Diagnosed with Diabetes: What Does It All Mean?
A diagnosis of diabetes can be confusing and upsetting. People with diabetes have a high risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Learning to understand diabetes is the first step in learning to manage your diabetes.
What Tests Will the Doctor Request?
The doctor will request a number of tests which will be repeated at different intervals throughout the year:
- Hemoglobin A1C Test: This test measures your average blood sugar levels over the past three months. This blood test will be taken at least twice a year. Your doctor may request it more frequently in the first year after diagnosis or if your blood glucose levels are out of control.
- Kidney function: Blood and urine tests should be requested at least once a year to ensure that your kidneys are functioning properly.
- Cholesterol: Each year a full panel cholesterol test which will measure total cholesterol, LDL “bad cholesterol”, HDL “good cholesterol” and triglycerides.
- Other tests: At each visit your doctor should check your feet for sores and for any possible nerve damage. Additionally, blood pressure should be measured at each visit.
How Will I Care for My Health?
After the initial diagnosis, much of the care for diabetes happens at home. In addition to attending follow-up visits with your doctor, you may be prescribed oral medications or insulin. Your doctor may request that you lose weight, follow a diabetic meal plan and begin an exercise program. Maintaining a healthy weight and stabilizing blood sugars are two of the most important factors in managing diabetes.
Eating for Diabetes
Your doctor may provide you with guidelines for healthy eating or refer you to a dietician for a personalized diabetes diet plan. Some general guidelines for diabetic eating include the following:
- Eat regular meals and snacks. Eat at regular times throughout the day, approximately every four to five hours to help maintain level blood sugar.
- Eat a variety of foods including lean proteins and a range of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Eat less sugar. Limiting sugar helps control blood sugar levels. Limiting sugar requires reading the labels on some of your favorite foods and checking the label for ingredients that are sugar, but are listed under other names such as fructose, corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses and honey.
Exercising for Diabetes
Regular and consistent exercise can help balance blood sugars and support healthy weight loss. Walking is one of the easiest ways to begin exercising. Check with your doctor for guidelines on incorporating exercise into your diabetes plan.