One of the biggest changes for many people is food. What can you eat? Newly-diagnosed diabetics often fear that they will no longer be able to eat the foods they love, and won't be able to enjoy carbohydrates like bread, rice, or pasta. Fortunately, a healthy diabetic-friendly diet includes all types of foods -- carbs too -- and is really a healthy diet for anyone, regardless of whether they have diabetes or not.
Of course, you will have to make changes to your diet. Some people will balk at the expense of seeing a dietitian or diabetes educator (particularly if not covered by insurance). However, the expense and time to work with a good dietitian who's experienced with diabetes can make the transition much easier and much clearer for you. They can help you create an individualized eating plan that includes a lot of your favorite foods, as well as advise you on creating a schedule and balancing the amount of carbohydrates you eat per meal or snack. It's important to build a healthy diet that's sustainable in the long-run - for most of us, that means including foods that we enjoy.
As a diabetic, it's important what you eat, but also when you eat and how much you eat. This will help to keep your blood sugar levels within a target range throughout the day, and avoid blood sugar "spikes." Having an eating plan also helps to balance medications or insulin along with exercise.
Adjusting to a new way of eating may be difficult at first. Keep in contact with your dietitian and doctor if you're having trouble sticking to it. If can be particularly hard if you're trying to also integrate your family into this new style of eating. Ask if any diabetes support groups are available in your area.
Another important part of living with diabetes is exercise. Exercise is always a part of a diabetes treatment plan because exercise helps to lower blood glucose levels. It also lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol, improves circulation, and can even improve mood.
Consulting with your doctor is necessary before you begin an exercise routine. Regular exercise is the most beneficial to keep blood sugar levels under control, rather than exercising haphazardly or only on weekends. Try to exercise every day or most days of the week.
Try to find an exercise that you enjoy. Exercising on a treadmill or elliptical trainer are popular; however there's much more you can do, if you want to mix it up a little! Put on your walking shoes and walk outdoors, go on a hike, go for a bike ride, go roller-blading, skiing, join an aerobics class, go for a swim or join an aquacize class. Or stock up on exercise videos. Try something new like yoga, tai chi, dancing, or zumba. The more fun you can make it, the easier a time you'll have sticking with it.
Being obese or carrying extra weight is known to increase your body's insulin resistance, or decreased sensitivity to the effects of insulin. If you are overweight, losing weight is beneficial to your health, even if it's just 5-10% of your current body weight. This is part of the reason why eating a healthy diet, watching your portions, and exercising regularly is so important in treating type 2 diabetes - it helps to keep your weight under control. Even if you can avoid further weight gain, that's a start, and then aim for small, sustainable weight losses if possible.
Not everyone with type 2 diabetes will need to take oral medications or insulin. Some people are able to manage the disease without medication, just through diet and exercise alone. However, if you are prescribed medication or insulin, it's important to take them as prescribed.
Some people are uncomfortable taking their medications or insulin at work or in front of other people. If you are one of them, you will need to find a place where you have some privacy. You may also consider telling a trusted colleague, boss, or nurse at work about your diabetes so that they will know what to do in case you need help.
It's also important that you can recognize the signs of hypoglycemia and know what to do to get your blood sugar up to a safe level. Keeping a card in your wallet with this information is a good idea too, in case you are unable to help yourself.
Continued high blood glucose levels can cause a host of diabetes-related complications, from dry, itchy skin to vision problems to kidney and heart disease. It's important to monitor and keep your blood sugar well-managed at all times. Once diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, your doctor or diabetes counsellor can assist you in choosing a blood glucose monitor and advise you when and how often you need to check your blood glucose levels. Ask your insurance provider whether they will cover part or all of the cost of your diabetes test supplies. Sometimes only certain types of monitors will be covered.
Family members, perhaps even a close friend or two, should be made aware of your disease and briefed on what to do if you're unable to help yourself. For the most part, if you keep your blood glucose under control, you can take care of yourself. But it's always good to be on the safe side and have help if you need it.
Living with diabetes requires a commitment to making lifestyle changes. Naturally there will be an adjustment period where you may feel frustrated or overwhelmed. Ask for help if you need it. Your doctor, diabetes counsellor, dietitian, friends and family can all provide support.