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How to reduce the risk of long-term complications with type 2 diabetes

Long-term health risks and the short-term actions that can improve your outlook

Managing type 2 diabetes can feel intimidating at first. There’s a lot to remember. Suddenly you’re learning about new medication names, numbers, and equipment. Not to mention the anxiety around potential long-term complications of a progressive disease.

By taking simple decisive actions on a day-to-day basis, to maintain good blood glucose levels, you can significantly boost your long-term health prospects1. Here are some helpful tips to get you started!

1. Long-term complication - Heart attack & stroke

Short-term action - Maintain stable blood sugar

High blood glucose is toxic to the body2. Therefore, a key part of type 2 diabetes management is to keep blood sugar levels in balance.

High blood sugar causes corrosion in the arteries, leading to a build-up of fats and cholesterol that restricts blood flow and increases the risk of heart attack and stroke2,3.

Maintaining a healthy blood glucose level (or Hb1Ac), around 6.5%, puts you in a strong position to avoid long-term complications4.

Read more about cardiovascular risk and type 2 diabetes.

2. Long-term complication - Foot damage & amputation

Short-term action - Walk regularly

A potential complication linked to diabetes is foot problems, including symptoms like nerve damage and sores that won't heal2. This is a result of poor blood flow and, if left untreated, can lead to amputation of the foot5.

A good preventative measure is to walk regularly to improve circulation6. Ask your doctor to examine your feet during each visit and, if possible, arrange a thorough foot examination every year2.

In general, it’s a good idea to walk at least 30 minutes a day, five times a week7.

3. Long-term complication - Obesity & cardiovascular disease

Short-term action - Understand nutrition

As well as destabilising your blood sugar levels, poor nutrition can also lead to weight problems. This places extra strain on the heart, which is already at higher risk of cardiovascular disease due to type 2 diabetes8,9.

In conjunction with regular exercise, a good place to start is a healthy meal plan. Book a consultation with a nutritionist who has experience with diabetes. Together, you can co-create a diet that’s healthy but also customised to your personal tastes.

By regulating your diet and physical exercise, and therefore your blood glucose levels, you can help to reduce your chances of developing severe long-term complications1.

Read more about how to manage type 2 diabetes with diet.

If you need help getting your health under control, speak to your doctor about revising your type 2 diabetes management plan.



1. Diabetes.co.uk. Diabetes life expectancy. Available from: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/diabetes-life-expectancy.html. Last accessed: January 2024.

2. Beckman J A, Creager M A and Libby P. Diabetes and atherosclerosis: epidemiology, pathophysiology, and management. The Journal of the American Medical Association 2002;287:2570-2581.

3. Libby P, Buring J E, Badimon L, et al. Atherosclerosis (Primer). Nature Reviews: Disease Primers. 2019.

4. Diabetes.co.uk. Guide to HbA1c. Available at: https://www.diabetes.co.uk/what-is-hba1c.html. Last accessed: January 2024.

5. IDF Diabetes Atlas Report, 10th edn. http://www.diabetesatlas.org/ Last accessed: January 2024

6. Diabetic.org. Diabetes Legs: A Comprehensive Guide to Diabetes-Related Leg Problems. Available at: https://www.diabetic.org/diabetes-legs/. Last accessed: January 2024.

7. Hamasaki H. Daily physical activity and type 2 diabetes: A review. World J Diabetes. 2016 Jun 25;7(12):243-51. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v7.i12.243. PMID: 27350847; PMCID: PMC4914832.

8. Almdal T, Scharling H, Jensen J S, et al. The independent effect of type 2 diabetes mellitus on ischemic heart disease, stroke, and death: a population-based study of 13 000 men and women with 20 years of follow-up. Archives of internal medicine. 2004;164:1422-1426.

9. Committee ADAPP. 8. Obesity and Weight Management for the Prevention and Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes: Standards of Care in Diabetes–2024. Diabetes Care. 2023;47:S145-S157. doi: 10.2337/dc24-S008

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