10 Steps to Take When You Learn You Have Type 2 Diabetes
- Take your diabetes seriously. If your blood glucose levels are high and your healthcare provider has told you that you have diabetes, take it seriously from day one. The better you take care of diabetes early on, the longer you’ll stay healthy and avoid complications.
- Work with a healthcare provider who is knowledgeable about diabetes and takes your concerns seriously. Developing diabetes doesn’t mean you need to switch healthcare providers. But do make sure that your provider is willing and able to help you manage your diabetes. If you are able to get referred to an endocrinologist or diabetes specialist, then do so. It’s best to find a diabetes specialist connected with a diabetes self-management education program. Most importantly, know what your healthcare provider should be doing to take care of your diabetes. Then, if things aren’t being done, ask why.
- Become knowledgeable. Knowledge is power. The more you know, the more you can determine if your healthcare providers are doing their job to keep you healthy. Learning about diabetes is not hard. Today, diabetes is in the news and lots of information is available. Use reliable resources. Good examples are: this magazine; government web sites, such as National Institutes of Health; the Centers for Disease Control; and the American Diabetes Association.
- Know your numbers and targets. Track the important numbers. Your healthcare provider should check and follow:
- A1c: the long-term average of your blood glucose levels
- Blood lipids: total cholesterol, LDL (bad ) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides
If your current diabetes management plan isn’t meeting your targets, then you and your healthcare provider need to talk about adjusting your plan.
- Check your blood glucose levels with a meter. Find out how often and when to check your blood glucose levels daily. This is the best way for you and your healthcare provider to detect fluctuations in your blood glucose levels. Keep records and bring them to your appointments. If you want or need feedback between visits, ask if you can fax them or drop them off and have them get back to you.
- Learn the standards of diabetes care and make sure these get done. Today it is known that certain checks and tests should be done regularly to keep you healthy, such as an annual eye exam (see #7). Learn the standards in the NIH booklets about prevention at www.niddk.nih.gov.
- Get your eyes examined. An annual eye exam is standard for good diabetes care. Since you have probably had diabetes for a number of years, it’s a good idea to get an eye exam when you are diagnosed. Get a referral to an ophthalmologist. Find out who and what your health plan covers. Tell the eye doctor that you were just diagnosed with diabetes and that your exam should include dilated retinal eye exam.
- Partner with a diabetes educator or diabetes education program. You’ll probably need more support and education than your healthcare provider can offer. Find a diabetes educator or diabetes education program that can help you learn to take care of your diabetes. This may be covered by your health plan. A diabetes educator may be a nurse, dietitian, counselor, or pharmacist.
- Set goals to change unhealthy behaviors, one by one. You are likely to have a few unhealthy behaviors that, if you can change them, could benefit your diabetes care. Perhaps you could eat more healthy foods or benefit from being more active. A word to the wise: don’t try to change everything at once. Instead, think about a couple of things you can easily do to improve the healthiness of your lifestyle. Base a few goals around these things. For example: maybe you want to try to eat two pieces of fruit a day, five days a week or take a 15 minute walk four times a week. Lifestyle changes for the long-term happen slowly.
- Reach out for support. A diabetes support group can be a terrific venue in which to gain knowledge, insight and support. Search for one and join up. You can find out about support groups in your area by asking your healthcare providers or diabetes educators. Do these 10 steps and you’ll be off to a healthy start in taking care of your diabetes.