Consider this scenario: Your doctor has called you into their office to discuss your recent lab tests. “You have Type 2 diabetes,” they say. You react to the diagnosis: “But I feel fine.” It’s a common response. Many people are surprised, even shocked, to hear the news. Receiving a new diagnosis like diabetes can feel like standing at the base of a mountain and looking upward. We asked Beau Links, DO, PPG – Family Medicine, Huntington, to discuss six points he commonly covers with newly diabetic patients.
1. Don't panic.
Everyone has a story of a loved one with diabetes, some with advanced disease who have poor vision, kidney disease, or may even have had a leg amputated (stick with me here, remember, I said don’t panic). While diabetes is a formidable opponent, it’s important right from the beginning to discuss things you can do – educating yourself, taking medications and increasing your physical activity – to reduce your risk of complications.
2. You don’t need to eat special foods.
It’s difficult to change behavior patterns formed over decades when it comes to eating habits. I don’t want you to start eating only salads, but we need to talk about which food choices can help, and which can hamper (carbohydrates), your goals of reversing or controlling diabetes.
3. Being active is your greatest weapon against diabetes.
Being active is paramount. You don’t have to take up running, but visiting your local library and checking out an exercise DVD that looks fun is a nice start. With spring coming, walking outdoors is also becoming more of a possibility. Whatever your current activity level, think of ways you can be more active.
4. You might have contributed to your developing diabetes through your lifestyle choices.
That’s difficult to hear, but obesity is the number one risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes mellitus. The disease can be caused by many factors, including genes you inherited, but the number one risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes is obesity, and we need to be upfront about that when discussing how diabetes can be prevented. Being aware of the consequences of your choices is important in limiting the damage the disease can do to your body.
5. Your physician likely isn’t your best source for diabetes education.
Most office visits are about 20 minutes in length, and it can be difficult to cover diabetes management in that short amount of time. A referral to a diabetes educator is essential. A diabetes educator can tailor a specific healthy-living plan for you to include discussions on food choices, activity monitoring, and education on diabetes as a disease. Knowledge is power, and the more knowledge you have about diabetes, the more capable you’ll be in the fight against it (and it is a fight).
6. You’re not alone.
A new diagnosis can be scary and overwhelming. Take advantage of the many resources that are available. Visit your local diabetes educator, join support groups in your area, explore exercise classes and have open discussions with your physician about this new diagnosis.