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Top 10 Ways to Increase Diabetes Life Expectancy

Live Longer and Better Despite Diabetes

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Updated August 07, 2009

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

With diabetes becoming more prevalent, our children, for the first time in history, could have shorter life expectancies than their parents. This doesn’t have to be. On average, diabetes will shorten life expectancy 7.5 years (for diabetic men aged 50) to 8.2 years (for diabetic women of 50). But you don’t have to be “average.” Typically, less than 60% of diabetics take medications correctly. So following the doctor’s orders is one step to beating the odds. Also, most people aren’t living healthy. Be different! Don’t skip health screenings, practice good nutrition, stay active. Here are some tips to get started:

1. Take Your Medicine

Medications
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It is shocking how many people get medicine prescribed from a doctor and then simply don't take it. Medications (and surgery) are the main tools that doctors have to help people get well. If you have been prescribed medication (or lifestyle changes), the single best thing you can do for your life expectancy and to manage your diabetes is, well, take your medicine. It's not as easy as it sounds -- take some time to read up on how to create a strong, daily medication habit.

2. Eat Right

Healthy Foods
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Nutrition and eating is a huge part of living longer and healthier with diabetes. There are a lot of different diets and approaches to eating well with diabetes. Keep in mind that the best diet is the one you stick to. Talk with your doctor, your friends and read up on these diet approaches for diabetes.

3. Good Shoes

Shoes
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Diabetes can wreak havoc with your circulation and your feet are one of the first places to show damage. One thing you can do to prevent damage to your feet when you have diabetes is to wash your feet daily in warm water, use lots of moisturizer, check your feet carefully for blisters and other problems and, most importantly, make sure your shoes actually fit. Making sure your shoes fit, are comfortable and don't damage your feet of one of the simplest things you can do to live better with diabetes.

4. Exercise

Noel Hendrickson / Getty Images
Everyone needs to exercise, but people with diabetes not only need to exercise to increase their life expectancy and improve their health (just like everyone else), people with diabetes also need to exercise to help manage their diabetes. That’s right, exercise helps your body balance blood sugar. Exercise daily and follow these guidelines. If you need more inspiration, learn about some hidden benefits of exercise.

5. Prevent Other Diseases

Talking with Doctors
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It would be great, no it would be fair, if having diabetes meant you would be protected from cancer or heart disease. But the simple fact is that just because you already have one chronic illness, doesn’t mean you have any special protection from other illnesses. In fact, you may even have an increased risk of other chronic illness because of diabetes. What you can do is get screened for all the other illnesses and health conditions appropriate for your age group. Don’t get so caught up in your diabetes that you forget to get a mammogram or a prostate exam. Here’s a list of common screenings that you should talk about with you doctor -- and don't forget to see your eye doctor each year; diabetes can increase the risk of eye problems.

6. Sleep More

Man Sleeping
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Not only does sleep help you feel well rested (and help your body balance hormones and make repairs), it’s just a simple fact that if you are well rested and have energy, you will be much less likely to break your good health habits. We tend to abandon healthy habits when we are feeling tired or stressed. By actively working to improve/maintain sleep and keep stress at bay, you can set yourself up to succeed at all the healthy things you want to work into your life. Try these tips for a good night’s sleep.

7. Fun Ways to Live Longer

Glass of Red Wine
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Living longer and increasing your life expectancy doesn't have to be a chore. There are some very fun things you can do that may help you live longer. Here's a quick list of healthy and fun things: chocolate, sex and red wine. Find out what fun you have been missing out on!

8. Brush and Floss

Floss for a Longer Life
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Diabetes may leave you with a higher risk for gum disease. Weirdly, flossing not only keeps gum disease away, but it also may increase your life expectancy. That's right, daily flossing can add a few years to your life. So, in addition to a regular trip to the dentist, floss everyday and take good care of your teeth.

9. Get Technical - Anti Aging Foods

Acai Berry
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Now, if you have mastered the above (which would already put you ahead of about 99% of all people), there are still a few things you can do to maximize your life expectancy despite diabetes. Here is where all the buzz in the media about antioxidants and life extension come into play. If you are feeling like really pushing the envelope, consider working these anti-aging foods into a balanced diet for people with diabetes. Also, consider bitter melon and Tai Chi.

10. Laugh for a Longer Life

Smile More and Be Happy
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Can just laughing increase your life expectancy? Maybe, it's certainly worth a try. While the evidence isn't very strong for the curing power of laughing, there is certainly no harm in laughing more in your life. In fact, there are a few studies that show that laughing and having a good time can reduce your stress levels and have you healthier than before.

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