Ditch the butter—go for olive oil. Switching can make a marked impact on cholesterol, especially for those who have trouble reducing overall fat intake, says Ganda. The saturated fat in butter raises blood cholesterol and the risk of cardiovascular problems; olive oil is a monounsaturated fat that can reduce bad cholesterol. A diet heavy in olive oil may even bring down the chance of developing diabetes. A study published this month in Diabetes Care tracked 418 non-diabetic Spanish adults over four years who ate either a traditional Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, their normal Mediterranean diet supplemented with fat from nuts, or a low-fat diet. By the end, between 10 and 11 percent of those in the two Mediterranean groups had developed diabetes compared with 18 percent in the low-fat group.
Kick the habit. Smoking is a major factor in atherosclerosis, which frequently puts diabetics in the hospital when an artery becomes blocked and causes a heart attack, stroke, or other vascular problem. Smoking also raises blood pressure and cholesterol. And a diabetic who smokes has a greater risk of pneumonia and of having a worse case.
Fend off depression. "This is a chronic illness where patients are reminded daily they have diabetes," says Tom Donner, acting director of the Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center. "That's a taxing burden." Depression is dangerous for diabetics because it can make them feel as if they have no control over their illness, says Robert Rizza, executive dean of research and a diabetes specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. That may make them feel so helpless they might not stick to their medications or show up for doctor visits. Yoga or meditation can reduce the stress, and a special interest or activity—a book club, fantasy football, birdwatching—can let you again take pleasure from life, making your disease more manageable.
Most complications stemming from diabetes are preventable; the key is to understand and manage the illness from Day 1 to keep minor complications from becoming major. Diabetes is a time bomb, says Rizza. "It's ticking," he says, "and unless you're taking care of it...you'll end up in the hospital."