According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), 29.1 million Americans have diabetes and an additional 1.4 million are diagnosed each year. While nobody wants to learn they have a medical condition that requires lifelong management, an official diagnosis empowers you to get treatment and keep the disease from progressing. When it comes to diabetes, what you don’t know really can hurt you. The ADA estimates that 8.1 million of the 29.1 million people with diabetes have yet to be diagnosed.1 This is especially dangerous, because un-managed diabetes can cause health complications over time, including heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, foot ulcers, and eye damage. Serious complications can include diabetic ketoacidosis (i.e., a life-threatening condition where the blood acid/base balance is disrupted), diabetic coma, and even death.

If you are newly diagnosed, the Braden Diabetes Center is the ideal place to get up to speed. We provide the tools and techniques you to live a healthier life with diabetes. Our program is structured to help you understand diabetes, make healthy choices, and learn how to confidently manage your blood sugar in any situation.

Whether you have been told you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, your diagnosis is a life-changing event. That’s because to travel well through life with diabetes, you will literally have to change the way you live. The good news is, the changes you make in your diet, activity level, and daily routine will help you avoid the long-term complications of diabetes and live a longer, healthier life.

If you have just been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, you’ve been experiencing symptoms. Maybe you had to go to the emergency room. Perhaps you were even hospitalized. The truth is, unmanaged type 1 has clear, rapid, life-threatening consequences. You have to follow your treatment team’s recommendations as though your life depended on it because it literally does. There’s a learning curve to managing type 1 diabetes, but you will be surprised at how quickly your daily regimen becomes second nature. There are four components to the effective management of type 1 diabetes:

  • Blood glucose control and insulin management: In type 1 diabetes, the pancreas can no longer produce insulin. That means you will need to learn to monitor your blood glucose levels and administer your insulin. Your healthcare team will determine which insulin(s) and dosing schedule are best for you and whether you should use an insulin pen, syringe, or pump.
  • Exercise: Staying physically active is a key component of diabetes management.  Exercise helps stabilize blood glucose levels and reduce your risk of heart disease. It’s also a mood elevator that can help with those diabetes blues. Whatever your fitness level, there are plenty of ways you can get moving, even if it’s just a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program.
  • Nutrition: Diet is crucial to diabetes management. Working with a dietitian, you will discover how different foods affect you and learn to plan healthy, delicious meals that won’t spike your blood glucose. Your dietitian will teach you the basics, like what foods to generally avoid, and how to count carbohydrates.
  • Support: Many people with Type 1 diabetes participate in support groups. Sharing experiences, challenges, tips, new research, and recipes with people who “know the ropes” is especially helpful if you are newly diagnosed. Support groups are also available for the parents of a child with type 1 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is the serious medical condition some people don’t take seriously enough, especially when they are first diagnosed. Perhaps you were diagnosed during a routine checkup, or while you were in the hospital for something else. Maybe you took part in a free screening and were surprised by the result. The fact is, many people with type 2 diabetes are not experiencing symptoms when they are first diagnosed, and rationalize that having type 2 is “no big deal”. Unfortunately, unless it is properly managed, type 2 will progress and lead to complications that are a very big deal indeed. There’s a learning curve to managing type 2 diabetes, but over time, your daily regimen will become second nature. 

  • Weight loss: Although not every person who develops type 2 diabetes is overweight, many are, and excess weight is a definite risk factor for the disease. Your doctor may recommend that you lose weight. Even 10 or 15 pounds can have a positive impact on your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol. 
  • Medicine: Unless it is well managed, type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body either cannot use insulin properly or isn’t making enough insulin. Your doctor will likely prescribe medication to get your glucose in your target range. Some people with type 2 diabetes need to take insulin, either by itself or in combination with pills. If you have to go on insulin, your diabetes educator will help you learn to administer it. If you are prescribed pills, make sure to ask your doctor about dosing, when to take the pills, and whether to take them with food or on an empty stomach. Tell your doctor about any other medications you are currently taking to avoid the risk of potentially dangerous drug interactions.
  • Checking Blood Glucose: Your doctor will tell you when and how often to check your blood glucose.  A diabetes educator can show you how to perform the home glucose test and help you select a meter that is covered by your insurance. Checking your glucose levels can help you and your physician determine how food, exercise, and medicine are affecting your blood sugar.  Keep a log of the date, time, and results of your glucose tests to share with your diabetes team. The information you record can help inform your treatment.
  • Exercise: Staying physically active is a key component of diabetes management. In addition to helping stabilize your blood glucose levels, exercise helps lower your risk of heart disease and stroke, reduce stress, stimulate blood flow, and boost your energy level. Talk to your doctor about starting an exercise program that’s appropriate for your age, fitness level, and general health.
  • Nutrition: Diet is an important aspect of managing type 2 diabetes. A dietitian can teach you the basics, such as how to count carbs, which foods to avoid, and which are good for you. Shopping for food, planning meals, and eating at restaurants are all activities your dietitian can advise you on, and there are many good cookbooks featuring diabetes-friendly recipes. By monitoring your blood sugar and logging the readings, you and your dietitian can figure out how different foods affect your blood glucose and adjust your diet accordingly.  
  • Support: Many people with type 2 diabetes participate in support groups. These groups are a great way to meet people who share the same challenges. Participants typically discuss medication, issues with blood glucose challenges or medication, or new research they recently read about. They also like to share experiences and challenges, and exchange tips and recipes.

Talking to someone who “knows the ropes” is often a reassuring experience for a person who has just been diagnosed.

Sources

  1. ADA: http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/