Information for Newly Diagnosed Diabetes Patients
Learning how to juggle the demands of diabetes can be a trial
The doctor has just told you that you have diabetes - you listen, take notes and ask questions, and when you leave the office your mind goes blank. You have started your first year with diabetes mellitus as millions of folks do, overwhelmed by the diabetes diagnosis and unprepared to figure out how to handle it. Unfortunately, not all doctors have the knowledge or the resources to help you with this difficult transition. So Theresa Garnero, an advanced practice R.N. and C.D.E. (certified diabetes educator) at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, has written Your First Year With Diabetes: What to Do Month to Month.
"The first year with diabetes, there's a lot to handle," she says. "You have to come to terms with the diagnosis. Then you have to find ways to take charge and adhere to your doctor's treatment guidelines. And you want to feel good about yourself and your future!"
For the first two weeks she provides daily advice, but "you don't have to be just diagnosed" to benefit, she says. "This applies to anyone who has resolved to take better charge of their diabetes."
Day 1: Get mentally prepared for your journey with diabetes. Think positive thoughts - recognize the mind-body connection and do something soothing for yourself: Take a hot bath, or listen to music you love. Add humor! Laughing lowers blood glucose.
Day 2: Take the time to read books and visit reputable diabetes sites [diabetes.org; jdrf.org; healthcommunities.com]. There is material out there that can help you every step of the way.
Day 3: Examine your nutritional habits and talk to a dietitian about improving your diet or losing weight safely.
Day 4: Get moving; take a walk.
Day 5: Monitor your glucose levels regularly. Find a glucose monitor you like and use it to understand how your glucose levels fluctuate with food intake, exercise, tension and sleep.
Day 6: Take your medicines as prescribed - faithfully. And if you can't, let your doctor know why.
Day 7: Create a safety net. Diabetes is not something you should handle by yourself. Rely on the support, encouragement and knowledge of friends, family and experts.
Day 8: Count, don't necessarily cut out, carbohydrates. Remember, carbohydrate intake decisions should be based not just on quantity, but on quality as well.
Day 9: Shake it, but don't break it. When you start to exercise, begin slowly. If you have high blood pressure, make sure you talk with your doctor about what is healthful for you.
Day 10: Learn how to recognize and respond to low blood sugar episodes. Dipping too low is not uncommon and can make you feel terrible. It can even lead to coma or death.
Day 11: Take care of your feet every day. Your walking and exercise shoes should fit properly and not rub or irritate your skin. And every night you should examine your feet to make sure you don't have any sores or red spots.
Day 12: To avoid side effects from medications, ask the doctor what time of day is best to take them.
Day 13: Monitor your blood pressure. About 75 percent of people with diabetes have high blood pressure - and cardiovascular disease is the number one complication of diabetes, so it pays to be vigilant about lowering and controlling pressure.
Day 14: Defuse the stresses of dealing with diabetes. Focus on things you can do to relieve stress - such as exercising more, improving your diet and moderating your reactions to others.