According to the International Diabetes Federation, 371 million people around the world have received a diabetes diagnosis. While these numbers show that you’re not alone in your diagnosis, it’s important to understand what diabetes is, how it affects your health, what types of changes in your diet and lifestyle you’ll need to make, and what types of complications can arise if you don’t manage your diabetes properly.
A diagnosis can feel overwhelming – especially with the sheer amount of information available. Your physician will give you the information you’ll need to start managing your diabetes, but there are other steps you can take to get up-to-speed on your diagnosis and how to manage it. Even though diabetes is a serious disease, it’s a manageable one with the right kind of care. Here’s what to do once you’ve been diagnosed:
Read up on diabetes care.
Education is hugely important in making sure that your health stays in check. The more information you have, the better prepared you will be for managing your diabetes. Since this disease largely requires you to create lifestyle changes – both in your diet, routine, and physical activity level, it’s important to make sure that you understand how all of these factors work together to keep your blood sugar under control.
There’s great information on the World Health Organization website here and Diabetes UK provides a great resource for exploring diabetes lifestyle topics here, as well as great websites geared towards kids and young adults who want to learn more about living with diabetes.
These intro guides will give you both an overview of what your body is experiencing, as well as helping you organize and get used to routines of giving yourself insulin and managing your blood sugar levels.
Set up regular check-ups with your doctor.
Doctors suggest scheduling regular, and more frequent, visits to your physician for vision and dental checkups, as well as a basic physical exam around every six months. And since adapting to a new lifestyle and diet can be a difficult adjustment, it’s important to see your physician frequently early on. Your doctor also might schedule regular (at least twice a year) HbA1c tests, which tests your average glucose levels over the last three month period.
Map out your new routine.
There’s an oft-cited study by the European Journal of Social Psychology that says it takes 66 days, on average, to create a habit. Keep in mind that this new schedule of giving yourself insulin is going to take some time to get used to. Scheduling insulin shots on your personal or work calendar can help you familiarize yourself with this new routine.
You’ll also likely be sent to a nutritionist by your doctor to go over dietary restrictions and create a meal plan. Maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most important factors in managing diabetes, so keeping a written meal plan and following it daily can also help you acclimate to this new lifestyle.
Create a support group (and educate them).
Diabetes is an intrusive disease in that it disrupts your daily routine. Taking daily insulin and periodically checking your blood sugar levels can place constraints on activities that you enjoy and participate in.
This doesn’t mean that diabetes will put an end to your social life, but it does mean that more thought and care is going to have to go into planning. Some restaurants may be out of bounds for your diet, you might have to take an insulin shot during a movie or while hanging out with friends, and sports or other physical activities may have to be modified or monitored to make sure that your blood sugar levels stay consistent. Havings friends and family that understand these restrictions and can provide both emotional and physical support is key is managing diabetes.
The road to managing your diabetes is a long one, but taking things one step at a time and building a strong support network will help ease this transition.