If you’ve just heard the terms “pre-diabetic” or “type 2″ during your doctor’s appointment, you may be feeling overwhelmed, scared, and unsure of the next step to take. The good news is that by visiting your physician, you’re being proactive about your health and getting the information you need to improve your condition. In this article we’ll walk you through the different types of diabetes, how to manage your condition, complications to be aware of, and how to get support. Diabetes is a condition that requires you to be proactive about your health and monitor your diet, activity levels, stress, sleep, and blood sugar levels. By being proactive with your health and following your doctor’s advice you can manage type 1 diabetes and possibly reverse pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Also known as juvenile diabetes or insulin-dependent diabetes, this disease can managed so individuals can live long, healthy lives even though it doesn’t have a cure. These are the basics of type 1 diabetes:
- This is chronic condition that occurs when your pancreas produces little or no insulin, a hormone that’s needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells and produce energy.
- Genetics or exposure to certain viruses usually play a role in type 1 diabetes.
- Symptoms include: extreme thirst, unexplainable weight loss, frequent urination, and fatigue.
- This usually appears during childhood but can show up in adults as well.
- Taking insulin as prescribed by a doctor is critical for stabilizing blood sugar levels in people with type 1 diabetes..
- It’s important to balance insulin doses with the food you’re eating and activity. Your doctor and a certified diabetes educator can help with this.
Pre-diabetes is one of the fastest growing conditions in the country, with over 86 million people estimated to have this condition, according to National Diabetes Statistics Report in 2014 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These are the basics of type 2 diabetes:
- Family history and genetics play a role in the development of pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes.
- Having excess fat and not exercising are two other factors that can lead to pre-diabetes.
- A pre-diabetes diagnosis from your doctor means your blood glucose levels are higher than normal, but the numbers aren’t high enough to be classified as full-blown diabetes.
- Reversing pre-diabetes is possible by making healthy lifestyle changes.
Controlling your blood sugar through diet, exercise, and improving sleep is important so you can put the brakes on the progression to type 2 diabetes.
Losing weight through diet and exercise modifications may slash your type 2 risk by 58% , according to a federally funded study called the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.
Type 2 Diabetes
Before having been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may have had pre-diabetes for some time and not been able to get the disease under control. Here’s what you need to know about type 2 diabetes:
- Your body isn’t using insulin properly. Your pancreas struggles to make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.
- Being overweight or obese and inactive can all play roles in developing type 2 diabetes, as do genetics, although doctors and researchers still don’t know exactly why this type of diabetes happens.
Type 2 diabetes can be managed by changing your diet, getting regular exercise, possibly taking medication or insulin, and by monitoring your blood sugar.
How to manage pre-diabetes and type 2 diabetes
Improve your diet.
You might think that having diabetes or pre-diabetes means you have to eat bland, boring foods for the rest of your life — but that’s not the case. Here are a few simple tips to get you started:
- Choose wholes foods that are low in fat and calories and high in fiber. Shop fresh food departments online and add fruits and vegetables to your cart. While you’re at it, toss in whole grains, good-for-you fats like olive oil and nuts, lean proteins, and low-carb foods.
- Aim to include a variety of foods. The more colorful produce the more vitamins and minerals you’re getting!
- Read food labels to help keep an eye on sugars and carbs in packaged foods. Meet with a dietitian who can teach you how to monitor your carbohydrate intake, let you know about how many carbs you need to eat, and how to keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Ask your physician if he or she has a referral for a certified diabetes educator. This type of dietitian can help you take the guesswork out of shopping, planning meals, cooking, and dining out when you have diabetes.
Exercise for better glucose control and weight loss.
If you have pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, your doctor may have advised you to start exercising. Here’s what you need to know about exercise and how it can help manage diabetes:
- Regular activity can help lower blood glucose levels and improve your A1C levels (a test that reveals the three-month average of your blood glucose numbers).
- Improved A1C numbers may help you take fewer pills and less insulin in the future.
- Exercise has been shown to help manage stress, improve your sleep, boost heart health and improve circulation, which is especially important in diabetics who tend to have vascular problems.
- Speak with your doctor about an exercise program he or she recommends for you, as well as blood sugar monitoring before and/or after exercise.
- Find an activity you enjoy so you’ll stick with it! Walkingis a great exercise to start with. You can also try dance classes, gardening, bicycling, using resistance bands or light weights, or even consider investing in at-home fitness equipment.
Monitor blood glucose levels.
Blood glucose (also known as blood sugar) is an essential measure of your health and how your diabetes is being managed on a day-to-day basis.
- Use blood glucose meters and blood glucose test strips daily and log the results in a journal that you can share with your doctor.
- You may need to monitor your fasting blood glucose and blood sugars more than once a day.
- Invest in the latest blood glucose testing technology and other important diabetes supplieslike blood glucose test strips.
- Consider ReliOn diabetes products, which are known to be both effective and affordable.
Ditch the cigarettes.
Whether you have type 1, type 2 or pre-diabetes, try to stop smoking.
- Quitting smoking helps your heart and lungs—and it lowers the risk of damaging your blood vessels, eyes, nerves and other organs.
- Consider using nicotine gum or nicotine patches to help you quit.
How to reduce type 2 diabetes health risks.
Get more and better quality sleep.
Not getting enough sleep can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes as it’s been linked to higher-than-normal blood sugar levels.
- Sleep problems like obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) or restless legs syndrome could be interfering with your ability to get a good night’s rest, even if you sleep seven to eight hours a night. Obstructive sleep apnea is a disorder in which breathing is briefly and repeatedly interrupted during sleep.
- Type 2 diabetics who have OSA might worsen their disease conditions since it impacts glucose control.
- Talk to your doctor about your sleep habits and challenges so they can screen you for sleep problems and remedy the issue.
Surprising health benefits of a good night’s sleep.
Take medications as prescribed.
If you’re at high risk of diabetes, or you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, your doctor may have prescribed oral medications to help manage your disease.
- Pick up your prescriptions up in-store or manage your prescriptions and refills online with an online pharmacy or prescription delivery service.
- Your doctor may recommend OTC options like glucose tabletsin case your blood sugars ever go too low.
Be prepared for complications.
Many complications can arise from having pre-diabetes and diabetes. They can range from hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), to foot problems from poor circulation (including ulcers, athlete’s foot, fungal/nail infections, and calluses), vision problems, neuropathy (nerve damage), and even dry skin.
- Address dry hands with moisturizing hand creams and heal dry, cracked skin on your feet with foot lotions.
- Talk to your doctor about common symptoms to be on the lookout for, especially any changes in the sensations in your feet and vision issues, as these can be signs of nerve disease from poorly managed diabetes.
- Managing your diabetes through a nutritious diet, exercise, monitoring blood glucose levels, and living an overall improved, healthy lifestyle can help you avoid these complications.
Enlist your family and friends’ help to stick to your healthy eating and exercise plan.
- Discuss the lifestyle changes you’re making with your loved ones, as well as what to know about your medications and blood glucose monitoring.
- Arm yourself with expert support and knowledge in the form of a diabetes team, including your doctor, dietitian, an eye doctor, a foot doctor.
- Seek out local diabetes groups in your community so you can meet people who are facing the same struggles as you. You’re not alone and you can do this!