My doctor says I have a little diabetes... now what?
Newly diagnosed with diabetes and unsure where to start?
Read on to learn about the steps you should take to control diabetes.
How did I get diabetes?
- Genetics - If you have a close relative with diabetes your risk is
increased. Some ethnic groups such as Native Americans, Hispanics,
and African Americans are at increased risk too.
- Lifestyle - Lifestyle or environmental factors that may lead to
diabetes. Foods consumed, activity level, and obesity are directly linked to
type 2 diabetes.
What should I do now? (0-3 months)
How well you control diabetes is up to you. You can choose to take steps to modify your
lifestyle to control blood sugar and minimize complications. It comes
down to setting goals, organization, planning, and following through with
your plan. There are probably a few things your are wondering about...
exercise, diet, testing blood sugar, medications, and specialists, to name
- Start with speaking with your physician. Learn about your
medications, how often, and when you should take them. Ask about
an exercise program. You will want to know how much exercise and
how often your doctor recommends for you based on health concerns.
Ask your doctor about your blood pressure. You will want to know
if your blood pressure is high and the steps to lower it.
Ask to see a diabetes educator and a registered dietitian.
- A diabetes educator can help you with when and how often you should be
testing your blood sugar. They can also help you to set blood
sugar goals. In the beginning, you may be asked to test blood
sugar about 4 times per day including when you first wake up and are
fasted, before meals, after meals, and prior to bedtime. It is a
good idea to keep a log of your blood sugar so that you can share these
with your doctor.
- A registered dietitian can help you design a meal plan based on your
dietary needs. A RD can also help you learn which foods will
affect your blood sugar.
Now you have something to build upon. Begin to implement your
exercise program, meal plan, blood sugar testing, and take your medications
What's next? (3-6 months)
- At your next doctor's visit, ask about having an A1c test. An
A1c test is a blood test that reveals how your blood sugar has been
over the past few months. This test can show high blood sugar you
are not aware of as a result of blood sugar testing times.
- Look into attending a diabetes class. These classes can help to
learn more about meal plans (including carbohydrate counting), exercise
programs, sick days, complications, and offer support from others that
are newly diagnosed as well.
- Begin to increase your duration of exercise. For example, if you
swim for 25 minutes each day, strive to swim for 30-40 minutes.
Set aside time everyday for physical activity. In addition to the
actual workout, factor in time for stretching, showering, etc.
And then? (6-9 months)
- Again, at your doctor's visit, ask about another A1c test.
Assess the frequency of blood sugar testing - if you are well
controlled, you may be able to decrease how often you test your blood
sugar. Ask about visiting an eye doctor for a diabetes eye exam and a foot
doctor if needed.
- Assess your dietary goals. Are you eating enough fiber?
Are you limiting your fat intake? Do you need to lose weight and
if so should you re-evaluate your calorie intake?
- Increase the duration of your exercise program. Begin to
increase the intensity of your exercise as well. For example if
you choose to walk for physical exercise, you might choose to increase
your pace or walk on an incline to increase intensity.
Now what? (9-12 months)
Continue to monitor your blood sugar and meal plan. Assess body weight and stick with
your exercise plan. You've taken control of your diabetes and you are
on your way to a healthier lifestyle with decreased risk of complications
because of it.
Is there a list of healthcare professionals I should consider seeing?
Below, we have compiled a list of professionals you will want to consider visiting to
control your diabetes and prevent complications.
||Physician - you probably
already have a primary care physician, but you may want to see a
specialist in diabetes. This specialist can help you with management
of diabetes including medications. Look for a specialization
in diabetes such as board certified in endocrinology. This
professional should have a medical degree indicated by MD or DO. You
will probably want to visit your physician every 6 months depending on
your treatment. Ask about having the following tests
conducted: HbA1c - every 6 months, HDL/cholesterol test (every
year), and kidney microalbumin test (every year).
||Dietitian - ask to see a
dietitian to help you with your meal plan. A dietitian should have
the initials RD after their name indicating they are a registered
dietitian. Some dietitians are also Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE)
||Nurse educator - a nurse
educator can help you with taking medications, blood sugar testing, and
diabetes management. Look for credentials including RN, BSN, or
MSN. Some nurse educators are Certified Diabetes Educators as well.
||Eye doctor - this is a medical
doctor specializing in ophthalmology. This doctor can diagnose and
treat eye complications associated with diabetes. If you are over
30, you should have an eye exam upon diabetes diagnosis and every year
thereafter. If you are between 12 and 30 and have had diabetes for
more than 5 years, you should have an eye exam yearly.
||Pharmacist - a pharmacist can
help you with medication and glucose testing questions. Look for the
credential of RPh or PharmD after their name.
||Podiatrist - this is a foot
doctor and should have the credential DPM after their name. A
podiatrist can help treat and/or prevent any foot problems including
calluses, ulcers, or sores. You should probably have a doctor
examine your feet once each year, more often if you have foot problems.
Diet and exercise are vital to maintaining health and treating diabetes. Exercise regularly and follow a balanced meal plan as advised by your healthcare team.
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