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Just Diagnosed with Diabetes? 8 Steps to Take Now

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Just Diagnosed With Diabetes? 8 Steps To Take Now

Table of Contents

Key Takeaways

  • A new diabetes diagnosis can be overwhelming; however, with the right treatment plan, you can manage the condition. 
  • Choosing the right healthcare team will help you make changes, learn about diabetes, and support you in the coming days and years. 
  • If you have just been diagnosed with diabetes, taking important steps like developing a fitness routine and taking control of your nutrition can help manage your diabetes and possibly reverse it.

Hearing your doctor say, ‘You have diabetes’ can be overwhelming, leaving your head swirling with emotions and questions. You may need several days to process this information before making any changes.

Managing a life-long disease like diabetes will take work and support. Each year, 1.4 million Americans are diagnosed with diabetes. Actions you take can manage diabetes well or possibly reverse it. 

Your first step was getting diagnosed with diabetes. Now you have some next steps to get on the path of understanding and controlling your diabetes. 

Finding the right healthcare team will help you take actionable steps, learn about diabetes, and support you in the coming days and years. 

In this article, you’ll learn eight steps after being diagnosed with diabetes.

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Step 1: Find the Right Care Team

Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes require daily management. Your doctor can refer you to a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES), or you can seek one out on your own. Finding the right care team will allow you to make progress and succeed. 

A CDCES is often a dietitian or nurse who works with you to create a plan that fits your lifestyle. They are trained to help you understand how to use your blood glucose meter, insulin, medications, and pumps. They teach you how to interpret the information from these tools to control your diabetes and solve problems. A CDCES can also help you understand how the foods and drinks you consume affect your diabetes and ways to optimize your diet. 

Choosing a CDCES credentialed educator ensures you are getting the best information to manage your diabetes. They are required to meet rigorous education standards and maintain continuous learning to understand new developments in the management of diabetes. 

Other members of your care team could include an endocrinologist (specialized doctor treating hormones and diabetes), a foot doctor, an eye doctor, a dentist, and a pharmacist. Diabetes affects all parts of the body since glucose is carried through the blood system.

Nourish can connect you with a registered dietitian with the CDCES certification. If you need help managing your diabetes, consider booking a virtual appointment today

Step 2: Understand the Basics of Blood Sugar Levels

After you eat or drink foods with carbohydrates, the digestive system breaks carbohydrates into glucose or sugar and then releases sugar into the blood. Insulin is released from the pancreas in response to increased blood sugar levels. The role of insulin is to enable the cells to take in glucose from the blood. This causes the blood sugar level to decrease appropriately as it is used for energy. Blood sugar levels change throughout the day.

With type 1 diabetes, the body stops making insulin as an autoimmune response. The cause is not entirely understood, but diet and lifestyle do not cause type 1 diabetes. You will need to take insulin to survive.

With type 2 diabetes, carbohydrate breakdown is altered. Often, a person with this condition cannot make enough insulin or is unable to use insulin properly. Diet, lifestyle, and genetics can predispose someone to develop type 2 diabetes. 

Keeping blood sugars in a target range is essential for overall health. Too low or too high blood sugar is unhealthy for the body.

Step 3: Learn About Diabetes Management Options

Numerous diabetes management options exist. Your care team will help you determine the best choices for your body and type of diabetes. Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are treated differently. It can take time to determine the best fit for your diabetes and lifestyle, and how your body responds to different medications. 

A large toolkit of oral diabetes medicines can be used, and each works differently. Depending on the type or severity of diabetes, insulin is used to help get blood sugar levels under control. The most common types of insulin are long or short-acting, given via needle, pen, or pump. There are also injectable medications to manage blood sugar levels. 

If medications and lifestyle changes are not managing diabetes well, other options exist. Sometimes weight loss surgery or pancreatic islet transplants are discussed for those with type 1 diabetes.  

Step 4: Put Together a Realistic Action Plan

Having a realistic action plan will help you achieve your goals. Discuss with your care team the top priorities for your health, then set a couple of short-term and long-term goals. Short-term goals are those for each week, and long-term goals include monthly or longer time frames. 

