Stay Healthy

It’s very important to take your diabetes medicines exactly as directed. Not taking medications correctly may lower the level of glucose and cause the insulin in your body to go up. When this happens, medicines become less effective when taken. Some say the reason they stop taking medicines or don’t take them as prescribed is the medicines make them not feel well. Tell your doctor if your medicines are making you sick. Your doctor may be able to help you deal with side effects so you can feel better. Don’t stop taking your medicines, because your health depends on it.

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Blood Glucose

How does maintaining healthy blood glucose levels help people with diabetes stay healthy?

Research studies in the United States and other countries have shown that controlling blood glucose benefits people with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. In general, for every 1% reduction in results of A1C blood tests (e.g., from 8.0% to 7.0%), the risk of developing eye, kidney, and nerve disease is reduced by 40%.

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Blood Pressure

How does maintaining a healthy blood pressure level help people with diabetes stay healthy?

About 60% of adults with diabetes have high blood pressure or use prescription medications to reduce high blood pressure. Maintaining normal blood pressure—less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)—helps to prevent damage to the eyes, kidneys, heart, and blood vessels.

Blood pressure measurements are written like a fraction, with the two numbers separated by a slash. The first number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats (systolic pressure); the second number represents the pressure in the vessels when your heart is at rest (diastolic pressure).

In general, for every 10 mm Hg reduction in systolic blood pressure (the first number in the fraction), the risk for any complication related to diabetes is reduced by 12%. Maintaining normal blood pressure control can reduce the risk of eye, kidney, and nerve disease by approximately 33%, and the risk of heart disease and stroke by approximately 33% to 50%. Healthy eating, medications, and physical activity can help bring your high blood pressure down.

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How does maintaining healthy cholesterol levels help people with diabetes stay healthy?

Several things, including having diabetes, can make your blood cholesterol level too high. When cholesterol is too high, the insides of large blood vessels become narrowed, even clogged, which can lead to heart disease and stroke, the biggest health problems for people with diabetes. Maintaining normal cholesterol levels will help prevent these diseases and can help prevent circulation problems—an issue for people with diabetes.

Have your cholesterol checked at least once a year. Total cholesterol should be less than 200; LDL (“bad” cholesterol) should be less than 100; HDL (“good” cholesterol) should be more than 40 in men and more than 50 in women; and triglycerides should be less than 150. Healthy eating, medications, and physical activity can help you reach your cholesterol targets. Keeping cholesterol levels under control can reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications of diabetes by 20% to 50%.

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Diabetes Distress

Why is it important for people with diabetes to learn how to cope with diabetes distress?

Managing diabetes can be overwhelming. You may worry about all you have to do to take care of yourself, like checking your blood sugar levels often, making healthy food choices, being physically active, and making other decisions about your health. When all of this feels like too much to handle, you may have diabetes distress. This is when worry, frustration, and burnout make it hard for you to keep up. Pay attention to how you are feeling and ask for help from your health care team and your loved ones.

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Flu Shot

Why is it important for people with diabetes to get an annual flu shot?

Diabetes can make the immune system more vulnerable to severe cases of the flu. People with diabetes who get the flu may become very sick and may die. You can help keep yourself from getting the flu by getting a flu shot every year. Everyone with diabetes—even pregnant women—should get a yearly flu shot. The best time to get one is between October and mid-November, before the flu season begins.

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Other Vaccinations

Why are vaccinations important for people with diabetes?

People with diabetes (both type 1 and type 2) are at higher risk for serious problems from certain vaccine-preventable diseases. Getting vaccinated is an important step in staying healthy.

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Quit Smoking

How does quitting smoking help people with diabetes stay healthy?

Smoking puts people with diabetes at particular risk. Smoking raises your blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure, all of which people with diabetes need to be especially concerned about. When you have diabetes and use tobacco, the risk of heart and blood vessel problems is even greater. If you quit smoking, you’ll lower your risk for heart attack, stroke, nerve disease, kidney disease, and oral disease.

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Routine Tests

What routine medical examinations and tests are needed for people with diabetes?

Your doctors should:

  • Measure your blood pressure at every visit.
  • Check your feet for sores during every visit, and give a thorough foot exam at least once a year.
  • Give you a hemoglobin A1C test at least twice a year to determine what your average blood glucose level was for the past 3 months.
  • Test your urine and blood to check your kidney function at least once a year.
  • Test your blood lipids (fats)—total cholesterol; LDL, or low-density lipoprotein (“bad” cholesterol); HDL, or high-density lipoprotein (“good” cholesterol); and triglycerides at least once a year.

You should also get a dental checkup twice a year, a dilated eye exam once a year, an annual flu shot, and a pneumonia shot.


How does maintaining a healthy body weight help people with diabetes stay healthy?

Most people newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are overweight. Excess weight, particularly in the abdomen, makes it difficult for cells to respond to insulin, resulting in high blood glucose. Often, people with type 2 diabetes are able to lower their blood glucose by losing weight and increasing physical activity. Losing weight also helps lower the risk for other health problems that especially affect people with diabetes, such as heart disease.

How does exercise help people with diabetes stay healthy?

Physical activity can help you control your blood glucose, weight, and blood pressure, as well as raise your “good” cholesterol and lower your “bad” cholesterol. It also can help prevent heart and blood flow problems.

Experts recommend moderate-intensity physical activity for at least 30 minutes on 5 or more days of the week. Talk to your health care provider about a safe exercise plan. He or she may check your heart and your feet to be sure you have no special problems. If you have high blood pressure, eye, or foot problems you may need to avoid some kinds of exercise.

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Page last reviewed: April 6, 2018