If making dietary and lifestyle changes do not help maintain a healthy blood sugar level, doctors may advise Trusted Source a person to take medications. However, if someone receives a diabetes diagnosis as an older adult and their blood sugar is only mildly elevated, medications may not be necessary.
In this article, we examine how to control type 2 diabetes without medication. We also look at the causes of type 2 diabetes and when people may need medication to manage their condition.
A 2020 study reports that healthy lifestyle practices could benefit people with type 2 diabetes or risk factors for the condition. Such measures may delay or prevent its development, as well as treat or potentially put it into remission. This method of controlling blood sugar can be so effective that the study’s authors call it lifestyle medicine.
The following healthy lifestyle practices may help reduce blood sugar levels:
1. Pursue weight management
In people with overweight or obesity, significant weight loss may reduceTrusted Source blood sugar from the diabetic to the nondiabetic range.
Two ways to manage weight are eating a healthy, balanced diet and engaging in regular exercise. The key to weight loss involves consuming fewer calories than the body uses for activities and physiological processes.
2. Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet consists of eating nutritious foods in appropriate portion sizes while avoiding or limiting non-nutritious foods.
Foods for people to eat may include:
- whole grains, such as oatmeal, brown rice, and whole grain bread
- fruits and vegetables
- non-fried fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and lake trout
- lean meat, such as sirloin and white meat from chicken or turkey
- nontropical vegetable oils, such as olive oil
- unsalted nuts and seeds
- legumes, such as beans and peas
- low fat dairy products
Foods and ingredients for people to limit may include:
- sugary foods and beverages, such as candy, cakes, jelly, honey, sodas, sweet tea, fruit drinks, and concentrated fruit juices
- sweet food additives, such as high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose, fructose, and sucrose
- processed and fatty meats, such as bacon, hot dogs, and fatty cuts of beef and pork
- salty foods
- partially hydrogenated and trans fat foods, such as shortening, hard margarine, microwave popcorn, frozen pizzas, desserts, and coffee creamer
- saturated fat, such as foods containing palm oil or coconut oil
The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends a diet similar to the Mediterranean diet, which focuses on:
- whole grains
- olive oil
- fatty fish
A 2020 review notes that following this eating plan improves blood sugar control.
3. Get regular exercise
Exercise promotes blood sugar management and burns calories, which contributes to weight loss. Physical activity also increases insulin sensitivity, which helps blood sugar to enter the cells from the bloodstream.
People should aim to get 30 minutes of moderate physical activity per day on most days, totaling at least 150 minutes each week. Experts classify a brisk walk as moderate exercise. Alternatively, 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity is equally beneficial.
4. Stop smoking
Doctors advise people to stop smoking to help blood sugar control for several reasons. Smokers have a 30–40% higher risk of developing diabetes than nonsmokers. Smoking also makes exercise more challenging.
Smoking also raises blood sugar temporarily, which poses an additional challenge in maintaining nondiabetic blood sugar levels. This increases the likelihood of a person developing complications of diabetes, such as kidney disease and nerve damage.
5. Manage stress
Research in 2019 suggests that although stress does not cause type 2 diabetes, it can worsen it. Stress stimulates the release of hormones that interfere with the body’s blood sugar regulation. It also makes a person more likely to engage in practices that make it harder to manage blood sugar, such as overeating and smoking.
One way to reduce stress involvesTrusted Source taking a break from electronics and spending time in nature.