Diabetes is for keeps. Once you have it, it’s going to be with you for the rest of your life. But that doesn’t mean you’ll be sick for the rest of your life. Diabetes is a disease that you can manage. You can live a healthy life with it—if you do the right things.
First, you need to know basic facts about diabetes. There are different kinds, but in all of them your blood has too much sugar. Type 2 diabetes is the most common. If you came down with diabetes as an adult, this is probably the type you have. You may have to take insulin, or you may not. In type 1 diabetes, which appears before adulthood, you must take insulin.
With all types of diabetes, you need to be careful about what you eat. You must take medicine exactly as the doctor or nurse tells you. And you need to develop healthy habits. This means not only eating the right foods but exercising, too.
If you think you don’t have enough money to buy healthy food, think again. The same goes for exercise. You don’t need a lot of time, or a gym membership, to get the exercise you need. You just need a plan. And you need to stick with it.
Here are some tips for living a healthy life with diabetes:
Cook from scratch. You know how important it is to eat the right food when you have diabetes. You may also have heard that healthy food is expensive. That’s just partly true. It can be hard to find healthy “convenience” food that’s ready to eat if you just pop it in an oven or boil some water. But if you can cook that food yourself from the raw ingredients, you can save money and eat right. Diabetes expert Ann Williams puts it this way: “Healthy food isn’t much more expensive than unhealthy food, but you have to work at it.”
Don’t know any good recipes? Don’t worry. There are plenty of books (and websites) that can help you. Ask a librarian to recommend some. See if your local library can get you a copy of Diabetes Meals on $7 a Day or Less!, a book put out by the American Diabetes Association.
Shop smart. Once you’ve learned some healthy recipes with low-cost ingredients, you’ll be a better shopper too. At the grocery store, you’ll find that some sections have most of the healthy food and others should be avoided. Smart shoppers spend a lot of time in the produce section. Look for fruits and vegetables on sale, and stick with those that are in season. That’s usually when they’re cheapest. If you can’t get fresh produce, check out the frozen food aisle for bargains. And here’s one more bit of advice: Don’t shop when you feel hungry. You’re likely to spend too much on food that’s fun to eat but doesn’t do you much good.
Don’t skimp on medicine to save money. Drugs to help you control diabetes can put pressure on your budget. Williams says many people are tempted to skip doses to save money. Don’t do this: The medicine works only if you take it as prescribed. If you have trouble paying, go to your doctor and ask about a “medication assistance program.” If you qualify for one of these, a drug company may provide free medicine for you.
Build exercise into your life. Do you say to yourself, “I know I need to exercise, but I don’t have time"? You’re not alone. Most of us have important things to do. It’s not easy to put them off so that we can take 20 to 30 minutes a day to work out. And if you’re really out of shape, even a 20-minute workout, like a brisk walk, can seem like too much. But here’s some good news: You don’t have to put in all that time. Just do what you can. Any exercise is better than none. And if you keep at it, youre workouts will get longer.
Also, you don’t need to take a break from your daily routine to exercise. Try instead to find ways to build more activity into that routine. Try walking more when you do errands. Try dancing while you dust—when you clean the house, put some music you like on the radio and move to it. If you have children or grandchildren, play with them when you get the chance. See if there’s a program in your area where you can volunteer to walk dogs. You can learn about these at the website www.walkahound.org.