Diabetes? No need to panic

Being diagnosed with diabetes isn’t the end of the world; it’s only the beginning of a different life

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When a person is diagnosed with diabetes, it can be a time of mixed emotions—anger, fear, and denial. It is often difficult to understand the disease or why it has afflicted you. And, although each person has his/her own way of responding to the diagnosis and managing the years that follow, diabetes is best managed with the help of others. If the person with diabetes, healthcare providers and family work together, better outcomes are achieved.

It is essential that you learn about the disease and what it means to you. Knowing measures for self-management of diabetes helps you make decisions, tackle issues and live with it better. By understanding your disease you will be able to take an active role in maintaining or improving your health and quality of life.

There are three important measures that your care provider will monitor and try to keep within healthy targets—your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose level. It is not unusual for people with type-2 diabetes to be prescribed six different oral medications to keep these measures in a healthy range. This may be the first time you have had to take medications and it is important for you to know the names of the medications, why you are taking them, what their side effects are and how you are going to remember to take the prescribed dose.

Your physician will also order regular screening tests to check for complications. Screening identifies signs of a complication and helps determine if you need further treatment to decrease its advancement. The International Diabetes Federation [IDF] advocates that all people should have access to essential medicines and diagnostic and monitoring technologies to prevent or delay complications related to diabetes.

You may have to make lifestyle changes—increase physical activity, change what, when or how much you eat or quit smoking. It may be a time to try new foods and new activities—you may even meet new people in doing so. Changing your behaviour can be difficult. Hence, it helps if you have assistance in refining your goals and making a realistic plan to achieve them.

However, your healthcare providers cannot be with you all day, every day. Therefore, the most important person you can turn to at such times is yourself. Look at being diagnosed with diabetes as an opportunity to take some time and think about your lifestyle. Consider all aspects—what is important to you; what information do you need to manage this disease; and what you need from your healthcare providers, your family, and your community.

In a life that is often too busy to reflect on how we are living, diabetes can serve as a wake-up call to remind us to take care of our health. To prevent or delay complications, take an active role in managing your diabetes and collaborate with your healthcare providers to find solutions that work for you.

You are not alone

When people are diagnosed with diabetes they are faced with many challenges and new experiences. You do not need to face these challenges on your own. You can turn to healthcare providers, family, and friends to find the care, education and support that you need to adjust to the diagnosis and manage the condition.

You can learn and obtain support from other people with diabetes as well. Sharing challenges and successes with others helps find practical solutions and get support. One way to meet other people with diabetes is by becoming a member of a national association.

When people with diabetes come together with a common message, their voice is stronger. Together, they can get the attention of governing bodies and community leaders and increase awareness of the needs of people. World Diabetes Day [November 14] is an opportunity to join people around the world and send a strong message about the needs of people suffering from diabetes.

It is important to learn by sharing experiences with each other. Reaching out to other people with diabetes helps increase awareness of the disease and advocate for better care and education.

Questions to ask your doctor…

  • What type of diabetes do I have?
  • What are my blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels and what should they be?
  • What are the three most immediate steps I should take to keep things under control?
  • How often should I check my blood sugar? What should I do if it is too high or too low?
  • Should I expect any side effects of the medications you prescribed?
  • What if I miss my dose?
  • What other specialists should I regularly see?

This was first published in the November 2010 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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Helen McGuire
Helen McGuire is a Senior Diabetes Education and Health Systems Specialist with the International Diabetes Federation. In this role she supports strategy development, project planning, implementation and advocacy efforts to advance diabetes education and care globally.

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