The Basics of Managing Your Type 2 Diabetes
You may have heard the terms diabetes self-management plan or diabetes care plan. Both of these terms refer to how you take care of or manage your diabetes. Your plan takes into account your big-picture goals and your nitty-gritty choices each day.
On the one hand, diabetes management is not a small endeavor. You’re the person most responsible for taking care of your diabetes 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It’s not your diabetes educator or endocrinologist or even your spouse who will carry the torch. It’s you, the person with diabetes.
On the other hand, it’s a well-trodden road. Many, many people just like you are learning to test their blood glucose, take new medications, and change the way they eat and exercise. There are millions of people in towns and cities across the United States managing their diabetes with successes and struggles. You can find them in your community hospital’s diabetes support group, and you can find them online on the American Diabetes Association’s message boards. You’re not alone — and there’s much to learn from your healthcare team and others with type 2 diabetes.
In the following discussion, we give you an overview about putting together a healthcare team, taking medications, eating healthy foods, getting active, and finding support.
Assembling a healthcare team
One of the first steps you’ll take in managing your diabetes is to put together your healthcare team. At first, you may start with your diabetes care provider, who may be your family physician or nurse practitioner or an endocrinologist. You’ll probably see a certified diabetes educator (CDE), who is specially trained to help people manage their diabetes. These professionals will monitor your diabetes and any related complications, but also help you set goals and troubleshoot problems as they arise.
Other specialists you may see include dietitians, ophthalmologists, podiatrists, dermatologists, and others.
You may be prescribed a medication, such as metformin, as soon as you’re diagnosed with diabetes. Or you may take a combination of medications or insulin injections. Taking your prescribed medications is an essential piece of managing your type 2 diabetes. It is a cornerstone of your care — and it’s important to do it at the correct times each day or each week.
Switching a medication, adding a medication, or taking insulin is a normal part of having diabetes. Your diabetes will change over time, and your medication needs may change, too.
Checking blood glucose
Your healthcare provider will test your blood glucose using the A1C test during your checkups. As we explain in Chapter 1, an A1C test is a measure of your blood glucose over the previous three months. It gauges how well your medications work or whether you need to change your meals or physical activity.
You may also be asked to check your blood glucose on your own using a meter. You’ll prick your skin using a lancet to draw a drop of blood, press a test strip onto the blood, and then get a reading on your meter.
Checking your blood glucose will help you see how different things like food, exercise, and medications affect your blood glucose. It’s a snapshot of your diabetes that can help you make informed decisions like choosing a smaller meal at lunchtime or walking an extra 20 minutes in the evening when you get home from work.
Eating healthy and staying active
Learning about wholesome, nutritious foods and how to incorporate them into meals is a critical part of managing your diabetes. You may not have thought much about the nutritional benefits of certain foods before you were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. After all, we all eat foods because they taste good. That’s the fun part!
You don’t have to give up your favorite foods because you have diabetes. Instead, you may need to eat them in smaller portions or prepare them differently to reduce calories. You may also add a few new foods packed with nutritional punch like salmon, beets, and olive oil.
Exercising also helps manage your diabetes by moving glucose out of the bloodstream and making your cells more sensitive to insulin. It boosts your mood and distracts you from everyday worries.
Perhaps it sounds touchy-feely, but finding support is another important part of managing your diabetes. Support can mean so many different things — from chatting with online buddies on a message board to attending a diabetes education class.
At some point, you may experience the very real feelings associated with diabetes distress, including fatigue, annoyance, and just plain burnout. Or you may experience more intense emotions of depression and/or an anxiety disorder.
Talk to your healthcare provider about your feelings and concerns and seek support from a mental health professional or others with type 2 diabetes.