Diabetes type 2 - The importance of a healthy lifestyle

Deirdre Coetzee, Manager, Intercare Centre for Lifestyle Management

There is no one specific cause for type 2 diabetes. It is a complex interaction of numerous genetic risk variants and lifestyle factors, such as diet and exercise. Increased physical activity, following a healthy eating plan, weight control and to stop smoking can be an investment in your health with endless rewards. Lifestyle interventions can reduce the risk of developing diabetes in high-risk individuals by 50%.

Experts who study behavioral change agree that long lasting change is most likely achieved when it is self-motivated and rooted in positive thinking. Therefore, to manage diabetes, it is important to prepare yourself for success by setting small goals and taking one step at a time.

The following 5 steps will help you on your way to successful healthy lifestyle changes.

  • Make a plan that will last
    Decide what you want to change, how and when you want to change it, set a time limit and have a plan B for anything that can be a stumbling block. For example: "I want to increase my physical activity. I will go for a 20 minute walk twice a week. In case of bad weather I will walk for 20 minutes in the nearest shopping mall. I will do this for a month and review my success."

  • Start small
    Set realistic goals. Don’t make several changes at once and work towards your end goal by setting smaller targets. For example: "I want to lose 20kg over a 12 month period. I will stop drinking Coke for the next month. After a month I will evaluate my success and will add another change to my diet or increase my physical activity."

  • Change one behavior at a time
    To make a lot of changes at once can be overwhelming and lead to failure. Choose the change that you are most comfortable with. If your first change attempt is successful, it will motivate you to take on the next one with confidence.

  • Choose someone to be involved
    This can be a loved one, friend, colleague or someone that shares the same goal. Sharing your challenges and successes with someone motivated and positive, can give you the support and understanding that is essential for success.

  • Find professional support
    Your health team can play an important role in achieving a healthier you. Minor blunders are normal, but the important thing is to get back on track and to follow through. If you struggle to achieve your goals, consider professional help.

Monitoring is essential to maintain initial lifestyle changes. The Intercare Centre for Lifestyle Management focuses on the prevention and management of chronic diseases. Health care professionals such as doctors, diabetes nurse educators, nurses, dieticians, biokineticists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists and clinical psychologists empower patients and their loved ones with knowledge, treatment plans, 24 hour help lines and emotional support to take control of their disease and to prepare them for “living” with diabetes.

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