What Do You Do When Just Diagnosed With Diabetes UK (2023)
Time to read 9 min
Time to read 9 min
Being newly diagnosed with diabetes can feel overwhelming, but you can live a healthy, thriving life with the right tools and knowledge.
After a diabetes diagnosis, the first step is to understand the type of diabetes you have, its causes, and the different medications, diet, and lifestyle changes you need. This can help you manage your symptoms and improve your overall well-being.
This article will empower you with the knowledge and support you need to confidently navigate your diabetes journey.
Let's dive in and explore the world of diabetes management together!
The first and possibly most important step is understanding everything you can about your diabetes diagnosis. There are many things you should do, foods to eat, things to avoid, and more that can impact the quality of your life and your treatment plan.
After being newly diagnosed with diabetes, your diabetes educator will go over most of these things with you and set up a diabetes care plan tailored to your needs.
One of the first things your diabetes care team will discuss is the type of diabetes you have. There are generally two types of diabetes: type 1 and type 2. There's also a temporary form of diabetes called gestational diabetes.
Here's the difference between them.
Type 1 diabetes, also called insulin-dependent diabetes, is a less common form of diabetes. It occurs when the body's immune system mistakenly attacks the pancreatic cells responsible for producing insulin, resulting in a lack of insulin production.
If you have type 1 diabetes, you'll likely need lifelong insulin therapy to regulate your blood glucose levels. Type 1 diabetes is more common in children and young adults, so it's sometimes called juvenile diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes is the most prevalent form of diabetes. It doesn't have anything to do with your autoimmune system but instead stems from genetic and lifestyle factors.
In other words, if you have the gene for diabetes and you consume sugary foods regularly, you're likely to develop type 2 diabetes.
If you have this diabetes form, your body either secretes too little insulin to keep up with your blood sugar levels or isn't doing its job due to insulin resistance.
Insulin resistance is a condition where insulin can't get rid of glucose in your blood effectively because your body's cells refuse to burn the glucose for energy. Instead, the glucose stays in your bloodstream, resulting in high blood sugar levels.
Gestational diabetes is a temporary type of diabetes that occurs during pregnancy.
Due to pregnancy's different hormonal and metabolic changes, you might develop high blood sugar levels for a short period. However, things usually go back to normal after delivery.
Next, you need to learn how to measure your blood sugar levels and interpret the readings. You need to understand what's considered optimal, too high, and too low so you manage diabetes.
It also helps you avoid health complications such as heart disease, high blood pressure, vision loss, and other serious health problems.
Checking your blood sugar levels regularly is crucial for maintaining optimal health, especially for those with diabetes. Generally, two ways to do this are using a glucometer or a continuous glucose monitor.
A glucometer is a device that measures the amount of glucose present in your blood using a blood test strip. You just prick yourself with a lancet, drop blood onto the test strip, and read the measurement on the glucometer.
A continuous glucose monitor (CGM), on the other hand, is a tiny wearable device that goes under the skin. It tracks your glucose levels day and night and gives you real-time feedback.
Generally speaking, the best times to check your blood sugar levels are:
Right before a meal
2-3 hours after a meal (postprandial blood sugar)
Before or after an exercise session or physical activity
Right before you go to bed
Measuring your blood sugar level at these times can help you understand how different foods and activities affect your blood glucose.
It can also help your healthcare team gauge how well your treatment plan is going and adjust your medication or insulin dose accordingly.
Once you've learned when and how to measure your blood sugar, the next step is to understand what these measurements mean.
Ideal blood sugar levels are different from one person to another. However, your healthcare team will usually discuss the optimal target range for your blood sugar.
Here are the ideal blood sugar levels according to Diabetes UK:
Before Meals: 4 to 7 mmol/l
2 Hours After a Meal: Less than 9 mmol/l
An important part of your diabetes education involves recognizing both conditions' signs and symptoms.
Hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, is a serious complication that usually occurs when you forget to take your insulin dose or medication. It can also happen if you consume too many sugary foods or drinks in a short period.
Symptoms of hyperglycemia include:
When experiencing hyperglycemia, your doctor will usually tell you to take an extra dose of insulin to fix the temporary rise in blood sugar.
Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, can be a serious condition that requires immediate treatment.
It's often a result of skipping meals or taking your insulin dose or diabetes medication on an empty stomach.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include:
Hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, and even coma if left untreated. If your blood sugar is below 4 mmol/l, seek medical attention immediately.
