How a healthy lifestyle affects diabetes

healthy lifestyle tips

Type 2 diabetes is related to insulin resistance, meaning the body either does not produce enough insulin or the insulin is ineffective and unable to regulate blood glucose levels adequately. The disease is typically diagnosed based on blood glucose levels and is often related to family history, unhealthy lifestyle, weight, exercise and diet.

There are many different treatment options available for Type 2 diabetes including lifestyle, a variety of oral and injectable medications, and insulin therapy. Patients should work with a health care team to determine what treatment plan is best.

The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists recommends lifestyle therapy as the first line of therapy for those newly diagnosed with prediabetes and/or type 2 diabetes.

What is lifestyle therapy?

Lifestyle therapy focuses on five main areas: nutrition, physical activity, sleep, behavioral support and smoking cessation:

  • Nutrition — Losing five to seven percent of your body weight can lead to significant improvements in your blood glucose levels.
  • Nutrition — Follow a high-fiber meal plan composed of plant foods (fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, whole grains), healthy fats and lean proteins while limiting refined-grains, processed foods, added sugars.
  • Physical activity — Strive for 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise and strength training.
  • Sleep: Aim for at least seven hours sleep per night.
  • Behavioral support — Develop a support plan and community engagement opportunities.
  • Smoking cessation — Avoid all tobacco products.

Nutrition plays a key role in the management of blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates are the nutrients that have the greatest effect on our blood glucose levels. Carbohydrates are not “bad,” as our body does need carbohydrates to function and have energy. However, the type of carbohydrates we eat are very important.

Healthy carbohydrates are high in fiber and nutrients, such as beans, fruits, yogurt, oatmeal, intact grains, sweet potatoes and green peas. Unhealthy carbohydrates are usually refined grains that are low in nutrients and may have added sugars, such as cookies, cakes, crackers, white bread, white pasta, chips, etc. Choosing healthy portions of healthy carbohydrates as part of a balanced eating plan is an important component of diabetes management.

Working with a registered dietitian and/or certified diabetes educator can help to provide the information, tools and support you need to implement healthy lifestyle changes and stick with them in the long run. The Outpatient Diabetes Education program at UF Health Jacksonville is a fantastic resource and conveniently located within UF Health General Medicine – Jacksonville. Participants have an individual assessment, attend classes covering diabetes self-management training, a three month follow-up and an annual follow-up. There is also the opportunity to receive one-on-one medical nutrition therapy with our dietitian.

For more information about UF Health Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism – Jacksonville, call 904-244-0411 or visit