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Living With Type 2 Diabetes

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last reviewed: October 2020.

Being diagnosed with a chronic disease like type 2 diabetes can be challenging. After you get over the initial shock of learning you have diabetes, you will likely have dozens of questions about how diabetes will affect your life and the actions you will need to take to take care of yourself.

Over the past few decades, important medical advances have helped people better manage diabetes. These days, there are more tools than ever before to help you monitor and control your blood glucose. In fact, even though you will always have to be careful about controlling your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels, most people with diabetes can:1

  • Continue to lead full and active lives
  • Enjoy the foods and activities they have always enjoyed
  • Take part in nearly any form of physical activity

Here are a few tips for making life with type 2 diabetes easier and more enjoyable.

Coping with type 2 diabetes

It is important to talk to your family and friends about your diabetes diagnosis so they can support you. It is helpful for them to know about your symptoms and the steps you need to take to stick to your treatment plan. This will help them understand what you are going through and can help you feel less overwhelmed. Your family and friends can also help you stay on track by reminding you to take your medicine and check your blood sugar, joining you in exercise, and preparing healthy meals with you. They can also go with you to doctor’s appointments if you would find that helpful.

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It is normal to feel frustrated or stressed about your diabetes from time to time. However, if these feelings are hard to overcome, it may be a sign that you need some extra help coping and finding tools to feel better. Talk to your doctor or a member of your healthcare team to let them know how you are feeling. They can help you find solutions to your concerns and connect you with other healthcare providers to get help.

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Finding support for people type 2 diabetes

Talking to other people with diabetes can help you feel less lonely and worried. Other people with diabetes can understand what you are going through and can provide a sense of support. In-person and virtual support groups, online communities, and blogs written by people with type 2 diabetes can be great places to ask questions, get advice, and learn tips about managing your condition. Ask your doctor about diabetes support groups and resources in your community or online.

Working with type 2 diabetes

Most people with type 2 diabetes continue to do the jobs they did before their diagnosis. Some people find that they may need to make adjustments to their schedule and work stations, such as setting aside time for blood sugar monitoring or getting a new chair to help with neuropathy.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) provides legal protection to people with diabetes. Under these laws, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against a person with a disability who is qualified for a given job, as long as they can carry out the required activities of the job with or without reasonable accommodations on the part of the employer.2

People who have diabetes are protected by the ADA because they are “substantially limited in the major life activity of endocrine function.” (Endocrine function means hormone system, and insulin is a hormone.) This applies whether you are able to control your blood glucose levels with insulin, medicine, or exercise and diet.2

Even though diabetes and related complications can interfere with your ability to work, it is important to know your rights in the workplace and your options in case you find it too difficult to continue to work. You may need to talk to your doctor to help you decide if workplace accommodations can help you stay in your job longer, whether you need to change jobs, work part-time, or leave the workforce and apply for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Managing finances with type 2 diabetes

Diabetes can be damaging to a person’s finances. It can be difficult to afford diabetes supplies, medicines, and healthy food you need to properly manage your diabetes. This can be even more difficult if you do not have health insurance or if your insurance does not cover the costs of your diabetes-related supplies.3

There are a number of government and prescription drug programs that can help you with the costs of your diabetes medicines and supplies. Talk to your doctor and pharmacist to get more information on programs that help people get insulin, diabetes medicines, and supplies like test strips and syringes. Finding financial support can help relieve the anxiety of how to afford the expenses associated with diabetes.

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Self-care and type 2 diabetes

If you have type 2 diabetes, there are several other steps you will need to take to reduce the chances of your lifestyle increasing your blood sugar levels or causing complications. A few of the common recommendations include:4

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Being physically active
  • Regularly monitoring your blood sugar
  • Taking your medicines/insulin as prescribed
  • Having good problem-solving skills
  • Maintaining healthy coping skills
  • Avoiding behaviors that put your health and well-being at risk

It is also important to remind yourself that life with diabetes is a marathon, not a sprint. As you work on your goals to keep your blood sugar in check, it is OK to pace yourself. If you never exercised before your diagnosis, try walking for short periods of time until you are able to handle 30 minutes at a time. Once a week, try introducing a new vegetable into your meal planning, or try replacing the butter in your favorite dish with heart-healthy olive oil. Over time, these small steps will make a big impact in your health and how well your diabetes is managed.

There are many factors of type 2 diabetes that are under your control. By taking an active role in your treatment and making healthy lifestyle choices, you can gain a sense of control and live your life to the fullest.