Until help arrives, you can drink fast-acting carbs like fruit juice or hard candy to quickly raise your blood sugar levels.
Now that you thoroughly understand your diabetes diagnosis, the next step is to understand your diabetes treatment plan.
This includes following a healthy diet, avoiding potential risk factors, taking medication, exercising, and making lifestyle changes promoting a healthy life.
Following a well-balanced diet full of healthy foods is crucial if you've just been diagnosed with diabetes. Not only does it help keep your blood glucose levels in check, but it also helps you lose excess weight, improving your condition!
Your diabetes educator will usually draw up a meal plan for managing diabetes tailored to your lifestyle habits and preferences.
Here's a general guideline for healthy eating:
Stick to Healthy Fats: Eat more foods rich in monounsaturated, healthy fats such as avocados, coconut oil, fatty fish, nuts, and seeds. These can improve your lipid and cholesterol profiles, prevent heart diseases, and keep your blood vessels cholesterol-free!
Avoid Trans Fats: Trans fats can increase your LDL (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides, leading to several health complications.
Eat More Protein: Try to include a source of protein at every meal, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, or legumes.
Stick to Whole Grains: Instead of refined grains, choose whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat bread, and whole grain pasta.
Don't Skip Meals: Eating less can be helpful as a diabetic, but that doesn't mean skipping meals. Skipping meals can lead to dangerously low blood sugar levels, especially if you take insulin or have an automated insulin pump.
Physical activity is another important aspect for newly diagnosed diabetics. Exercising more has two main benefits:
Helps with your weight management by burning more calories, which improves your overall health
Increases your insulin sensitivity
Studies have shown that exercise can increase your insulin sensitivity for several hours post-workout, which helps burn more glucose. This regulates your blood sugar levels more effectively and increases your insulin medication's efficiency.
It's important to set exercise goals and track your progress.
Diabetes UK recommends about 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That may seem like a lot, but it's about 20 minutes a day.
You can run, cycle, dance, swim, mow the lawn, or do moderate-intensity exercise that slightly increases your heart rate. Just remember to start small and incorporate these exercises into your daily lifestyle so it's not just a temporary thing.
Always remember to take your medicine at the right time, whether it's insulin, diabetes pills, or other forms of medication. Insulin, in particular, can be tricky, so consult your diabetes educator on when and how to take the correct dose.
If you find it difficult to use a syringe and needle to measure your insulin dose, there are several easy alternatives you can ask your doctor about.
Following a diabetes diagnosis, it's important to do regular checkups on different body functions to make sure you don't encounter other health problems.
Uncontrolled diabetes affects your blood vessels, meaning it can damage different organs and systems, including the heart, nervous system, kidneys, eyes, and more.
Here are a few important tests and examinations to do:
Foot Examination: Regularly check your feet for cuts or scrapes, which might not be obvious if you have diabetic foot (due to poor blood supply and numbness). These minor wounds can lead to amputations if left untreated, so be vigilant. Also, have your healthcare provider examine your feet at least once a year.
Eye Examination: Diabetes can lead to blurred vision or even blindness due to damaged blood vessels in the eyes. Could you make sure to visit your ophthalmologist at least once a year for a dilated eye exam?
HbA1c: Take an HbA1c test every three months to measure your average blood sugar during that period. This test tells your healthcare provider how well your blood sugar levels are controlled and whether your medication works correctly.
Kidney Function Test: Taking kidney function tests regularly is recommended since diabetes is the leading cause of kidney disease.
Lipid Profile: Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to high LDL and triglyceride levels. Check your lipid profile regularly to avoid heart disease and other cholesterol-related conditions.
Blood Pressure: According to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, two out of three diabetics develop high blood pressure. Watch your blood pressure and ideally stay below 130/80 mmHg.
Remember, diabetes is one of the most common conditions in the world. More than 10% of the global population are diabetics, and the number keeps rising, so you're not alone.
You can join a diabetes support group, talk to friends and family members, or regularly consult your healthcare team about your condition.
You can also use DSMES (diabetes self-management education and support) services to help answer any questions.
This can help you deal with the emotional side of diabetes and offers more accountability to keep you on track.
Being newly diagnosed with diabetes isn't the end of the world. It's just a new challenge that you can face with the right tools and knowledge.
With this article, all the info you need is right at your fingertips. Just reach out, grab it, and take control of your diabetes journey!