If you've recently been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you're likely feeling scared-not to mention overwhelmed. Getting and staying healthier after your diagnosis requires time, effort and knowledge. Although there's a wealth of information out there, you should consult, here are some things you might not know that will make managing your diabetes easier:
Get Educated As Soon As Possible: Often, people who have been newly diagnosed are given an overview of their diabetes in either a doctor's office or a hospital room, plus instructions on how to administer insulin, if that's what you need. It helps to have a family member or friend there to take down the information in case you are too distracted to absorb all of it. Ask the doctor or nurse if they have a handout sheet for you. You might also want to take a diabetes education program recognized by the American Diabetes Association. Ask your doctor if he knows or one nearby. If not, click here to find one or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383) Monday to Friday between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. ET.
Know Exactly How Much You Can Eat. It's crucial that you consult a dietitian as soon as possible after your diagnosis, because choosing the foods you can and can't eat can be a complex process that takes into account carbohydrates, fats, sugars and dietary exchanges. If you can't see a dietitian right away, here's a basic technique to get you started: The Create-A-Plate technique, recommended by the ADA. Here's how it works. Choose a dinner plate no bigger than nine inches in diameter. Draw an imaginary vertical line down the middle. Then, on one side only, draw a horizontal line to the edge of the plate. You now have a plate with one large section and two smaller sections. Fill the large section with non-starchy vegetables like spinach, green beans, cauliflower, tomatoes and cucumbers. In one of the small sections, you can have starchy foods like rice, pasta or potatoes. In the other small section, you'll have protein like skinless chicken or turkey, tuna, a lean cut of beef like sirloin. Meat substitutes like tofu or low-fat cheese are fine, too. You can also have an 8 oz. glass of non-fat or low-fat milk, and a piece of fresh fruit. Avoid sauces or creams, and dress salads with a tablespoon of light or fat-free dressing.
Learn About Late-Night Snacks. If you want to nosh before bedtime, Maria Collazo-Clavell, MD, a diabetes specialist with the Mayo Clinic, recommends a can of diet soda, five baby carrots, two saltine crackers, one vanilla wafer or one piece of hard candy. If you have to snack before bed so you'll avoid low blood sugar overnight, your doctor may have to adjust your medicine.
"Sugar-Free" Isn't Always A Good Thing. Read the labels on treats like sugar-free candies, cookies, pies and gums before deciding whether you want them. Sometimes the ingredient list will explicitly say "sugar alcohols." Other names include Erythritol, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, maltitol, lactitol, hydrogenated starch hydrolysates and isomalt. Although these naturally occurring substances, found in fruits and vegetables, are lower in calories than sugar, they can also have a laxative effect if you eat too much of them, and may even cause a drop in blood sugar. Note: Sugar alcohols do not have alcohol and are not the same as artificial sweeteners.
Learn To Exercise The Right Way. Exercise helps everyone, diabetics and non-diabetics alike, in controlling weight and blood pressure and relieving stress. And exercise is an essential tool in managing Type 2 diabetes. There are some variables you need to know about, though, in starting and maintaining your exercise program. Be sure to monitor your blood sugar levels before you begin exercising. Some general guidelines: If the level is below 100, you're not ready to exercise because your blood sugar is already low. Eat a small, carbohydrate-rich snack like crackers or a piece of fruit. If your blood-sugar level is between 100 and 250, that's normal. But if you're above 250, wait until your levels return to normal. If you feel shaky, nervous or even confused during exercise, stop right away. Check with your doctor about what kind or exercise, and how much, is right for you.
Don't Ignore Your Emotions. Newly diagnosed diabetics may feel hopeless or even guilty about their condition. Since eating is such a big factor in diabetes (though genetics play a part, too) people who have made unhealthy food choices pre-diagnosis may feel that "I did this to myself." But that kind of attitude doesn't help in getting better or in managing diabetes. Focus on your new, healthy lifestyle and how you are feeling better than you have for a long time. Sometimes talking to others in the same situation can help. The ADA has online community boards, and your doctor may be able to refer you to a support group in your area. You might also want to consider a daily reading from an inspirational book. Whatever you decide to do for your emotional health, you're much more likely to manage your diabetes if you've got a positive attitude.
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