Your doctor told you that you have Type 2 diabetes. While it’s certainly not the news you wanted, the good news is that you can manage this condition through diet, exercise and, if required, medication.
You are not alone. When your doctor is part of the Edmonton Oliver Primary Care Network, you’ll have access to a full team of healthcare professionals, including chronic disease management nurses, pharmacists, dietitians and exercise specialists, who will help you understand and manage your diabetes. We also have mental health coordinators who can help you adjust to your diagnosis and lifestyle changes.
Learn as much as you can about diabetes
The key to managing your health is understanding how diabetes affects it. Glucose (sugar) builds up in your blood because your pancreas is either not producing enough insulin or your body is not using insulin properly. You’ll need to learn to control your blood glucose levels, and there are a number of ways to do that.
Your doctor and healthcare team are your best source of information that applies to your specific situation. If you go online to learn more, ensure you choose credible healthcare sites, such as Health Link Alberta or the Canadian Diabetes Association.
Changing your lifestyle
To stay healthy and feel your best, you’re going to need to make some lifestyle changes. Many of these changes will be good for your overall health as well as useful for managing your diabetes.
Monitoring your blood glucose levels: Your healthcare team will teach you how and when to monitor your blood glucose levels. If your levels are too low or too high, you may experience physical symptoms. Over time you’ll discover how diet, exercise and other factors affect your glucose levels.
Changing your diet: The food you eat (and the times you eat it) can significantly impact your blood glucose levels. The good news is that a healthy diet will improve your overall health in addition to helping you manage your diabetes. A dietitian can teach you about foods that help you control your blood glucose and appetite, and give you tips about adapting recipes and eating out.
Getting active: Physical activity is very helpful in controlling your blood glucose levels. Both aerobic and strength/resistance exercises can have as much of an impact as diabetes medications.
Taking insulin: You may or may not need insulin to manage your diabetes; sometimes adopting a healthy lifestyle is enough. That’s a decision you’ll make with your healthcare team. If you do need to start insulin, there are several types and methods of administering it, so you can find a plan that works for you.
Risks of not managing your diabetes
Diabetes is not a health condition you can ignore. If you don’t manage your diabetes, in addition to feeling unwell, you can increase the risk of other health problems. This list is not meant to frighten you, but rather highlight the importance of taking diabetes management seriously.
- People who don’t manage their blood glucose levels tend to have more dental problems, including gum disease, periodontal disease, tooth decay and tooth pain.
- If you have diabetes, you need to take extra care in monitoring your feet because you will be less likely to feel a cut or blister. Because diabetes can slow healing, small injuries can more easily become infected.
- Maintaining optimal blood glucose levels will help prevent the progression of retinopathy, which can lead to blindness. You should also see an optometrist regularly.
- Many of the risk factors for diabetes and heart disease are the same. In particular, high blood glucose is one risk factor for heart attack or stroke, as are high blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
- Kidney disease is often a complication of diabetes. You can prevent or delay the loss of kidney function with good diabetes management and regular screening.
- If you smoke, it’s always a good idea to quit. It’s even more important if you have diabetes because the combination of chemicals in cigarettes and high blood glucose increases the damage to your blood vessels.
Yes, diabetes will change your life, but your attitude toward managing it will make all the difference. If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, talk to your healthcare team about making positive changes in your life.
References and Resources:
Canadian Diabetes Association