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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

Healthy Living with Diabetes

If you have diabetes, there are some lifestyle choices you should make that will help you manage your diabetes and reduce the symptoms and complications. It’s important to talk to your healthcare professional about what’s right for you, but some manageable ways to improve your lifestyle are:

Make a Commitment to Yourself

Start improving your health today by making a commitment to do everything you can to manage your diabetes.

  • Learn all you can about diabetes
  • Make healthy eating choices at every meal
  • Get physical activity every day
  • Seek out a diabetes educator to help you through your treatment plan
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it

Control Your Blood Pressure & Cholesterol

  • Eating a healthy diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol and exercising every day can help you control high blood pressure and cholesterol.

  • If you’re on medication for blood pressure and cholesterol, take it regularly.

Quit Smoking

  • Smoking increases your risk of various diabetes complications, including heart attack, stroke, nerve damage and kidney disease.

  • According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes who smoke are 3 times more likely to die of cardiovascular disease than people with diabetes that don’t smoke.

  • Talk to your healthcare professional about how you can learn to quit smoking or stop using other types of tobacco.

  • Learn more about our smoking cessation program . . .

Maintain Your Health

  • Floss and brush your teeth at least twice a day, and don’t forget to go to the dentist regularly—at least twice a year

  • One complication of diabetes is gum infections and disease. Taking care of your teeth and gums will minimize your risk of this type of complication.

  • If your gums bleed or look swollen, contact your dentist right away and let him or her know that you suffer from diabetes.

Get Your Annual Physicals

Just because you see a doctor for diabetes doesn’t mean you can avoid going to your primary care doctor and your eye doctor for regular, annual exams. It is important that you see your doctors every year for a routine physical and an eye exam. Make sure your primary care physician knows that you have diabetes, so he or she will look for diabetes-related complications during the exam.


Make sure your immunizations are up-to-date. It’s important for people with diabetes to get a flu shot every year, and get a tetanus booster shot every 10 years. Your doctor may recommend the pneumonia vaccine or other immunizations as well.

Your Eyes

It is important to see your eye doctor every year for an eye exam. Your eye doctor should know about your diabetes, so he or she will know to check for signs of retinal damage, cataracts and glaucoma.

Your Feet

Diabetes can cause foot and leg complications, so it’s important to pay close attention to your feet. Wash your feet every day in lukewarm water, and dry them gently. Don’t forget to dry between your toes, because moisture can collect there and cause problems. You can use lotion on your feet, but do not put it between your toes. Check your feet every day for blisters, cuts, sores, redness or swelling. If you find a sore or other foot problem that doesn’t begin healing within a few days, consult your doctor right away.


Check with your diabetes management team about how to safely add alcohol to your lifestyle. Depending on how much you drink and whether you eat along with it, alcohol can cause both high and low blood sugar. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so only in moderation, and only drink with a meal. Also, don’t forget to include the calories from any alcohol you drink in your daily calorie count.

Manage Stress

Stress is not good for your health or your diabetes management. Stress may sidetrack you and you may forget your usual diabetes management routine. Also, stress produces hormones in your body in response to prolonged stress, and these hormones can prevent insulin from working properly. This can make your diabetes worse.

To combat stress, organize and prioritize your life. Don’t be afraid to say no to requests for your time if you have too much on your plate. It’s also important to learn how to relax and to get plenty of sleep.

Alert Others to Your Diabetes

  • Wear a medical alert bracelet to let others know you have diabetes.

  • Make sure your friends and family know that you have diabetes, and teach them what to do for a low blood sugar emergency.

Stay Positive

Diabetes doesn’t have to keep you down. A positive healthy attitude can make this disease easier to handle. Remember, your attitude something you can control. The healthy lifestyle habits you adopt now can help you enjoy an active, healthy life with diabetes.


If you would like to schedule an appointment with an endocrinologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, you may call the Physician Referral Service at 1-877-926-4664 or request a first time appointment online.

Last UpdateAugust 4, 2011


To make an appointment with a physician, please call 1-877-926-4664.

New patients can request an appointment online.