Learning that you or your loved one has diabetes can be overwhelming. Here’s what you should know.
If you or a loved one has recently been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, one thing is certain: You’ve got questions. Get the answers you need from Karen Kemmis, D.P.T., C.D.E., a spokesperson for the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
1. I Was Just Diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes and I’m Overwhelmed. Where Do I Begin?
Picture a triangle. At the three points are healthy eating, being physically active, and taking diabetes medications. At the center is checking blood glucose. Those four things are the big areas that you will need to address, as together they will drive your care and your health.
An easy place to start? Find a change you can manage right away, such as cutting out soda or other sugary drinks—especially if you’re drinking more than one per day.
Another suggestion: Find a form of exercise you enjoy and thus will be more likely to stick to. Check out these six fun activities. (And if you haven’t yet, be sure to check your eligibility for free access to gyms and fitness classes through SilverSneakers.)
2. What Should I Do if I Have Prediabetes?
The term prediabetes was coined to let people know that their blood sugars were higher than they should be. If your doctor has diagnosed you with prediabetes, don’t wait to take action: Now is the time to start working on ways to improve your health.
Find a local diabetes prevention program—many are covered, at least in part, by insurance plans. You’ll learn about lifestyle behavior changes, such as increasing your physical activity or tweaking your grocery list, that will make a difference.
3. Where Should I Go to Learn About Diabetes Medications?
For in-depth, unbiased information about diabetes medications and treatment regimens, a great place to check first is the Living with Diabetes section at diabetes.org, which is the website of the American Diabetes Association. You can also ask your pharmacist questions you forgot to ask your doctor. (And for help sticking to your medication schedule, check out these tips.)
4.What Is the Diabetes Diet?
If you can could make preprinted sheets of a diabetes diet, I would! But in reality, there is no such thing. Everyone eats differently, and there are a lot of variables to consider. A registered dietitian who has experience with diabetes can help you make adjustments to your normal eating habits that make sense for you. For instance, I’m not going to eat chicken no matter what, so they wouldn’t tell me to! Your meal plan should be tailored to your personal preferences and lifestyle, or you won’t stick with it long-term.
5. How Can I Help a Loved One Who Has Diabetes?
Ask what you can do for them. Don’t tell people what to do. Just be supportive and know that they don’t have to be perfect to be on the right track. It may be helpful if you offer to come with them to a diabetes class or appointment. If you take notes during these meetings, they can listen and talk—and they’ll have a record of the discussion to refer to later. (For more tips, see 4 Ways to Make the Most of Your Doctor Visit.)
If you generally cook for them, you’ll want to learn the most effective way to prepare meals to help them manage their condition.