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."