A Quick Guide for Those Recently Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes
If you’ve been recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you probably have a whole lot of questions – most of which should be answered by your diabetes physician and care team. That being said, it doesn’t mean that a quick reference guide about testing blood sugar and managing your disease can’t be useful.
In this post, we spell out some of the most important things you need to know as you begin your journey with Type 2 diabetes.
What is Type 2 Diabetes?
About 95% of all individuals who have diabetes are living with the Type 2 form of the disease. So take some comfort in the fact that you’re certainly not alone. Type 2 diabetes is a condition in which the body either doesn’t produce enough insulin, is unable to use the insulin it does produce effectively, or a little bit of both. The end result, if left unchecked, is a dangerous rise in blood sugar which can lead to all sorts of health complications, including cardiovascular disease, nerve damage (neuropathy), eye problems (retinopathy), kidney disease, and even stroke.
What is Insulin?
Insulin is the key to proper blood sugar control in everyone. It is a hormone produced by the Beta Cells in the pancreas that allows the body to effectively turn blood sugar into energy. When you have Type 2 diabetes, this process does not work properly, therefore, the body can’t effectively process the sugar in your blood. This causes blood sugar to gradually build up, and at the threshold of 200 mg/dL, a person is diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.
What’s the difference between blood sugar and blood glucose?
There is no difference. They are exactly the same thing. Blood glucose is just commonly referred to as blood sugar. When you’re testing your blood sugar, you’re testing your blood glucose.
Why did this happen to me? Now what?
It’s a common reaction when first diagnosed. Why did I get diabetes and what should I do about it? Let’s start with the why. Type 2 diabetes does have some contributing factors that might be relevant to you, including:
– Being overweight
– Fat distribution - having excess fat in the abdomen area
– Family history
– Race and ethnicity
As for what to do next. Well, there’s no skirting the issue. Type 2 diabetes is a big deal and a serious condition. However, it’s also one that more than 34 million Americans are living with and even more people around the globe. In other words, it’s not the end of the world. But it is the beginning of a new responsibility to manage your disease and take better care of yourself.
The good news about Type 2 diabetes is that it can be controlled in large part with lifestyle changes. In fact, in some instances it can even be reversed. Even if you still require medication, taking care of your health is key to living life to the fullest with Type 2 diabetes.
7 Rules for Better Diabetes Management
Everyone is different and your doctor will surely provide you with a detailed and personalized diabetes health and treatment plan. However, as a quick guide here are seven rules that can help you better control your blood sugar and avoid diabetes-related complications.
- Develop a diabetes-healthy diet: Eliminate fats and sugars. Watch your carbohydrates. Load up on non-starchy vegetables, healthy fibers, and lean proteins like chicken or fish. Blood sugar is directly related to diet and the right balance can provide you with much better control over your diabetes. If you’re currently overweight, a diabetes-healthy diet may also help you shed some of those excess pounds.
- Test, test, test: Testing your blood sugar regularly is key to identifying highs and lows, as well as patterns of how your blood sugar fluctuates after eating, activity, sleep and other factors. Your doctor will determine how often and when but expect to test multiple times a day. Most people new to diabetes will test using a glucose meter and test strips, which require a small, relatively painless finger prick using a lancet.
- Get 150 minutes of activity in each week: Exercise is great for controlling blood sugar and keeping yourself heart healthy. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week. That’s only 30 minutes a day, five days a week. However, if you haven’t been active for some time rule one is to start slow! Go for a walk around the neighborhood or a leisurely bike ride and work your way up.
- Find ways to manage stress: Stress can do a number on your blood sugar control. Mediation, yoga, Thai Chi, even just taking time to listen to music, play an instrument, or do something else you enjoy can lower stress levels.
- Watch your feet: High blood sugar can lead to neuropathy, which can cause your feet to losing feeling. If you cut yourself or develop a sore, you might not notice it which can lead to infection. Additionally, fungal infections can develop in the toenails. Monitor your feet and if you spot issues, it might be a sign that your blood sugar is not properly managed.
- Get an A1C test at least twice a year: This simple blood test measures your average blood sugar over a 2-3 month period and provides a great benchmark for how well your diabetes is under control. It can be done in your doctor’s office.
- Stick to your medication plan: Always take doctor-prescribed medication as scheduled, including insulin treatments by syringe or insulin pen. Never deviate from your program without being directed by your doctor. Your treatment plan is key to controlling your blood sugar. Not following it properly can lead to hyperglycemic and hypoglycemic episodes.
What is hyperglycemia?
Hyperglycemia is the technical term for high blood sugar. It happens when insulin levels are too low. Contributing factors include:
– Eating too many carbohydrates or an unusually large meal
– Not enough insulin or oral diabetes medication
– Sudden pain
Symptoms of hyperglycemia include thirst, frequent urination, and higher than normal blood sugar tests. If blood sugar is high, activity often can bring it back into range. However, if it is extremely high - above 240 mg/dL - you may have a dangerous condition called ketoacidosis and must not exercise. See your doctor to find the safest way to lower your blood sugar.
What is hypoglycemia?
Hypoglycemia is the technical term for blood sugar that falls below the normal range. When it happens, you need to take action to bring levels back up. Contributing factors include:
– Missing meals or eating fewer carbohydrates than usual
– Alcohol, especially on an empty stomach
– Too much insulin or oral medication
– Doing more than your usual amount of exercise or activity
Symptoms of hypoglycemia include nervousness, sweating, confusion, irritability, lightheadedness, headaches and feeling shaky. The only way to know for sure is to test your blood sugar. If you do test low (below 70 mg/dL), the ADA says to follow the 15-15 rule.
The 15-15 rule
Eat 15 grams of carbohydrates. Wait 15 minutes and test your blood sugar. If it’s still below 70 mg/DL have another serving and retest after 15 minutes. Repeat this pattern until your blood sugar tests in the normal range. FYI, 15 grams of carbohydrates might be 4 ounces of juice, 1 tablespoon of honey, or a piece of hard candy.
Being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes means that you now have a new job - managing your disease. It’s easier these days than ever before thanks to new technologies and medication. But the responsibility still falls on you in the form of making some important lifestyle changes and adhering to your doctor-prescribed treatment plan. This new life will take a little getting used to but living with Type 2 diabetes is definitely something you can handle. In fact, it will soon become second nature - just like it has for millions of others. Good luck.
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