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You’ve Got Diabetes: Now What? Part 1

Medically Approved by Dr. Edward Salko

Table of Contents

a nurse is teaching a client who is newly diagnosed with diabetes mellitus
Expert’s Corner“Diabetes is a life-changing diagnosis, but you do have a lifetime to work on it. The sooner you learn how to work on it appropriately, the better off your quality of life is going to be,” says Dr. Edward Salko, Personalabs Medical Director.
“But it’s only when you know you have diabetes that you can start to make the changes you need to,” he continues. “Congratulations on taking that all-important preliminary step: getting tested.”

Diabetes mellitus is a lifelong condition that could impact your lifestyle. However, that’s not to say that you can’t live your life to the fullest if you have this metabolic condition. If you follow the newly diagnosed diabetes guidelines your doctor provided, you can sustain a healthy life and gracious aging. 

Here are the essential steps you should consider after learning that you have diabetes. 

Step 1: Slow Down and Breathe

Receiving your diabetes mellitus diagnosis can stir some negative emotions, whether anger, fear, regret, guilt, or confusion. After all, diabetes can lead to fatal complications, and it is yet to have a cure. 

But you can mentally reassure yourself that diabetes is manageable. Hence, it’s not entirely hopeless, and you can still take control of your health. 

When processing the news, employ effective breathing techniques if you’re feeling anxious or internally panicking. Calm yourself by doing brief mindful meditations. Once you’re in a receptive state of mind, you can easily absorb the next steps for managing a newly diagnosed diabetes.  

Step 2: Ask Relevant Questions

Do not hold yourself back when trying to understand the condition. Your doctor will orient you about the diagnosis, but you might have specific questions on how the diabetes developed, its type, medication, limitations, etc.

For example, you must know what type of diabetes you have. Is it type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus? And what’s the difference between the two? 

By raising these questions, you’ll learn that type 1 diabetes is driven by genetic factors and can happen at any age, even as young as 4 to 19. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is typical among older demographics. A combination of poor lifestyle choices, existing medical conditions, and genetic disposition can trigger it. 

Other questions you should ask your doctor include the following:

  • What treatment is involved in managing a newly diagnosed diabetes?
  • How much do medications cost? Does insurance cover diabetes treatment?
  • What lifestyle adjustments should I follow?
  • How frequently should I be tested for monitoring diabetes?
  • What other symptoms should I watch out for?

Depending on the progression of the chronic condition, you might be working with medical experts other than your primary care provider. These may include a dietitian, an endocrinologist, and an eye doctor. 

Step 3: Learn From Other People With Diabetes

Aside from getting medical answers from your doctor, you can understand life with diabetes by asking people who have had the disease for quite some time. 

Someone in your family could have been previously diagnosed with the condition. Ask them questions about the actual symptoms, their personal coping strategy, and daily routine. 

If no one in your social circle has diabetes, call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) for general information. Additionally, read online resources from reliable websites to learn about diabetes. 

Step 4: Get Ready to Monitor Your Blood Sugar Level

Living with diabetes means you’ll have to get into the habit of checking your blood glucose regularly and keeping a daily log. 

You can use a blood glucose meter to keep track of your blood sugar levels. You can record the test results in a notebook, an online sheet from your computer, or even an online app. All these depend on which one you find more comfortable and doable. 

When it comes to which kit you should get and how to use it, talk to your doctor directly. You must understand how to interpret the results yourself. Plus, how frequently you should test must also come from your doctor’s instruction. 

Diabetic person checking their glucose level
Pro tip: Aside from the strip kit and other glucose monitoring devices, a glucose blood test may be necessary, especially if your doctor requires a more accurate result that takes into account a specific factor. Learn more about what sets the blood glucose test apart from other diabetes tests.

Step 5: Plan to Eat Right & Move More

Being a diabetic doesn’t always mean drastically changing everything you eat or sacrificing the things you can’t live without. But it does mean taking a closer look at your carbohydrate intake. 

