Managing Your New Diabetes Diagnosis
A new diabetes diagnosis can come as a shock—and then comes the avalanche of information. While it’s completely understandable to feel overwhelmed, we assure you, your confidence will grow as you get a good grasp on the basics. Here are a few things you should know now to feel empowered about your health.
Don’t play the self-blame game
There are many genetic and environmental factors that played a role in your diagnosis. Having diabetes means your body isn’t functioning as it should, and that is not your fault. What matters is what you can do to improve your outcome going forward.
Diabetes isn’t curable, but it is absolutely manageable. With care and consistency, you can live a long and healthy life. Though there can be very serious consequences if the disease progresses without treatment, know that these outcomes are largely avoidable. Commit now to following your treatment plan and learning everything you can about your diagnosis. You won’t be alone—our pharmacists and care specialists will be there to help. Your lifestyle will play a large role in managing this disease and that’s great news. It means you have power over your future health.
Know your numbers
At first, keeping track of your health stats may make your head spin. Know that it gets easier, and soon you’ll be a well-versed pro. To start, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends getting to know three important numbers:
- A1C - This blood test will provide insight into your blood sugar levels over the past few months so you’ll know if your treatment has been working.
- Blood pressure - Diabetes puts you at a higher risk of heart disease, so it’s important to keep this number in a healthy range.
- Cholesterol - Diabetes and high cholesterol often go together, which can further increase your risk of heart disease.
Your doctor can help you understand what your target numbers should be and how you can stay within a safe range. Your goal numbers will be unique to you, so be sure to fully discuss them with your healthcare provider and set up a plan for regular testing and checkups.
Test and learn
You’ll likely need to test your blood sugar on your own, either throughout the day or from time to time. This will help you determine how your medications, specific foods, and certain types of exercise impact your blood sugar levels, as well as other factors like stress. Your doctor will let you know how often you should test and what your target range should be.
Logging your results will help you notice patterns and see your progress. The Diabetes Teaching Center at the University of California, San Francisco offers a free, printable logbook that can help you get started. You can also use an app like Glucose, or mySugr which will take care of much of the work for you, allowing you to set reminders and view trends over time.
Be curious about your medications
In most cases, you’ll need to take medication. With type 1 diabetes, you’ll require some form of insulin therapy—either injections or an insulin pump. Treatment can be quite varied for type 2 diabetes. You may need insulin, oral medications, both, or none at all. Your doctor may also prescribe medications for high blood pressure or cholesterol.
It’s important to know that type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease, and your treatment may change over time. However, changes in your prescription are not an indication that you’re failing somehow. Your goal should be focused on maintaining normal blood sugar levels and keeping those important numbers in a healthy range, not on which medications you’re taking.
We know this is a lot to take in, so the patient care pharmacists at Alto can provide you with a free consultation to discuss your medications. From answering questions about side effects to helping you set up dosage reminders, we’ll help you feel confident and informed.
Diet and exercise count
Food and exercise affect your blood sugar levels, so you’ll need to pay close attention to both. It’s not just about what you eat, but the size of your meals and the balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats. You don’t need to cut out carbs completely, but you’ll likely need to learn to count them to make managing your blood sugar easier. The CDC offers a great breakdown of how this works and enlisting the help of a registered dietician can take some of the pressure off as you learn.
Like the rest of your care plan, this will become more and more effortless with time. At least for now, we recommend finding resources with recipes that are designed specifically for diabetes. The American Diabetes Association’s Food Hub and Eating Well’s Diabetes Diet Center are excellent places to begin.
Don’t skip your checkups
In addition to the testing we already described, you should plan to get a yearly physical and eye exam and see a dentist every six months. Diabetes complications can cause damage to your eyes, nerves, kidneys, and gums, but controlling your blood sugar and getting regular check-ups will help you detect any issues early and prevent these problems.
Gather a support system
It’s important to let those closest to you know about your diagnosis. There will be times when you get frustrated or discouraged, so make sure you have someone to confide in when you need support.
To get a better idea of what a happy and healthy life with diabetes can look like, join some of the many online communities that are available on almost every social media platform. Try searching “diabetes” within Facebook’s groups or exploring the American Diabetes Association’s online Support Community to start connecting with others who can truly understand what you’re experiencing.
Lastly, if you think you might be experiencing depression, or your mental health is suffering in any way, please seek out help from a mental health professional. Ask your doctor if they can refer you to someone who specializes in chronic health conditions. Please don’t try to go it alone, there is so much support available to you.
We know there’s a lot to unravel with a new health diagnosis, but this information is meant to empower you to thrive. While you undertake the task of learning and adjusting, we’d be happy to take care of your prescriptions—walking you through your first insulin injection to delivering medications right to your door.
The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.