It's about time we all faced a hard truth: Diabetes is on the rise and shows no sign of stopping.  And this isn’t just a disease for later in life. The number of people under 20 years old living with type 2 diabetes grew 95% from 2001-2017.[1]

Along with the rapid rise in diabetes diagnoses, diabetes management is also changing. Of course, it’s always a good idea to work with your doctor, but there are plenty of healthy habits you can adopt today to get your health back on track. 

Read on for some of the most essential and practical habits to get you started on your diabetes management journey. 

Forming Healthy Habits with Diabetes

Getting a diabetes diagnosis can be overwhelming. Especially when there’s so much conflicting information out there. That’s because the term “healthy habits” means something different for everyone, depending on where you get your information.

Luckily, there are a few tips and science-backed habits that you can start today. Here’s where to start: 

Research Where You Can Find Support

When learning to manage your diabetes, your first step is researching exactly where you can find support. And there are a lot of different resources these days, from apps, support groups, meal plans, practitioners, health technology, and specialized coaching programs.

Committing some time to research will show you the vast support network available and provide you with several options.

Talk With Your Health Care Team About the Kind of Diabetes That You Have

There’s not just one type of diabetes. So, understanding what type of diabetes you have offers insight and direction when it comes to the nutrition and lifestyle habits that are right for you.

While your healthcare team will do all they can, it’s ultimately up to you to make changes. So, having the right information to guide your journey is crucial. 

Your primary care physician can guide you in general terms and provide the information you need regarding diabetes medications. But when it comes to dietary changes, exercise, and other lifestyle habits, you might want to seek out specialists. 

Learn More About How to Care for Yourself When You Have Diabetes

When it comes to proper diabetes management, it's crucial to keep in mind that what works for your friend or relative may not work for you. Everyone's body is unique, and your current habits and desires play a role in your ability to create long-term goals and practices. 

This means learning to care for yourself according to what’s realistic, what you already enjoy, and what drives you. For example, if your doctor or coach wants you to eat more protein, it’s important to choose protein sources you enjoy. The same goes for exercise, stress reduction techniques, and so on. 

7 Top Diabetes Management Habits

Whether you’re managing diabetes or simply trying to regulate blood sugar a promote metabolic health, there are a handful of habits that everyone can benefit from: 

Create A Meal Plan

Diet is a critical factor in managing blood sugar levels. Your diet not only sets that stage for healthy blood sugar levels but also impacts your mental health, energy levels, sleep quality, and more. So, getting clear on a meal plan that works for you is vital in managing diabetes. 

Since the narrative around the best diet for diabetes management is so confusing, it might help to find a nutritionist or coach who can help. A good coach will not only give you a meal plan, but will make sure it’s realistic. After all, who needs a meal plan full of complex recipes when you hate cooking?

A pre-determined meal plan takes the stress out of eating for blood sugar control. Plus, planning ahead and having the right foods on hand will help you maintain healthier habits and ensure you won't opt for an entire cereal box just because your hunger caught you off-guard.

Try a Low-Carb or Keto Diet 

Diabetes is a complicated disease. But, it’s well-established that maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is the best way to manage it without complications.[2]

Since carbohydrates are the primary food source to raise blood sugar levels and release insulin into your bloodstream, it makes sense that low-carb diets can help.

Low-carb and keto dieting offer benefits like: [3,4,5]

  • Better blood sugar management 
  • Reduced medication needs
  • Weight-loss support
  • Improved A1c levels (a blood sugar biomarker)
  • Reduced sugar cravings 

Low-carb and keto dieting can be so successful that some people need to adjust their diabetes medications. To avoid serious issues with your medications, discuss any dietary changes with your doctor.

Regularly Test Your Blood Sugar

In addition to fine-tuning your diet and creating a meal plan, the best habit for managing diabetes is regularly testing your blood sugar.

You can take all the appropriate steps to turn your health around, but if you're not tracking and testing your blood sugar, you'll never know what's actually working (and what may be making things worse). 

The best way to test your blood sugar is with a blood sugar meter. There are plenty of meters on the market, but for the most effective tracking, find one that includes an interactive app and BlueTooth so you can keep all of your real-time data in one place. 

Don't Skip Meals, Especially Breakfast

In the fast-paced society that we live in today, it's easy to run out of the house without eating breakfast or to work right through lunch. While anyone could benefit from taking the time to enjoy three meals a day, this becomes twice as important for people with diabetes. 

In fact, research shows that people with type 2 diabetes tend to have more pronounced insulin resistance in the morning, making breakfast the most consistent "problem" meal of the day. To get ahead of blood sugar highs or lows later in the day, make sure to eat a breakfast that's rich in protein, moderate in fat, and low in carbohydrates. This will set the stage for glucose control throughout the day and help you avoid sugar cravings and crashes.[6]

Protect Your Sleep Schedule

Keeping a regular sleep schedule is one of the most important things you can do for overall health and wellbeing, especially if you've been diagnosed with diabetes. 

Your sleep schedule aligns with your "circadian rhythm" — your body's internal clock that regulates things like hunger, sleep-wake cycles, hormones, and more. And one hormone affected by your circadian rhythm is insulin.

Research shows that sleep issues are associated with insulin resistance and diabetes due to sleep's impact on glucose tolerance.[7,8]

Some research even suggests that a single night of partial sleep deprivation can lead to changes in insulin sensitivity.[9]

Avoid Excess Stress 

Stress is an often-overlooked factor that can impact your metabolic pathways. Although it may seem to be "all in your head," stress actually has biological roots that can affect your blood sugar control via its impact on hormones.[10]

Finding ways to manage stress will not only have a beneficial impact on your blood sugar, but it will support your overall health and wellbeing. 

Some research-backed ways to manage stress include:[11,12,13,14]

  • Deep breathing
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Exercise
  • Yoga  
  • Talking with a loved one or social support

Visit Your Doctor Regularly

Finally, regularly visiting your doctor will help you keep an eye on your diabetes management plan. Your doctor can call for tests that provide you with the correct information to ensure that your new habits are working in your favor. This allows you to tweak what may not be working and create a more profound commitment to what is. 

The Takeaway

A diabetes diagnosis offers you an opportunity to learn more about your body, and how to best work with your physiology to support health and longevity. 

Some of the most impactful practices include diet management, meal planning, and keeping a consistent eye on your blood sugar with a blood sugar meter. Other helpful lifestyle factors include stress management and maintaining a regular sleep schedule. 

Most important, however, is to remember that you don't have to go it alone. Work with qualified health care practitioners to ensure that you stay on track and that your new habits provide your body with the shifts it needs to attain your health goals.

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