Diagnosed with diabetes? Time to put your “big boy” panties on!

Posted on March 27, 2014

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Yesterday alone, I counselled 3 newly diagnosed diabetes patients under the age of 30. They were teary, scared, confused and felt almost hopeless. In addition to showing them how to “painlessly” prick their finger, and suggesting ways to get over the gag reflex of seeing their own blood; reassuring them that they could still live a optimal quality of life also played a major part of my counselling.

Diabetes is reaching a pandemic state across the world population. In the United States alone, there are 25 to 27 million people newly diagnosed with diabetes and 57 millions more who are pre-diabetic. It’s not easy to be given such a medical diagnosis, but learning about your diabetes betters your outcomes and can ultimately lead to you living a longer and healthier life.

1. Don’t panic: You are not alone, and there are tons of resources out there for you. You can lead a relatively normal life if you manage your diabetes properly. One very important resource to bookmark is the American Diabetes Association which has a free “Living with Type 2 Diabetes Program” that includes tasty and healthy recipes.

2. Consider losing weight: Improving diet and exercise has been shown to cause significant improvement in blood glucose levels. Try aiming for at least 30 mins of exercise everyday; which could include anything from brisk walking, to running, swimming and even dancing. Also the myth of a “diabetes-diet” is just that; a myth. The general healthy eating rule for everyone is to avoid saturated fats, and consume more fruits, vegetables and low glycemic-index foods. If you feel like you don’t have the willpower, consider partnering with a nutritionist and a fitness instructor for better ways to reach your goals

3. Go slow on the alcohol: It has actually been proven that moderate alcohol consumption (1 – 2 glasses a day) can improve insulin sensitivity which in turn improves the blood sugar level. However, heavy consumption can have the opposite effect. Your nights out may have to be a little less rambunctious, but your health and glucose level will thank you for it.

4. Get familiar with your medications: If you have been newly diagnosed, chances are you have been introduced to one or two new medications. Speak to your pharmacist about each of them. What time of the day is best to take it? will it interact with your other medications? What side effects should you expect? What to do if you accidentally miss a dose? What are the storage conditions? If you are new on insulin, you may need to be counseled on appropriate administration techniques for a less painful experience and better therapeutic outcomes.

5. Consider getting a medical bracelet: In the event of a medical emergency, it can be helpful to have an accessory that indicates that you are diabetic. Medical emergency personnel have communicated that knowing the diabetic status of an individual often improves the time and chances of resuscitation.

6. Become more responsible and organized: You are going to have to make some tough lifestyle changes. You have to take responsibility and play an active role in taking control of your diabetes. You will have to plan your meals (in some cases you have to count carbs), you will need to constantly check and record your blood glucose to know how food, activity and medicine affect your blood glucose, you’re going to have to educate those around you at some point, and you’re going to have to know how to manage your extremely high and low glucose levels.

7. Ask your pharmacist to teach you: Focus groups have shown that many physicians are unfamiliar with using the common pen devices in the market. This is where your pharmacist comes in. They have been trained to know how to use all types of devices and can take the mystery and fear out of the process of insulin therapy.

8. You may need to pay extra attention to certain parts of your body: Diabetes has the potential to damage your nerves and blood vessels. As a result, your feet, skin, eyes, heart, kidneys and teeth and gums may need special attention. However, with regular checkups from your care team/specialists, you can avoid getting these complications and be able to eradicate minor problems as they arise.

Overall, I know the diagnosis itself can be overwhelming –  it helps to talk about it if you are feeling stressed. Diabetes IS a big deal, and it does take a while to get accustomed to all the changes. But it doesn’t have to remain challenging if you follow these tips. Please feel free to ask me any questions in the comments section, and good luck on your health journey!

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