by Grace Rivers, RDN, CDCES
You went in to see your doctor because you weren’t feeling well, or for a check-up and came out dazed and confused because you were told something that you were not expecting. You keep hearing your doctor saying, “You have diabetes.” You think that there must be a mistake; this can’t be. You went in to see your doctor for one thing and came out with prescriptions for medications and a glucose monitor with instructions to stick your finger twice a day!
Realizing how you may feel about your diagnosis:
It is not unusual for newly diagnosed people to feel as though they have lost a part of themselves, which can put you into a grieving period. You were diagnosed with diabetes, but you are NOT doomed. As you aim to get a grip on what you have been told, take a deep breath, and know that you are the same person you were before the diagnosis. Your life will continue. You may be thinking that this happens to everybody else and wonder why you have it. Diabetes is challenging, and the more you understand it, the better you will be managing it. There is hope.
Some facts about having diabetes:
Being diagnosed with diabetes is serious, and as of 2018, 26.9 million (8.2%) people of all ages in the US had diabetes. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf
Complications ranging from head to toe can happen, such as amputated limbs, blindness, and kidney dialysis. Heart disease is the main complication. But as gloomy as this sounds, you should know that all these complications can be delayed or prevented. Signs and symptoms of diabetes can be tiredness, hunger soon after eating, frequent urination, tingling in your hands or feet, or blurry vision, to name some. If you don’t have any signs or symptoms of diabetes, please do not think that nothing is wrong; denial will not help in any way. There are 3 main types of diabetes, type 1, type 2, and gestational. If you are uncertain of which type you have, ask your physician.
What being diagnosed with diabetes does NOT mean:
- That you must stop eating bananas or any other fruit.
- If you were started on insulin, that it is forever. That can change, except with type 1.
- You must listen to the food police, (who you will soon learn will be just about everyone you know. Fact is, there isn’t any such thing as a diabetes diet. This will be individualized for you.)
Some ways you can start managing your diabetes now:
- If drinking sugar-sweetened beverages, stop. Increase your water intake.
- Take meds, and if you have trouble tolerating them, let the doctor know. Don’t wait until your next visit.
- Find a support person. This is the person you will talk with about your diabetes. It could be a spouse for some people; for others, say those who live alone, it may be a friend in an exercise class or their hairstylist. It can be whoever will support you.
- Find a certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) to get the facts and avoid misinformation. Check with your doctor for a referral.
- If your physician approves, increase your activity with a goal of at least 150 minutes each week. Find an activity to help you move more. Your support person can help with this. Try to move past the excuses for not moving. Exercise helps your body use the sugar in your blood for energy, resulting in a healthier sugar level in your blood, and can keep your heart strong. https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf
- Know your lab numbers. Ask your doctor for a copy if not using an online portal. By viewing them, you can see where you fall compared to the recommended range. This is better than being told that one of your lab levels is high or low.
- If you smoke, stop. Get help if it’s too hard for you to do it alone. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/index.htm
Remember, you are in charge, and help is available. You can manage diabetes to decrease your chance of complications, which will help with your life quality. You got this.