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29.1 million people in America are living with diabetes

If you’re newly diagnosed with diabetes, don’t fear as you’re not alone. In fact, there are 29.1 million Americans or 9.3% of the population who are living with diabetes.

Being told that you have diabetes can be very distressing and leave you in a state of shock.

While it’s natural to let your emotions get the better of you, the important thing to remember is that being diagnosed with diabetes doesn’t prevent you from leading a ‘normal’ life.

To get you up and running, here’s a heads up on what you need to be aware of as someone newly diagnosed with diabetes.

Which type of diabetes do I have?

There are two main forms of diabetes: type 1 diabetes, which is an autoimmune disorder, and type 2 diabetes, which is strongly associated with being overweight/obese and living a sedentary lifestyle.

As soon as diabetes is diagnosed, your doctor will inform you which type you have.

Understanding the basics

To help you understand the basics, we’ve put together the following guides:

These will help answer other questions you may have about why your blood sugars have been
high, the effects of diabetes on your body, how to lower your sugar levels, which foods and drinks you should avoid, and how to keep on top of your condition to minimise the impact it has on your everyday life.

To further improve your understanding of diabetes, ask your healthcare provider about access to structured diabetes education courses.

These are aimed at providing all the information necessary to empower diabetic patients to self-manage their condition to reduce the risk of long-term complications.

Ask questions about your treatment

Diabetes medication is not always the first form of treatment for people with diabetes.

If you have been newly diagnosed with diabetes and your healthcare provider recommends going straight onto insulin and/or tablet medication, make sure you know:

  • When you should take your medication – when you wake up, after meals, etc
  • How much you should take (dosage)
  • What side effects to expect
  • How to deal with any common side effects
  • Whether the medication will interact with any other medicines you’re taking

Be aware of symptoms of low sugar levels

It is particularly important for people on the medications insulin, sulphonylureas and prandial glucose regulators to be aware of the symptoms of low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia or hypos).

There are a number of possible symptoms of high and low sugar levels and it helps to be able to differentiate between the two.

If you are on these hypo causing medications, make sure your healthcare provider has provided you with guidance on treating hypos.

Be aware of diabetes complications

Over time, high blood glucose or poorly controlled glucose levels increase the risk of serious health complications, such as:

A number of complications can also develop in the shorter-term, including hypoglycemia (which is when your blood glucose levels fall below a certain value), ketoacidosis and Hyperosmolar Hyperglycemic State (HHS).

Know your health targets

To help reduce your risk of both long and short-term complications, it’s important to keep blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol within the recommended target ranges.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) suggests the following blood glucose targets for most adults with diabetes.

  • A1c*: 7% or an eAG**of 154 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter)
  • Before meals (preprandial plasma glucose): 70–130 mg/dl
  • 1-2 hours after meals (postprandial plasma glucose): Less than 180 mg/dl

*A1c (glycated hemoglobin) is tested to give a measure of average blood glucose control for the previous 2 to 3 months.

**eAG or “average glucose” is another way of reporting . It directly correlates to your A1C.

For blood pressure, the ADA recommends diabetic patients keeping a healthy blood pressure level of below 120/80 mmHg.

For cholesterol, the ADA recommends most people with diabetes to aim for:

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol: Less than 100 mg/dl
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good” cholesterol: Higher than 40 mg/dl for men and 50 mg/dl for women
  • Triglycerides (a type of blood fat): Less than 150 mg/dl

Change your diet

Diet is one of the biggest influences on blood glucose levels. Diet requirements can vary from person to person and from one type of diabetes to another, but some principles apply to the majority of people with diabetes:

  • Take in a moderate level of carbohydrate to keep blood glucose levels under control
  • Take in a moderate or reduced number of calories to maintain weight or help with weight loss
  • Choose carbohydrates with a lower GI to reduce sharp rises in blood sugar levels
  • Increase intake of vegetables to improve satiety through the day
  • Exercise caution with processed foods as the salts and preservatives many of these contain can be detrimental to health

Get active

Physical activity is important for all of us and is of particular importance in type 2 diabetes. Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is associated with a progression of insulin resistance plus can lead to developing a number of other health problems.

Being physically active on a regular basis can help prevent such problems.

Support is key

Having support from those closest to you, whether friends of family, can be very reassuring through the early stages of diabetes.

Talking to others about your condition, particularly  people with diabetes who know what it’s like to live with disease, can may help you come to terms with your diabetes quickly and encourage you to take control of the disease by adapting to any treatment or drug regimens and making healthy changes to your lifestyle. You can also pick up invaluable tips from the experience of others.