Being diagnosed with diabetes can be a frightening experience, but you’re not alone. Approximately 1.4 million American adults are diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes each year and, when you take the diagnosis in stride and focus on being proactive, it’s easy to manage your health as well as possible from the get-go.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes, here are the first 12 things you should do:
1) Stay calm
While a diagnosis of diabetes is a serious one, there are many ways to effectively manage the condition and enjoy a high quality of life. Many people newly diagnosed with diabetes panic and assume that the condition poses dire implications for their enjoyment of life as well as their overall health. By staying calm, however, you’re better equipped to manage your condition effectively and create an effective game plan that helps you stay happy, healthy, and sane.
2) Evaluate your health plan
Diabetes requires its own set of management supplies, such as glucose meters and test strips. The condition also requires ongoing care, which can quickly become expensive. For this reason, it’s important to ensure that your health plan is up to snuff and that you’ll have the coverage you need to manage your condition effectively
To do this, you’ll want to ensure that your monthly premiums, deductibles, copayments, and services are aligned with your expected care needs and that your insurance covers diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES). If so, you will need to check into whether you’re required to meet your deductible before getting coverage for this service.
3) Make a plan with your doctor
Upon diagnosis, most people begin a regimen of blood sugar-lowering medication. In rare cases, you may not need this medication. Most people, however, begin taking some form of management medication soon after diagnosis. Because Type 2 diabetes is a progressive condition, your medication needs may change over time. It’s important to confront this fact early with your doctor and to ensure that you’re on the right medication regimen for your specific condition.
4) Create a nutrition plan
Diabetes management includes steps like eating plans, healthy levels of physical activity, and blood sugar monitoring. One of the most important management steps, however, is to ensure that you’re eating a good diet. Most people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes won’t need to make large changes to their lifestyles, but many will need to pay closer attention to what they’re eating and when. To do this, the first step is to keep a nutrition journal.
To get started on this, keep a 7-day food journal at some point in the weeks following your diagnosis. This journal should log what you eat, when, and how much. Include each meal, snack, and drink you consume.
At the end of 7 days, review the nutrition log with your doctor or a registered dietitian. Doing this can help identify weak spots in your diet and can help you maintain better health and more balanced blood sugar.
While keeping a food journal during the early weeks of your diagnosis is absolutely helpful, many individuals find that keeping a food journal indefinitely can be helpful in identifying foods that produce positive or negative blood sugar reactions and ensuring continued health.
5) Get active
One of the most important aspects of maintaining your health despite a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis is maintaining healthy levels of physical activity. Physical activity goes hand in hand with a good nutritional plan: food provides healthy sources of energy and activity provides you with a great way to stay healthy and maintain good body condition.
According to the American Diabetes Association, people contending with Type 2 Diabetes should aim to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity (like walking or swimming) each day. This should be accompanied by shorter bursts of resistance training 2-3 times weekly. Developing a regimen that includes these actions can help improve blood sugar levels, use insulin effectively, and decrease blood pressure.
To develop an effective activity plan, meet with your doctor or a personal trainer who specializes in people with diabetes. Remember that it’s important to set small, realistic goals and to partake in activities that you enjoy, like hiking or Yoga.
6) Make good daily choices
Like we said earlier, most people diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes don’t have to make huge lifestyle changes. By making healthy choices, though, you can greatly improve your condition and ensure that you’re living as well as possible.
Examples of good daily choices include taking the stairs rather than the elevator, drinking plenty of water each day, and doing simple daily activities like walking the dog or enjoying a short walk around the block during your lunch break. Making good daily choices like these can help you stay in shape and keep your blood sugar levels in check.
7) Build your support network
Being a new diabetic can often be a lonely experience. Fortunately, though, it doesn’t have to be. By connecting with others, you can ease the feelings of anxiety and concern that surround your diagnosis.
To build your connections, focus on nurturing your existing friendships and building a network of people you trust and can talk to about your diabetes.
Additionally, you may find relief through joining diabetes support groups, diabetes education classes, or community programs. Many people find that the Online Community through the American Diabetes Association is a fantastic place to begin seeking support.
8) Ensure you have the right supplies
It’s likely that you’ll need supplies to manage your diabetes. There are many different types of supplies on the market so you’ll need to work with a health care provider or another professional you trust to find the ones that work for you. Common supplies needed to manage diabetes include the following:
- Blood glucose meters
- Blood glucose test strips
- Lancing devices
- Blood glucose test strips
- Blood sugar lowering medication
- Sharps containers
- Medical identification
- Record books for food, activity, and blood glucose levels
9) Find a doctor you love
While being a diabetic certainly doesn’t mean you’ll be living in your doctor’s office, it does mean that you’ll need a primary provider with whom you feel comfortable. Don’t be afraid to shop around for a provider that you feel like you can talk to. A good provider should take the time needed to adequately address your concerns, listen to your questions, review your treatment plans, and refer you to other specialists when needed. Be advised that it may take a little bit of trial and error to find your ideal provider, but when you persevere, you’ll be rewarded by finding a provider who is a true partner in your care.
10) Keep learning
Diabetes management and science is changing all the time, so it’s important to do everything you can to continue learning about your condition. You can do this through a diabetes self-management education and support program (you have a choice between AADE-recognized programs and ADA-recognized programs) or through simple reading.
If you choose a DSMES, you’ll find that these programs often include other affected individuals and can be a great way to bond and meet new friends. Alternately, you can enroll in online courses or check out books from your local library. No matter what you choose to do, it’s important to continue learning about the changing science of diabetes.
11) Hone your care schedule
In order to organize and manage your diabetes care, it’s important to develop and implement a care schedule. Your care schedule should be developed with your doctor and should include things like needed tests and checks and when and where you should have them done.
Some tests are one-time only and others are recurring. By organizing and planning for your tests and diagnostic procedures, you can ensure that you’re not missing out on important care and that you’re getting all of the care you need in a timely fashion.
12) Have fun!
While diabetes is a serious diagnosis, it’s not something that needs to define your life. You can still enjoy exciting new experiences adventures just like you did before diabetes. To make the most of both words, use your diabetes as a way to explore new things – like cooking classes or fun new workout variations – and make sure that you’re continually learning and having new experiences. This can help ensure that your life stays healthy, exciting, and free after your diagnosis.
If you’re one of the millions of people living with diabetes, it’s important to remember that your life has only just begun! By following these 12 steps, you can ensure that your life is just as full and exciting post-diagnosis as it was pre-diagnosis.