I Just Got Diagnosed - Please Help Me!
No matter how much I write about diabetes – there is always one recurring question: I just got diagnosed, please help me!
When we’re diagnosed with diabetes, it may feel challenging to get a handle on our situation. This is pretty normal – there is a lot of information out there and our medical team may not have the most time to meet with us and answer our questions. What should we do? Where should we start?
Start with the Basics
It might be tempting to learn it all at once – but it’s okay if you take things slowly. For example, you can start by learning what diabetes is: Diabetes is a condition in which a person is not able to process glucose adequately. Our body turns food (mainly carbohydrates) into a simple type of sugar called glucose – which is the fuel on which it runs. This glucose then enters our red blood cells and muscle tissues thanks to a hormone called insulin. But in some persons, insulin may not work adequately, or it may not be present in large enough quantities. When this happens, the bloodstream becomes crowded with excess glucose – which given enough time, may lead to serious complications, such as cardiovascular disease, blindness, amputations, renal failure, and even death.
- Take Diabetes Seriously: Don’t be misled. At first, diabetes may not present a lot of symptoms. We might just feel tired or very thirsty. But uncontrolled diabetes is deadly. And it doesn’t have to be. Controlled diabetes can lead to a long and healthy life. This is because the changes we should make are changes which any healthy person should follow.
- Make lifestyle changes: Make positive changes to your diet, and exercise regularly. Consult a registered dietitian if you need help knowing where to start. No matter what medication we take to help manage diabetes, no other treatment is more effective than changes to our diet. Learning how the carbohydrates we consume can affect our blood glucose levels is key
- Take your medications regularly, and as directed by your doctor: Some medications work immediately, and some need time to help accumulate in our system. Some medications have some passing side effects, and others need to be carefully taken around meals or snacks in order to prevent low blood glucose. If you have concerns about any of your medications, ask to speak with your doctor before making any changes to your regimen
- Test your blood sugar regularly: When you test before and after meals, you learn how your glucose levels fluctuate. Ask to speak to a Certified Diabetes Educator – these are persons who are trained to meet with you, help assess your challenges, and meet your goals. They can help you understand what diabetes is, discuss your best treatment choices, and answer all your doubts and questions. Their time is dedicated to making sure you are empowered to manage your diabetes
- Meet with your medical team regularly: Managing your health now means you must care for ALL your health needs, from your teeth and your eyes, to your feet. You may want to get regular eye exams, regular dental exams, and regular feet exams
- Get check-ups and other testing regularly: Blood pressure, lipid profile, dilated eye exams, kidney function exams, A1C testing – these will be important in making sure your body is in working order
- Find a Support System: Include your loved ones in your diabetes journey – family or friends, or find a diabetes support group in your area.
- Get a Little Reading on the Side: You are not alone. It’s a lot of information to take on, and others have travelled this road before you. If you would like to do a little further reading – some good books to start are: Taming the Tiger: Your First Year with Diabetes; and The First Year: Type 2 Diabetes
Uncontrolled diabetes might be scary, but with the keys of knowledge, support, and an assertive medical team, you can put the tiger back in its cage.
Have you experienced any complications associated with your diabetes?