Diabetes Diagnosed - Now What?

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When you are diagnosed with diabetes for the first time, you get a whole lot of information pushed at you in a very short time. I strongly encourage you to attend formal diabetic education classes. If you are a newly diagnosed diabetic, here’s a checklist of things it’s important to learn about and understand. Once you know this stuff, you’ll find handling your diabetes isn’t such a big hairy deal after all. Everything will start to fall into place.

Diabetes is a lifestyle disease.

While there is often a family history of diabetes, lifestyle behaviors provoke the disease and lifestyle behaviors treat the disease.

14 things every diabetic should know:

  1. Diabetes is a “cardiovascular risk equivalent”. That means you have as much risk for a heart attack or stroke as someone who has already had a heart attack or stroke. If your diabetes is not controlled you are also at risk for blindness, kidney disease, neuropathy, vascular disease and amputation of toes, feet or legs.
  2. Your diet, exercise and medications are all aimed at one goal – to keep your blood sugar between 80 and 180 (80 to 160 is even better) at all times.
  3. If you are overweight, lose 10 to 15% of your current total body weight and it will pay huge dividends – possibly even reverse your diabetes.
  4. Construct a healthy and enjoyable diet that facilitates weight loss if necessary and prevents your blood sugar from going either too high or too low. (Remember this: as long as your diet is out of control so, too, will be your diabetes.)
  5. Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise, burns up sugar, burns up cholesterol, helps with weight management and comes with a whole host of other benefits, too. (See your health provider before starting an exercise program if you have not been physically active.)
  6. It may take one to four (or more) diabetes medicines, and possibly insulin, to manage your diabetes depending on how well or poorly controlled it is.
  7. Know how to test your blood sugar. A machine called a glucometer does this. Be sure to keep a record of all your blood sugars in a logbook.
  8. Know what an A1c is. (It’s blood test that measures your three month blood sugar average and it should be between 6.0 and 6.5, definitely less than 7.0. )
  9. Take a low dose aspirin (81 mg) daily unless you are allergic or have any other condition that makes aspirin inadvisable.
  10. Get your blood pressure to less than 130/80 and take either an ACE inhibitor OR an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) blood pressure medication to both control your blood pressure and protect your kidneys.
  11. Take a statin drug to lower cholesterol – and get your LDL cholesterol to less than 100 mg/dl.
  12. If you smoke you should quit – yesterday!
  13. Have a dilated eye exam by an eye doctor every year.
  14. Inspect your feet daily and have your health provider inspect them at each visit, too. You should not cut your own toenails – that should be done by a podiatrist (foot doctor).

Here are some other helpful links:

American Diabetes Association

National Diabetes Education Program

National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health

Don’t feel discouraged!

When you are first getting started, this list can look a little daunting. But just take things one step at a time and everything will fall into place pretty quickly. I have seen this happen over and over again. I can’t tell you how many patients I’ve diagnosed with diabetes for the first time who had it licked three to six months later. Continued monitoring by your health care provider is VERY important, though.

Bottom line – a healthy diet, adequate exercise and weight control will rescue you from diabetes – and its risks – regardless of what your blood sugars look like today!

Hey, all you veteran diabetics out there, how about posting some comments here to help out the newbies?

This information is offered for educational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, prescribe or treat. For that please seek direct care from a health professional.

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