You’ll want to adopt a holistic diet, including vegetables, whole grains, fruits, non-fat dairy foods, healthy fats, and lean meats or meat substitutes. But you’ll have to eat them all in moderation.

With your healthcare provider, you can work out a flexible plan – you don’t have to eat the same thing every day – but one you can count on. To control your blood sugar, it’s best to schedule regular snacks and avoid skipping meals.

Physical activity is another essential part of living healthy with diabetes. Moving more, no matter what you’re doing, will benefit your overall health and lower your blood glucose. But it’s aerobic exercise – like walking, swimming, dancing, or using a treadmill – that will improve your blood flow and help your insulin work better.

Pro tip: Incorporating exercise into your lifestyle can be tricky at first, especially if you’re not physically active to begin with. So, instead of engaging in strenuous workouts, try light physical activities you can do at home

Step 6: Discuss Medications With Your Physician

Managing your glucose levels through insulin, nutrition, and exercise can effectively put your diabetes in your control. Many people with type 2 diabetes can manage their diabetes through diet and exercise alone. But in addition to lifestyle changes, some people with diabetes need to take medications: pills and sometimes insulin, as well.

Which medication you should take will depend on many factors your doctor will determine. Hence, it’s vital to get the prescription directly from your doctor instead of attempting to self-medicate using medicines with no approved therapeutic claims. 

If you have any concerns, don’t hesitate to voice them out. Plus, if you experience unusual symptoms upon taking a particular medicine, inform your doctor immediately. 

Step 7: Be Aware of Potential Complications

Too many times, diabetes is not diagnosed until it’s already done some harm. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

If you know you’ve got diabetes or are pre-diabetic, here are some issues you’ll want to be aware of so you can put a stop to them at their earliest stages:

  • Eye problems, including glaucoma & cataracts
  • Foot nerve damage (neuropathy) causes loss of feeling
  • Skin infections & disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease & stroke
  • Gum disease

Other possible complications include hearing loss, digestive problems caused by nerve damage in the stomach (gastroparesis), and depression.

Your risk of developing diabetes complications depends on the severity of the condition when it was diagnosed and your diligence in following the management plan. 

In most cases, people who develop complications that lead to amputation, vision problems, and heart disease fail to adjust their lifestyles and maintain medication. 

Step 8: Keep Getting Tested

Everyone could benefit from regular health screenings, but if you have diabetes, they’re critical. During your annual physical exam or a regular wellness test, your primary care provider will likely check the following:

  • Your blood pressure (it should be below 130/80 mm/Hg)
  • Your hemoglobin A1c every 3-6 months 
  • Your cholesterol and triglyceride levels once a year (LDL should be between 70-100 mg/dL) 
  • Your kidney function 
  • Your eyes for diabetic retinopathy 
  • Your teeth and gums every six months
  • Your feet at each visit to your healthcare provider

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you still live a normal life with diabetes?

Yes, you can still maintain a normal life with diabetes, provided that you follow the prescribed treatment plan. For example, if you have been newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you will likely have to regulate your sugar intake and carbohydrate food sources. In most cases, you don’t have to remove them from your diet completely. Instead, you will be advised to eat them in moderation and with high levels of consciousness. 

What to do when newly diagnosed with diabetes?

Upon confirming that you have diabetes, the first thing you need to do is prepare yourself mentally and emotionally for the following medical steps. You should work closely with your provider to determine the proper treatment, including the appropriate medication and lifestyle adjustment.   

Can diabetes be cured permanently?

There is no permanent cure for type 2 and type 1 diabetes yet. However, treatment to slow the progression is available, and new clinical trial tests are being carried out to explore other measures. 

The Bottom Line

To be newly diagnosed with diabetes can change key aspects of your life, but not enough to disrupt your ability to live with satisfaction. Simply follow the treatment plan and be more conscious of the food you eat, how much you exercise, and habits you need to give up. Work closely with your primary care provider and educate yourself about diabetes to continue taking control of your health.

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