A diagnosis with any disease, including diabetes, can come with a lot of emotions, a lot of questions, and some confusion.
You probably already know someone living with diabetes — more than 37 million Americans (about 1 in every 10 people) are currently living with diabetes. More surprising is that 96 million American adults are living with prediabetes, and more than 8 in 10 people don’t even know it.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go through a diabetes diagnosis on your own. Our Colleagues at Goshen Health are here to help you every step of the way.
If you’re newly diagnosed with diabetes, here’s what you need to know to begin navigating this disease.
A diabetes diagnosis occurs because your blood glucose or sugar level is too high.
Your body gets its glucose from the food you eat (through your digestive system) and through your liver. In turn, your body takes glucose and turns it into energy for you to use. In fact, most food you eat is turned into glucose.
Blood carries glucose throughout your body to be carried to cells. However, glucose can’t enter your cells without insulin — a hormone that’s created by your pancreas to unlock cells and allow glucose to enter. Once glucose enters your cells it can be used as energy immediately, or stored for later use.
A person with diabetes is experiencing an issue with insulin. The cause of the issue determines what type of diabetes a person has — type 1 or type 2.
Type 1 diabetes
When you’re diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, it means that your body’s immune system is attacking the cells of your pancreas that create insulin, so glucose can’t be delivered to your cells. Type 1 diabetes can happen to anyone of any age, but it’s most common for people under the age of 30.
Treatments for type 1 diabetes include meal planning, monitoring, physical activity and insulin.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes accounts for between 90% and 95% of all cases. When a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes it means that the cells in their body have become resistant to insulin.
Resistance to insulin can begin in a person years before it develops into type 2 diabetes. Your pancreas works harder to make more insulin as your body becomes more resistant to it. Your pancreas can often keep up with the increased demand of insulin during the early years, but over time its ability to produce insulin will slow down. When that happens, your blood glucose will rise and result in type 2 diabetes.
Treatments for type 2 diabetes include meal planning, monitoring, physical activity and, for most people, diabetes medication.
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you may be instructed to monitor your glucose. This can be achieved by finger stick or by a Continuous Glucose Monitor.
Glucose monitoring will allow you to be able to see how the food you eat, the activities you participate in, illnesses you contract, and stress in your life affect your blood glucose. It’s also great information to give to your care provider to help them with your treatment plan.
Your target glucose will be based on the recommendations of your care provider and will be individual to you.
Watch your glucose levels
Your glucose level will vary throughout the day, but your goal is to keep it within your target range as often as possible. Your levels can be affected by eating too much or too little, being too active or not active enough, infections, fevers, illness, or changes in your hormones (like during menstrual periods).
Just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean that you can’t still enjoy foods or go out to eat at restaurants with your family and friends. There’s no “diabetes diet.” Instead, it’s all about understanding portion size and food combinations.
You’ll be paying more attention to how many carbohydrates you’re eating at each meal. Typically, eating three meals each day and spacing them about 4 to 6 hours apart. The human body rapidly converts carbs to glucose, which means if you eat a lot of carbs your blood glucose will jump higher than it should. While you should watch your intake of them, carbs will remain an important part of your diet and shouldn’t be eliminated because your body still needs them for energy and normal functioning.
An important part of managing diabetes is being active every day. Exercising helps your body effectively use insulin, lowers your glucose levels, your blood pressure and your stress — and it helps you lose weight and keep it off.
Choosing activities that you enjoy doing helps increase your chances of making exercise a regular habit in your life. Try adding exercise into your daily life by taking the stairs instead of the elevator or by marching in place while watching TV.
If you haven’t exercised in a while, remember to start slow and don’t overdo it. Speak with your primary care physician before beginning any new exercise plan. Remember to monitor your glucose more frequently when you become more active to discuss your numbers with your doctor.
You're not alone
Be prepared to get the most out of your visits with your primary care provider. Information is power, so here are a few things you can do to be prepared when talking with your doctor:
- Take your logbook or a computer printout of your glucose results.
- Write down a list of your questions.
- Take a list of all your prescriptions including any over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements.
- Remove your shoes and socks for your foot exam.
- Discuss any physical, emotional or other concerns.
- Make sure your healthcare provider knows when your last eye and dental exams were.
- Write down any special instructions/care advice.
- Follow through on your healthcare provider’s advice.
- Ask if educational materials are available to help you understand.
The Colleagues at Goshen Health can help you through your diagnosis. You may request a referral for diabetes education from your primary care provider. Or call 574-537-1221 for information about diabetes education programs.