A diabetes diagnosis may feel like your life has been turned upside down. Don't despair! It's normal to feel upset and overwhelmed, having to tackle diabetes nutrition, exercise and blood sugar levels, and more. You may not even be sure where to begin.
Remember, you are not alone. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services cites that more than 30 million people in the U.S. are living with diabetes. Finding diabetes support groups, learning about your health and making smart changes will help you manage your condition so you can make the most of life.
Here are some steps — with resources — to get you started on the path toward improved health and well-being.
Assemble Your Healthcare Team
It's important that you find the right team of professionals to help you manage your diabetes. Treatment for the condition involves lifestyle changes as well as the possibility of medication or insulin. Your team will work with you to decide what's best for you and provide support along the way. Your team may include:
- Primary care doctor, who keeps you on track managing your diabetes and refers you to healthcare specialists.
- Endocrinologist, who specializes in treating type 1 diabetes and helping those with difficulty controlling type 2 diabetes.
- Diabetes nurse educator, who teaches self-management strategies.
- Registered dietitian, who helps you manage diabetes nutrition and devise a diabetes-friendly meal plan. More on that below.
- Exercise physiologist, who helps you plan a safe and effective fitness program.
- Pharmacist, who keeps track of your medications and alerts you to possible side effects and interactions.
- Specialists, such as an eye doctor, cardiologist, podiatrist or kidney doctor, who may be brought onto the team as the need arises.
- Dentist, who prevents and treats gum disease and infection caused by excess blood sugar.
Seek Out Emotional Support
You don't have to face diabetes alone. Stay positive by surrounding yourself with people who will encourage, motivate and understand you.
- Reach out to friends and family. Let them know how they can help.
- Join a diabetes support group. You can find a local support group through Defeat Diabetes Foundation, Diabetes Sisters or Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, or contact your local hospital or American Diabetes Association office.
- Make online connections in social networks with message boards, forums and interest groups. Try the communities at the American Diabetes Association, Joslin Diabetes Center, TuDiabetes, TypeOneNation and Facebook.
Learn About Diabetes
The more you know about your condition — from diabetes nutrition to exercise and blood sugar — the better equipped you will be to manage it. Learning about the causes and complications and effective self-management, whether through diabetes support groups or educational outlets are key to helping you stay healthy. Here are some free resources to help you get informed:
- Diabetes HealthSense, a roundup of informational resources.
- Joslin Diabetes Center's Online Learning Center, which has free online courses.
- Living with Type 2 Diabetes Program, a 12-month educational program.
- Living with Diabetes: Ask the Experts Town Hall, an online video series with diabetes experts.
- DiabetesPro Program Listing, a search tool for finding local ADA-recognized diabetes classes.
- American Association of Diabetes Educators, a directory of local diabetes educators.
Plan Your Meals
A healthy diet is essential to managing diabetes nutrition — food affects your blood sugar, body weight and heart health.
That doesn't mean you can't enjoy eating.
With a little planning, you can manage your diabetes, include your favorite foods and feel great all at once. These resources can help you regulate your eating habits for diabetes management:
- Find a Registered Dietitian, a national database of qualified specialists to help you learn about nutrition and design a meal plan.
- Choose MyPlate, an interactive online tool to help you create a personalized meal plan.
- Recipes for Healthy Living, a newsletter of healthy, diabetes-friendly meal plans, cooking videos and healthy eating tips.
- Diabetes Cookbooks, a listing of cookbooks with recipes that meet nutritional guidelines.
- Consider supplementing your diet with diabetes-friendly shakes and bars like Glucerna, which have vitamins, minerals and CARBSTEADY®, unique blends of slow-release carbohydrates that help minimize blood sugar spikes.
Be Physically Active
Regular exercise plays a central role in your diabetes care, since exercise and blood sugar are related. Make sure to get your doctor's approval before starting an exercise program. Some simple and motivating ways to incorporate more activity into your life include:
- Search the U.S. Registry of Exercise Professionals to find a registered clinical exercise physiologist to help you design a safe exercise plan.
- Find exercise buddies. The accountability will motivate you and help you stick with your exercise program.
- Include exercise in your daily life. If you can, take the stairs, park in the farthest spot in the parking lot and go for a walk during your lunch break.
- Try an app. MyFitnessPal, Couch to 5K, Yoga Studio, and SWORKIT are just a few that will help you get moving.
- With a wearable activity tracker, monitoring your activity may be all the motivation you need.
Diabetes is a serious condition, but with the right support and management, a new diagnosis doesn't have to slow you down.