You just found out you have type 2 diabetes. You feel a slew of emotions - shock, disbelief, anger, sadness. The thoughts that race through your mind are scary. Shots, blood sugar checks, medications. Do not panic. People with diabetes can live long, healthy lives. Here are four steps to help you get control of your condition.
1. Gather your team!
One of the first things you should do is set up a diabetes care team. This is a group of people who specialize in diabetes care. Your primary care doctor will help you put together a team. Each of these specialists will help you with different diabetes-related issues:
- Primary care doctor is in charge of your care. He or she will see you when you are sick and will refer you to other diabetes specialists as needed.
- Diabetes or nurse educator helps you manage daily aspects of diabetes. This includes how to take insulin shots and how to identify low blood sugar reactions.
- Registered dietician helps you plan a healthy diet.
- Optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye doctors) watches for diabetic eye disease.
- Social worker or psychologist helps you cope with the emotional side of diabetes.
- Podiatrist (foot doctor) helps prevent, diagnose and treat foot complications from diabetes.
- Dentist takes care of your teeth and gums.
- Exercise physiologist helps develop a fitness program for you.
- Pharmacist answers questions related to medication.
The goal of managing diabetes is to keep blood sugar levels under control to prevent complications. Your team will tell you where your blood sugar level should be. You may need to check your blood sugar several times a day to make sure your levels are where they should be. This is especially important right after you are diagnosed, start a new medication or change doses. Your doctor can tell you how many times a day you should check your blood sugar.
2. Learn about type 2 diabetes
After your diagnosis, you will have many questions. Your diabetes team will be able to answer them - from what foods to eat to how to check your feet. It can be overwhelming, so take it slow. Master one concept at a time to best manage your diabetes. Here are the first things you need to know:
- Your body does not make enough insulin or it can't use the insulin it makes. This leads to high blood sugar.
- If you do not manage your diabetes well, high blood sugar levels may lead to:
- Heart disease and stroke
- Eye problems that can lead to blindness
- Damage to nerves and blood vessels that can cause numbness and circulation problems, especially in your feet
- Kidney problems that can lead to kidney failure
- Gum disease and tooth loss
- Treatment for diabetes involves helping your body use insulin better. This is done by making lifestyle changes and taking medication. Some people will need to take insulin shots.
3. Know your ABCs
Your risk for complications from diabetes will be lower if you manage your diabetes ABCs. Work with your diabetes team to manage them. Recommended ABC levels are:
- A is for A1C: below 7 percent.
A hemoglobin A1C test shows what your average blood sugar level has been over the past 2 to 3 months.
- B is for blood pressure: less than 130/80 mm Hg.
- C is for cholesterol: LDL below 100 mg/dL.
Your doctor will let you know if your target ABCs are different from the recommendations.
4. Follow your treatment plan
To help control blood sugar levels, your diabetes team will help you develop treatment plans. The four main components of your treatment plan are:
- Nutrition. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and nonfat dairy and low in fat, sodium and cholesterol will help you manage your diabetes.
- Exercise. Check with your doctor before you start an exercise program. Exercise is great for people with diabetes because it can lead to better blood sugar control and increased energy.
- Insulin injections. Insulin injections lower blood sugar levels by making up for the body's inability to make enough insulin.
- Oral diabetes medication. These medicines lower blood sugar levels by improving the release of insulin, reducing blood sugar or lowering insulin resistance.
Controlling diabetes is not easy. It takes time and commitment. With some lifestyle changes and a positive attitude, managing diabetes is very doable.
Created on 11/09/2004
Updated on 03/26/2009
- American Diabetes Association. Standards of medical care in diabetes - 2009.
- National Institutes of Health. Oral glucose tolerance test.
- Touchette N. American Diabetes Association Complete Guide to Diabetes. Alexandria, VA: American Diabetes Association; 2005.
- National Diabetes Education Program. 4 steps to control your diabetes. For life.
- Inzucchi SE, Sherwin RS. Type 1 diabetes mellitus. In: Goldman L, Aussielo D, eds. Goldman: Cecil Medicine, 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2007.
- American Diabetes Association. Your health care team.
- Armstrong C. ADA releases standards of care for patients with diabetes. American Family Physician. 2006;74(5):872-875.