it. More and more people are becoming heavier and developing type 2 diabetes because most jobs now require little physical activity, life is more stressful, and too many foods tempt us that are high in calories, large in size and much too convenient. Your genes and the environment are the major culprits, but that doesn’t mean you are now helpless to protect your health. So read on!

    4. Ignoring It Won’t Make It Disappear

    You can’t feel diabetes when it is out of control, so you may think you don’t need to worry about it. But diabetes ignored and left unmanaged can cause damage to your body. Yes, odds are good that you can live a long, healthy life with diabetes, but only if you are working to control it now, not sometime later. So see your doctor regularly, take all of your medications, stay active, and learn more about the foods you eat. For your health, get involved in your own diabetes care.

    5. Knowing Your Numbers Should be Your First Step

    To manage diabetes, there are so many things you will be advised to do and change. No wonder it can feel so overwhelming. You can’t do everything at once, so where should you start? Begin by making sure the critical diabetes tests are being done and that you, not just your doctor, know the results.

    After all, you can’t know what to do differently if you don’t first know how you’re doing. At the very least, find out about your blood pressure, cholesterol and A1c numbers. You need to know what your numbers mean and what you and your doctor can do to get, or keep, those numbers in a safe range.

    Check out the videos below for more info:

    What Should My Target Blood Pressure Be?

    What’s an A1c and Why Is It Important?

    What the Heck is a Lipid Panel?

    Goals for each test will vary for everyone individually, and will depend on your current health and your health history, so be sure to discuss your results and your personal goals with your healthcare provider.

    6. No, You Won’t Be Limited to Eating Nuts, Twigs and Birdseed!

    You can still eat your favorite foods, just not all at once. Boring diets are no longer necessary and there is no need to deprive yourself. However, attention to the size of your meals is critical. You will also need to learn more about the contents of the food you typically eat (carbs, fat and calories), which foods you should eat more or less of, and how those foods affect your blood glucose and overall health.

    Here are a few recipes and resources to explore:

    Chef Robert Lewis, the Happy Diabetic Chef

    Diabetes Daily

    Diabetes Strong

    Diabetes Self Management Magazine

    Diabetic Foodie

    7. Not Taking Your Prescribed Medications Is a Dangerous Thing to Do

    From the first day of a diagnosis, most people require medications to keep diabetes in check and maintain good health. Many people worry that taking medications might be bad for their health as well as too costly. Yes, there are diabetes medications that have negative side effects, but these are typically outweighed by the positive benefits to your long-term health. To stay healthy, your goal shouldn’t be to take fewer medications, but to make sure your numbers (A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol) are in a safe range. Talk about the pros and cons of medications with your doctor, and ask about other options, especially if they are too bothersome or expensive. Then you can make an informed decision.

    8. Protecting Your Heart Should Be Your First Concern

    Heart disease is the major health concern for people with type 2 diabetes. Attention to lowering the risk for heart problems is the main reason why people with diabetes are living longer than ever. According to scientific studies, the most important areas to address, in order of importance, are smoking, blood pressure, cholesterol, A1c, and fitness. Talk to your doctor about your risk and what you can do.

    9. Focus on Developing a Healthier Lifestyle, Not Weight Loss

    Increasing your fitness and choosing healthier foods (for example, more fruits and vegetables, smaller portions, and less saturated fats) will have a bigger impact on your diabetes and heart health than losing weight. This is good news, since weight loss can be frustrating and difficult. Of course, exercising more and making smarter food choices may lead to a lower weight over time. But keep the focus on improving your health, not just improving your weight.

    10. Don’t Do Diabetes Alone

    Life with diabetes is just easier when you have people in your life cheering you on. Good diabetes care takes attention and effort, and you may at times feel overwhelmed, discouraged, isolated or even burned out. Your motivation can be sapped by the stresses of daily life or even problems with depression, which are common in people with diabetes. To protect yourself, make sure you identify at least one person in your life who will support you and your efforts to manage diabetes. It could be anyone: a family member, good friend, trusted healthcare professional, or support group. Also, find a doctor you really trust, can be honest with, and feel is on your side. Living well with diabetes is always easier when someone you like and respect is cheering for you.

    Here are a few ways you can involve people you love, or find new friends in the DOC (diabetes online community) who totally get you:

    Finding Support When You Have Diabetes Burnout

    The Online Diabetes Community

    With all of the information, medications and resources we have today, people with diabetes have an excellent chance of avoiding serious complications and can live a long, healthy, and happy life!

    From the Behavioral Diabetes Institute and TCOYD

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