Lifestyle Modifications for Diabetic Retinopathy: Diet, Exercise, and Blood Sugar Control

Posted on December 15, 2023 • by RCA • in RCA Featured Blog Posts

Originally published by Palmetto Retina Center

If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you may be at risk for diabetic retinopathy. If untreated, this condition can lead to serious vision impairments and permanent blindness. The good news is that making lifestyle adjustments to your diet, physical activity, and diabetes management can not only help you maintain your general health, but also prevent or slow the progression of diabetic retinopathy, preserving your vision for many years to come.

The Importance of Blood Sugar Management With Diabetic Retinopathy

A complication of diabetes, diabetic retinopathy occurs when high levels of sugar in the blood damage the tiny blood vessels of the retina. Blood sugar management is important for patients with diabetes in general, but the threat of diabetic retinopathy truly ups the ante. Diabetes can also lead to or exacerbate a wide range of other vision problems, such as cataracts and glaucoma. As such, consistently monitoring your blood sugar levels and keeping them stable by taking all medications as prescribed is essential. You should also maintain a healthy blood pressure.

Eating Healthy for Diabetic Retinopathy

With diabetic retinopathy, what and how you eat is a crucial aspect of controlling, preventing, or slowing down the progression of the disease. In addition to eating foods high in essential nutrients, it’s also strongly recommended that you stick to a regular and consistent eating schedule, as this helps your body better use insulin. When choosing foods with diabetic retinopathy in mind, some good options include:

  • Healthy carbohydrates, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (e.g., beans, peas, and lentils)
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Foods high in dietary fiber, as it helps your body digest other foods and controls blood sugar levels
  • Lean proteins, such as poultry and eggs; for vegetarians and vegans, tofu, legumes, nuts, and seeds are good sources of plant-based protein
  • Heart-healthy fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines
  • Foods with healthy fats, like avocados, nuts, and olive oil.
  • Avoid or significantly limit foods and beverages with added fats, sugars, saturated or trans fats

Diabetic Retinopathy and Physical Activity

Engaging in more physical activity has been shown to delay the onset and progression of diabetic retinopathy, protecting the retina and reducing inflammation. It’s advised that people with diabetes get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as swimming or bicycling. However, be sure to discuss all new exercise and physical activity routines with your doctor beforehand.

Get Regular Diabetic Eye Exams

Patients with diabetes and high blood pressure should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once a year. Regular annual diabetic eye exams make it much more likely that diabetic retinopathy is caught in its earliest stages, making treatment more likely to be effective. However, if you experience any sudden vision changes, like blurriness or visual distortions, don’t wait for your annual eye exam – schedule an appointment with your ophthalmologist or a retina specialist right away.

Lifestyle Changes May Improve Diabetic Retinopathy

By modifying your diet, physical activity, and general health, you may be able to control diabetic retinopathy and preserve your vision. For advanced diabetic retinopathy care, find a Retina Consultants of America doctor near you.