Being Diagnosed with Diabetes is the First Step to Taking Control
Experts from the American Diabetes Association say that 1.5 million people will be told they have diabetes this year. That can be scary. But knowing that you have diabetes lets you start getting it under control. Taking care of diabetes can seem complicated. It is important to learn as much as possible about diabetes so you can make good decisions about taking care of yourself. You need decide what will work for you. Your plan will probably include taking medication and making small changes in the way you eat and move during the day. These can make a big difference. Your doctor, pharmacist and other members of your health care team are key people use as you get started.
What is diabetes?
Most people have heard about diabetes. But what exactly is diabetes? Diabetes happens when glucose or the sugar that we get from the foods that we eat, builds up in the bloodstream to an unhealthy range. The build-up is caused when glucose can’t get inside the cells of the body. Our cells need glucose for energy. Insulin is a hormone that is made by the body. In normal times, it lets the glucose get inside the cells. In diabetes, the body either does not make enough (or any) insulin or has trouble using the insulin the body does make.
Many people think that high blood sugar only happens if a person eats or drinks too many foods and beverages that have extra sugar added. This is not true. Many foods, including healthy options like milk, fruit, vegetables and whole grains are broken down into glucose. The glucose from those foods can build up and cause high blood glucose when there is a problem with insulin. Long-term, high blood sugar can cause serious health problems.
There are two main types of diabetes. They are called type 1 or type 2. Type 1 is the less common type of diabetes. It usually starts during childhood and can run in families. In type 1 diabetes the body stops making insulin completely. Type 2 diabetes is much more common and usually happens in adults. Type 2 diabetes can happen in younger people too, especially if the person is overweight or obese. In this type of diabetes, the body usually can still make some insulin. The amount may be too small, or the cells may have trouble using it. With diabetes, other serious health problems can happen if the blood glucose is not controlled. High blood glucose can damage many parts of the body, including the eyes, heart, kidneys, nerves and blood vessels. It is very important to work with your entire health care team on a plan to keep the glucose in the blood as normal as possible. This will help avoid damage to the other parts of the body.
Take control of your diabetes
Taking any medications that your doctor or other provider recommends correctly is very important. Work with your pharmacist to know exactly how to take the medications and about any monitoring you should do. You should also know how to handle any side effects that can happen. Some medications for diabetes need to be injected with a syringe or a pen device. Your pharmacist can help you learn how to do this safely and recommend things you can do that can make it easier.
Medications are only part of the plan for diabetes. Checking your blood sugar and making small changes to the way you eat and live can have a big effect on your blood glucose and overall health.
Some simple changes to think about are listed below:
- Move more. It is always important to check with your doctor or other health care provider before starting a new strenuous exercise plan, especially if you have other health conditions. But most people can benefit from adding extra physical activity into your day. Simple changes are taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further away from the entry of your work, home or shopping center or doing an extra lap around the grocery store. If you are already doing those things, consider planning an after lunch or dinner walk or another activity that keeps you moving. Many people use a smartwatch or other device that counts steps and set a goal of slowly increasing the number of steps to take in a day. The key is to make the activity fun and to work to improve each day.
- Eat well. Simple changes are a place to start when eating with diabetes. Because everyone is different, there is no one diabetes diet to use. Experts from the American Diabetes Association recommend 4 basic guidelines when you are getting started:
- Include fruits and non-starchy vegetables
- Choose more lean meats or plant-based proteins
- Reduce added sugar in foods and beverages
- Reduce processed foods
Some people who have diabetes benefit from meeting with a Registered Dietitian (RD). An RD can help you enjoy the foods you love and keep their blood glucose and other conditions in control. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for a referral if you’d like to work with an RD. Another resource to get started learning about portions and healthy eating is the Choosemyplate.gov website. You can find apps and guides that can help the whole family eat healthy.
- Reduce risks. Diabetes can increase your risk of many other health problems including heart attacks and strokes. Smoking and being overweight or obese can increase these risks. If you smoke, work with your health care team to stop. If you are overweight or obese, plan to safely lose weight. Losing even a few pounds can improve your diabetes and reduce your risks.
- Stress less. When the body is under stress it makes a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol raises blood sugar and can affect cravings and your appetite. Taking walks, meditating, using deep breathing are all ways that can help you reduce your stress.
Build a diabetes team you trust
When your doctor tells you that you have diabetes it can feel overwhelming. It is important to know that you are not alone. Surround yourself with a team you trust. Start with your friends and family who can help keep you motivated and find new ways to eat well and move more with you. Talk to your doctor or other health care provider to make sure the treatment plan is something you can do. If needed ask for referrals to Registered Dietitians, diabetes care and education specialists and other providers including dentists, podiatrists and eye doctors who can keep you healthy with your diabetes.
Be sure to also include your Hawthorne pharmacist as a part of your team. Your pharmacist can help you get the most from your medications and be sure that you are taking them exactly as directed. Your pharmacist can also help answer questions and recommend products and services to stay healthy. Many pharmacists offer diabetes education or can refer you to support groups or classes to keep you on track.
When you live with diabetes, be sure to surround yourself with everything you need. That includes the medications and supplies and a team that is focused on you being successful.
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