Diabetes doesn't have to stop you from leading the life you want, nor does it mean you'll necessarily have other serious health problems in the future – particularly if you manage your condition carefully.
There are many things you can do to minimise your risk of these problems.
The most important steps are ones you take to prevent or delay health complications associated with diabetes. These include:
- Stop smoking. Smoking in diabetes causes the most and the worst diabetic complications.
- Keep blood pressure under 130/80. Consider buying your own machine to monitor this.
- Keep cholesterol under control. Your GP may recommend that you need to take a statin. Some people, particularly diabetics, just produce too much cholesterol, even if they eat a perfect diet.
- Get active for at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week. This helps you to stay at a healthy weight and to maintain general good health. Think of a 30-minute exercise session as one of your daily medications - and walking is free! You can get discounted gym membership at Connaught Leisure Centre or Aldershot Pools if you prefer.
- Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. This will help control your blood glucose level, as well as your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet that's low in fat, salt and sugar. A low GI diet is great for reducing sugar levels in diabetes, and tasty too.
- Involve yourself in your diabetes care and monitor your sugar levels as advised by the diabetic team. Please remember to bring your readings to appointments, so they can plan the best treatments for you.
- Keep your appointments with your diabetic care team. Regular check-ups once every three to six months - depending on your level of diabetes control - with an annual review, are very important parts of managing your diabetes and an opportunity for you to find out how you are doing.
- Ensure you attend your diabetes eye screening (diabetes retinopathy screening) annually..3
- Check your feet! The nerve damage that can occur in diabetes most commonly affects feet.
Advise your GP or nurse if you have any infections or athletes foot, as they may need treating earlier in diabetics.
Without taking these measures, you are putting yourself at an increased risk of health problems, which could force you to change your lifestyle entirely.
If you have been prescribed medication as part of your diabetes treatment it is essential that you take it as instructed, including the correct doses of insulin, if you are on this.
Key blood test results
The amount of sugar sticking to your red blood cells is reflected in your HbA1c blood test result. This measurement is the cornerstone of how good your diabetes control is. Your personal target should be discussed with your doctor or nurse.
Your cholesterol level should be at or below 4mmol/l when fasting.
There is a structured education programme available if you have just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The DESMOND (Diabetes Education and Self-Management for Ongoing and Newly Diagnosed) course is available in English and in Nepali.
The largest charity focused on diabetes research in the UK, providing guidance and support, whether you have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, whatever your age, or if you just want to know more about diabetes.
Diabetes and driving
You must inform the DVLA if you have a medical condition that affects your driving. Failing to do so could leave you facing prosecution in the event of an accident.
For more information on this, visit the relevant sections of the Government's or Diabetes UK's websites.