While there are steps you can take to prevent diabetes, such as being more active, eating healthier and having your blood sugar checked regularly, once you actually are told you have diabetes, it’s a different story altogether. Type 2 diabetes is a diagnosis 30 million Americans currently are living with, and 85 million more have pre-diabetes, most of whom don’t yet realize the situation they’re facing. Getting that diagnosis means you’ll almost certainly have to make some lifestyle changes in order to effectively manage the disease. One of the biggest responsibilities you’ll have is the great emphasis on self-care.
“November is National Diabetes Awareness Month,” said Blount Memorial registered dietitian Heather Pierce. “Because diabetes affects so many millions of Americans, chances are it has impacted someone in your family or someone you know. If you or a loved one have been affected by it, you know how important self-care becomes. Of course, there’s the greater emphasis on blood glucose monitoring, which is critical to see what your blood sugar is doing at that particular moment. Elevated glucose sometimes can yield no symptoms, so you can’t always gauge how levels by how you’re feeling. This makes a blood glucose monitor a great way to make sure you’re on track,” Pierce explained. “Be sure to check with your physician to know what your target numbers should be, too, because it’s important to know what you should be aiming for,” she said.
Next, Pierce says, you should take any medications as prescribed. “There are lots of medications now that can be used to treat diabetes. Again, your doctor will help you find the ones that will work best for you, but the critical thing you can do is to know the basics of how they work, and then take them as they are prescribed,” she said. “Also, any weight loss you can achieve on your own, however small or significant, is helpful. Even losing a small amount of weight can generate huge improvements in blood sugar numbers. Most people can see a difference with even a 5 percent weight loss, some of which can be achieved simply by moving more. Aim for at least 30 minutes of steady movement at a time if you can, but simply being more active overall will help bring your blood sugar down by allowing glucose to get into your cells more readily,” she explained. “This almost makes exercise itself a medication,” she added.
“You’re also going to want to begin recording your food intake each day,” Pierce continued. “This will help you to compare your glucose numbers to the foods you’re eating, which is a great way to learn how different foods affect you. Carbohydrates, for instance, turn into glucose in the bloodstream, so it makes sense to try to reduce your carb intake. But, again, changes don’t have to be drastic in order for you to see improvements. Working with a dietitian can help you find the right balanced diet that works best for you,” she explained
Finally, part of self-care is remaining positive. “I know it can seem overwhelming, but a diabetes diagnosis doesn’t have to be a terrible thing,” Pierce said. “Sometimes, it can be the motivating factor in making healthy lifestyle changes that can improve your overall health,” she added.