5 research-based ways to support those living with type 2 diabetes

The Bottom Line

  • Globally, more than 420 million people live with diabetes, highlighting the importance of effective disease management.   
  • Get up and get moving. Aerobic exercise, yoga, tai chi, and ba duan jin may help regulate various types of blood sugar, among other physical and mental health outcomes.   
  • Consider diabetes self-management programs; they can have small but beneficial impacts on blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol, especially when they are tailored to the individual.   
  • Know how to recognize signs of foot disease, check and clean your feet every day, wear shoes, and regularly consult a health care professional.  
  • Add technology to your management journey. Mobile apps and wearable technology may improve blood sugar control, with the latter also showing the potential to increase physical activity levels. 
  • Tap into the experiences and expertise of others with type 2 diabetes. Peer support may help people to reduce their blood sugar levels.  

“Diabetes is one of the biggest global health crises of the 21st century.”

These powerful words were spoken by Dr. Margaret Chan, former Director-General of the World Health Organization (1). Around the world, over 420 million people live with diabetes, and this number is gradually rising. Type 2 diabetes in particular accounts for the vast majority of diabetes cases (2). Type 2 diabetes is a chronic illness, meaning that folks who live with this diagnosis may face a long-term battle coping with a number of potential symptoms and side effects. However, type 2 diabetes can be successfully managed, and finding new and effective ways to do so is likely a top priority for this who live with this disease day in day out.

Do you or someone you know have type 2 diabetes? Click on the links below to learn more about some of the different strategies that can help in managing the disease and avoiding related complications.

1. Make exercise a part of your routine

Exercising on a regular basis is important for both the prevention and management of type 2 diabetes. On the management end, aerobic exercise can lower blood sugar levels and enhance fitness, especially when performed over longer periods of time or at higher intensities (3).

For those looking to start with a slower paced activity, or to spice up their current routine, yoga and exercises based in traditional Chinese medicine—such as tai chi and ba duan jin—may be worth a try (4;5). Research indicates that yoga may improve blood sugar control, and decrease blood pressure, body mass index (BMI), and cholesterol (4). Similarly, the potential individual benefits of tai chi and ba duan jin on factors such as blood sugar, BMI, quality of life, and symptoms of depression have also been shown. Building up to 150 minutes per week (or half an hour five times a week) of exercise is particularly effective (5).

2. Try a diabetes self-management program

Diabetes self-management programs can help older adults with type 2 diabetes lower their blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol by a small amount. But not all programs measure up. The most effective programs are individualized programs that match the needs and goals of the person, and those that include a focus on mental health (6).

3. Pay attention to your foot health

Individuals with diabetes face challenges around maintaining the health of their feet. This is often the result of nerve damage that can occur due to diabetes. To prevent foot disease, knowing the signs that indicate that something is wrong is important. Keep note of any times where you lose feeling in the feet or experience tingling and numbness. Second, daily foot care is a must, including monitoring (checking for wounds, cracks, blisters, dryness, and toenail changes), cleaning, and moisturizing. The good news is it can also be done at home. Other tips include wearing shoes, not being barefoot, and regularly having your feet assessed by a professional (7;11).

4. “Plug into” the tech

Dear gadget lovers you are in luck! Technology can play a role in improving diabetes outcomes. Take for example wearable technology—such as pedometers or fitness trackers. Research shows that these devices can help users to improve blood sugar levels, certain aspects of blood pressure, and BMI by a small amount when added to one-on-one counselling with goal setting focused on increasing physical activity (12).

Smartphones are another modern day gizmo to consider adding to your self-management toolkit. Why? Well, mobile phone apps may help folks achieve better control of their blood sugar levels, while potentially providing remote access to feedback from their health care provider (13;14).

5. Learn from your peers

It is often said that people are experts in their own experience. If this is true, than in addition to understanding and support, those who live with type 2 diabetes have a wealth of knowledge they can share with others coping with the same life-long challenge. Indeed, evidence shows that peer support may help individuals to lower blood sugar levels, especially when received frequently and in a one-on-one format (15).

From exercise to foot health to peer support, a variety of strategies and techniques are available to assist those living with type 2 diabetes in better controlling their blood sugar levels, as well as managing other aspects of their health and well-being.

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  1. Chan M. Obesity and diabetes: The slow-motion disaster Keynote address at the 47th meeting of the National Academy of Medicine. [Internet] 2016. [cited June 2020]. Available from https://www.who.int/dg/speeches/2016/obesity-diabetes-disaster/en/
  2. World Health Organization. Global report on diabetes. Geneva (CH): World Health Organization; 2016. 88 p. Report No.: ISBN 978 92 4 156525 7. 
  3. Grace A, Chan E, Giallauria F, et al. (2017). Clinical outcomes and glycaemic responses to different aerobic exercise training intensities in type II diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Cardiovasc Diabetol. 2017; 16(1):37. doi: 10.1186/s12933-017-0518-6. 
  4. Thind H, Lantini R, Balletto BL, et al. The effects of yoga among adults with type 2 diabetes: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Prev Med. 2017; 105:116-126. doi: 10.1016/j.ypmed.2017.08.017.  
  5. Yu X, Chau JPC, Huo L. The effectiveness of traditional Chinese medicine-based lifestyle interventions on biomedical, psychosocial, and behavioural outcomes in individuals with type 2 diabetes: A systematic review with meta-analysis. Int J Nurs Stud. 2018; 80:165-180. doi: 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2018.01.009. 
  6. Sherifali D, Bai J, Kenny M, et al. Diabetes self-management programs in older adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Diabet Med. 2015; 32(11):1404-1414. 
  7. Canadian Diabetes Association Clinical Practice Guidelines Expert Committee. Clinical practice guidelines: Foot care. Can J Diabetes. 2013; 37:S145-149.  
  8. Sharma S, Kerry C, Atkins H, et al. The Ipswich Touch Test: A simple and novel method to screen patients with diabetes at home for increased risk of foot ulceration. Diabet Med. 2014; 31:1100-3.
  9. Lavery LA, Higgins KR, Lanctot DR, et al. Home monitoring of foot skin temperatures to prevent ulceration. Diabetes Care. 2004; 27:2642-2647.
  10. Ahmad Sharoni SK, Minhat HS, Mohd Zulkefli NA, et al. Health education programmes to improve foot self-care practices and foot problems among older people with diabetes: A systematic review. Int J Older People Nurs. 2016; 11(3):214-239. doi: 10.1111/opn.12112. 
  11. Singh N, Armstrong DG, Lipsky BA. Preventing foot ulcers in patients with diabetes. JAMA. 2005; 293:217-228.
  12. Vaes AW, Cheung A, Atakhorrami M, et al. Effect of ‘activity-based’ counseling on physical activity and health-related outcomes in patients with chronic diseases: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Annals of Medicine. 2013; 45:397-412. 
  13. Hou C, Carter B, Hewitt J, et al. Do mobile phone applications improve glycemic control (HbA1c) in the self-management of diabetes? A systematic review, meta-abalysis, and GRADE of 14 randomized trials. Diabetes Care. 2016; 39(11):2089-2095. 
  14. Cui M, Wu X, Mao J, et al. T2DM self-management via smartphone applications: A systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS One. 2016; 11(11):e0166718. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166718. 
  15. Qi L, Liu A, Qi W, et al. Effectiveness of peer support for improving glycaemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Public Health. 2015; 15:471. doi: 10.1186/s12889-015-1798-y. 

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