5 ways of improving your quality of life if you have diabetes

It’s no fun having diabetes. It can feel like diabetes increases your risk of almost every major health condition, while diabetes management can take hours out of your day on a consistent basis.

Medication can keep diabetes in check, but without decrying the benefits medication has, it can be exhausting to stick to a regimen, especially one that requires self-adjustment. All in all, it is very easy for people with diabetes to feel down on any given day.

This is why it is so important to make sure you have a good quality of life. By having a high quality of life, you’ll focus less on the negative aspects of diabetes and feel happier in yourself.

This may sound easier said than done, but here are some straightforward ways of improving your quality of life if you have either type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

1. Set yourself achievable targets

There’s nothing worse than when your doctor tells you that your HbA1c, diet, weight or other lifestyle choices are not up to scratch, and then sets you daunting targets to get back on the right track.

If your blood sugar levels have recently been quite erratic, aim to assess why this is the case and what could be causing these fluctuations. Taking this extra time to work out why you may be having regular highs or lows can help regulate your glycemic control. Once you have found the cause, you can then focus on trying to keep your blood sugar levels within the target range.

Similarly, if you have been recently struggling with weight loss, or certain aspects of dietary and/or lifestyle changes, focus on small improvements in the short-term. Small improvements are more attainable if you’ve hit a stumbling block, and can give you a necessary boost before resuming your long-term target.

2. Be in control

A 2013 survey of our Diabetes Forum members found that those with type 1 diabetes who felt more in control had fewer hypos and less anxiety over complications. There is no reason why these findings can’t be applied to type 2 diabetes.

As mentioned earlier, being told by your doctor that your diabetes management needs to improve can be depressing. It’s easy to think “I’m a failure”. However, forcing yourself to take a more positive outcome – such as “I will improve” – can be much more effective in improving your diabetes control. Start with those aforementioned small steps to reinforce your new attitude, as results will be easier to achieve in the short-term.

3. Eat a healthy diet

Processed foods aren’t good for anyone. While the excess sugar in some processed foods can provide a short-term sense of pleasure, they are linked with poor long-term health and can be packed with harmful additives.

A healthy diet is essential for someone with diabetes – processed foods should feature as little as possible. If you regularly eat processed foods, set an achievable target to wean yourself off them.

One diet that many people find useful for controlling blood sugar levels and aiding weight loss – both of which can make you feel much better about yourself, and your diabetes – is the low-carb diet.

Research is continually backing the low-carb diet’s benefits for people with diabetes. We recently released the Low Carb Program to enable people to take control of their diabetes and improve their health and wellbeing in the short and long term.

4. Get regular exercise

We get it. Unless you enjoy exercise, it feels like more of a chore than normal household chores do. We’ve also heard all the reasons people don’t exercise: “I don’t have the time”, “Exercise doesn’t work for me” etc.

The bottom line, though, is that exercise is very good for you. It can improve blood sugar levels, help you lose weight and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

If you struggle for time, do short bursts of exercise. This has been shown to improve HbA1c levels in type 2 patients, which can make you feel much better about yourself. Furthermore, exercising three times a week can improve the quality of life for overweight people with type 2, while supervised walking using a pedometer can also make people feel better about their diabetes.

For people with type 1, exercising can improve insulin sensitivity. If your insulin is more effective, you may end up needing less medication. If you’ve recently been bogged down with your insulin regimen, doing some exercise could prove to be a useful boost. Why not try a new sport? Exercise can have more purpose for some people when playing sport. You can read all of our guides to sports and diabetes here.

5. Mindfulness

Mindfulness training can lead to greater quality of life for people with diabetes by addressing depression, stress and anxiety. It is a coping technique that can be particularly effective if you have recently been feeling overwhelmed regarding your diabetes management, and can help steer you in a more positive direction.

Mindfulness has also been clinically linked with improved blood sugar control as well as better psychological health.

What tips would you recommend to other people with diabetes to improve their quality of life? Let us know in the comments section below.

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About the author

Jack Woodfield

Jack is Editorial Manager of Diabetes.co.uk. He works hard, plays fair and sleeps whenever possible. He has type 1 diabetes, doesn't mind being called a "diabetic", and once won a talent show for dancing to Dario G’s 1997 hit “Sunchyme”.

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