If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, navigating your new health landscape may seem daunting.
First of all, don’t panic. Remember, “having diabetes does not mean the end of your normal life. You can control it with slight modifications in your lifestyle – exercise, healthy eating, adequate sleep, dealing with stress, and taking medications regularly,” says Dr. Rajesh Garg, director of UHealth’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center at the University of Miami Health System.
Effectively managing diabetes requires getting the right help.
“Most newly diagnosed diabetics can be cared for by their primary care physician. Diabetics can also get individualized advice from the type of professionals found at UHealth’s Comprehensive Diabetes Center,” Dr. Garg says. A comprehensive approach to diabetes care may involve an endocrinologist, podiatrist, kidney specialist, ophthalmologist, and dietitian or nutrition educator.
Be a Team Player
Actively participating in your diabetes care helps you adapt more quickly to your new lifestyle. For example, prepare to ask your doctor relevant questions. Find out what kind of diabetes you have and if you’re at risk for developing complications. By understanding and learning how to lower risk factors, you have a better chance of staying healthy.
In other words, don’t assume that blindness, kidney failure, or amputations are inevitable.
Bring a notebook to your doctor’s appointments to write down information and instructions. Consider bringing a family member along to enhance their understanding of your condition. “Support from your family and loved ones will be very helpful because changes in your lifestyle are likely to affect the people close to you. However, I do not recommend ignoring anything (job, family, entertainment) to focus solely on diabetes. Life can continue as usual with slight changes that should be made after discussion with your healthcare team,” Dr. Garg says.
Keep Calm and Carry On
Diabetes doesn’t have to put a damper on your social life.
“You can dine out or attend parties, but try to control portion sizes,” says Dr. Garg. “It is often the amount rather than the type of food that matters when you eat out or attend social gatherings. Food is only one of the many components of diabetes care. With good information and preparation, you will be able to deal with almost any situation.”
Unfortunately, there are no proven methods to reverse the underlying pathology of diabetes. In some cases, your doctor may eliminate medication in the early stages of type 2 diabetes, but Dr. Garg urges patients to accept medications if needed. “Needing medication is not a failure on your part; rather, it is due to the severity of the disease.”
Again, the best way to keep diabetes in check is by adopting a common-sense diet and exercise routine. “It won’t work if you try too hard for a few months and then give up. Go slow and make changes you can maintain for the rest of your life. With that, and our current treatments and technology, diabetes is a manageable disease.”
“There are many myths about diabetes,” says Dr. Garg. “You will hear all sorts of things from your friends, family, co-workers, or online. This information is not always accurate. The most important step after being diagnosed is to arm yourself with correct information from websites like the NIH, CDC, ADA, IDF, or from major medical centers like the University of Miami.”
Nancy Moreland is a regular contributor to UMiami Health News. She has written for several major health care systems and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Her writing also appears in the Chicago Tribune.