Example:  

  • Long-term goal: Get my hemoglobin A1C under 7% in the next 4 to 6 months.
  • Short-term goal: Ensure my after-meal blood sugar is less than 180 mg/dL. Go for three 30-minute walks each week.

Goals will change regularly as you learn more about yourself and make progress. Setting achievable goals to make the most impact will motivate and empower you. For example, getting your blood sugar levels within a target range will have a bigger impact than forbidding yourself ever to have dessert. 

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Step 5: Take Control of Your Nutrition

There’s a direct link between diabetes and your diet. If you consume too many carbohydrates, you will see an increase in your blood sugar levels and may become tired, thirsty, and have blurry vision. If you consume too little carbohydrates, you may have low blood sugar levels and become shaky and dizzy. Either is stressful for the body. 

Many options exist for managing your nutrition. All focus on limiting your carbohydrate intake to a specific portion and pairing carbohydrate-rich foods with protein, fiber, and healthy fats from various foods at each meal. 

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) encourages the Diabetes Plate Method to manage blood sugar. This easy-to-use visual is a great first step to improving your nutrition. You divide a 9-inch plate into three sections: one-half is non-starchy vegetables, one-quarter is protein foods, and one-quarter is foods with carbohydrates. Beverages include water or other no-calorie drinks. 

There are other more in-depth nutrition plans like counting carbohydrates and label reading, both of which can be discussed in a session with a registered dietitian. The plate method is a simple and effective way to improve your nutrition.

Step 6: Develop a Fitness Routine

Exercise is a central piece of managing your diabetes. Exercise helps use excess sugar in the blood for energy. The ADA recommends at least 150 minutes weekly of moderate to vigorous exercise, like faster walking or jogging, spread out over 3 to 7 days. 

Research on 14 older patients with type 2 diabetes showed significant improvements in blood sugar levels and insulin function after only seven days of exercise and no changes in weight. The daily exercise was 30 minutes of bicycling and 30 minutes of treadmill walking at a moderately vigorous level. 

Resistance training or weight lifting lowers hemoglobin A1c and helps insulin work better in the body. Combining walking or jogging with two to three days of resistance training will enhance the benefits. 

Any increase in movement is like medicine to help treat your diabetes. 

Step 7: Monitor Your Blood Sugar Levels Regularly

Checking your blood sugar levels gives you and your care team vital information on how your body responds to medications, nutrition changes, and exercise. 

Your care team will teach you how to test your blood sugar levels and what the numbers mean. They will also provide goal blood sugar numbers before and after eating. Typically, you will have a blood glucose meter, lancets (tiny needles), and test strips. You can log your levels in a book or phone app. 

Initially, you may test more daily as you learn about your body and diabetes. You may start with four to five times daily but then decrease to two times daily. 

Step 8: Take Time to Relax and Reduce Stress

Finally, prioritize activities and relationships with people that help you relax and reduce stress. Any medical condition increases the physical and emotional stress of a person. 

Research among 8,596 adults with diabetes from 17 countries estimates that about half of individuals with diabetes experience diabetes-related distress. This is stress from concerns or worries about diabetes and its management. 

Stress will always be present, but you can decide how to respond. Developing healthy stress management methods will reduce the toll stress has on you and those in your life. Your care team can share techniques like mindfulness, being active, joining support communities, and restful sleep to help reduce stress. 

Takeaways

A diabetes diagnosis can be overwhelming. After processing the health news, you can take steps to have a healthy life and manage your diabetes. 

Start by connecting with a compassionate and knowledgeable care team. You can become the healthiest version of yourself throughout the lifelong journey of managing your diabetes. 

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Managing Diabetes with an RD 

Connect with an expert on managing diabetes. Diabetes dietitians have a wealth of tools and knowledge to help you customize your specific lifestyle and eating habits to manage your diabetes. 

Find a dietitian near you through Nourish to start making nutrition changes that support healthy blood sugars.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Your Result

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While you don’t seem to be at risk for prediabetes or type 2 diabetes based on this quiz, please contact your healthcare provider with any concerns. If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

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You should seek guidance from your healthcare provider about the possibility of prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

If you want to learn more about diet and lifestyle changes with diabetes, find a registered dietitian covered by insurance with Nourish.

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