Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes? Now What?

So, You’ve Just Been Diagnosed With Type 2 Diabetes. Now What?

If you’ve just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you’re likely feeling a range of emotions, from being overwhelmed and confused, to downright scared. It can be very hard to hear that you have a condition that requires significant lifestyle changes. But the good news is that Type 2 diabetes can be managed and controlled with the right knowledge, support, and tools. So, what now? Let’s dive in and talk about the steps you can take to prepare for, and live a long and healthy life with diabetes. 

A woman just diagnosed with diabetes measuring her blood sugar with the help of her husband

Understanding What Type 2 Diabetes Is


In order for your body to use glucose (sugar) as its main source of energy, the sugar must be transported into your cells via a hormone called insulin. With Type 2 diabetes, your body either does not produce enough insulin, or it cannot use the insulin it does make effectively due to insulin resistance. When your body cannot use glucose for energy, you end up with elevated blood sugar levels, which can cause serious health complications. 

What Kind of Health Complications Can Result From Type 2 Diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes impacts every major organ in your body, including your nerves, eyes, kidney, heart, and blood vessels. When Type 2 diabetes goes unmanaged, it can lead to complications like:

  • Heart and blood vessel disease. 
  • Nerve damage in the limbs, heart, and digestive system.
  • Kidney disease.
  • Eye diseases like glaucoma or cataracts.
  • Skin conditions.
  • Slow healing, which can lead to serious infections.
  • Hearing impairment. 
  • Sleep apnea. 
  • Dementia. 


While these chronic conditions and complications sound terrifying, you can lower your risk for developing them by simply managing your Type 2 diabetes. So, where do we go from here? Education, medication, and lifestyle changes around nutrition and physical exertion.

Getting Educated on Type 2 Diabetes & Taking Your Medication

The first step is to get educated about your condition and learn everything you can about managing it. You will need to meet regularly with your doctor and a dietitian who specializes in Type 2 diabetes management, to help you set up an individualized medication and nutrition plan.  This plan will include a combination of diet and exercise modifications, as well as medications to help manage your blood sugar levels. 

Managing Your Blood Glucose 

The biggest concern right out of the gate is learning how to monitor and manage your blood glucose levels, so that they remain in a healthy range. To do this, you’ll need to learn how to use a blood glucose monitor, a lancing device (to prick your finger), and blood glucose strips. These items will allow you to accurately measure your levels, and give you a number to record.

Once you have your blood sugar levels, you will need to make adjustments in terms of what you eat and how active you are. Type 2 diabetes is largely impacted by diet and lifestyle, so making changes in these areas can have a big impact on the health of your body. Before we get to managing your nutrition and exercise, the next step is understanding your medication. 

Medication

To help keep your blood sugar levels in the correct range, you may be prescribed oral pills and insulin, or just insulin. It is in your best interest to ask as many questions as you can think of when first getting your medication, so that you know (a) how it works, and (b) what to expect.  Here is a small list to get you started:

  • How many pills do I need to take daily, and when should they be taken during the day?
  • Can I take my meds with food or on an empty stomach?
  • What do I do if I forget to take my medication but remember later on in the day? Do I still take it when I remember?
  • If I am taking oral pills and insulin, how do these work with one another, and what do I need to know about utilizing both?
  • Will I have side effects, and if I do, what should I do? 
  • I am taking the following medications [list them out], will my diabetes medication interact with these and if yes, what do I need to know about the interactions?

And finally, is there anything else I need to know about my Type 2 diabetes medication?

The Role Of Eating Well & Getting Physically Active

When it comes to the role of nutrition and exercise, these are two of the most powerful tools you have for managing your Type 2 diabetes.  The first step you want to take in the realm of nutrition, is making sure that you’re consuming foods from an ADA-approved cookbook or list of foods that are diebetic-friendly.  You’ll want to:

  1. Focus on eating foods that are lower in fat and calories, and higher in fiber. This includes eating fresh fruits and vegetables, non-dairy based foods, lean meats or meat substitutes, and whole grains.
  2. You’ll want to space your food out throughout the day – don’t eat it all in one go, and certainly don’t eat too much food. You’ll want to make sure you’re eating appropriate proportions for your age and weight, and you’ll want to avoid skipping meals. 
  1. Say no to sugar-based beverages. Choose unsweetened tea, water with a lime or lemon, and avoid drinks like soda, energy drinks, or juices. Your dietitian can shed some light on when you should be consuming sugar and when you shouldn’t be. 

The second step you’ll want to take here is to make sure you’re being physically active. By moving your body, you lower your blood sugar levels as the movement helps get the sugar out of your blood and into your cells. 

The best kinds of physical exertion here are going to be vigorous aerobic-style activities like biking, running, swimming, or brisk walks. Consider also doing strength training (lifting weights/resistance bands), flexibility exercises (yoga/stretching), and incorporating more exercise into your daily routine like choosing to take the stairs or parking further away. The aim is to build up to completing 150-minutes a week. 

Struggling With Your New Diagnosis? Surround Yourself With Support


If you find yourself struggling with your Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, it’s important to try to remember that you don’t have to go through this journey alone. There are many resources available that can help you understand the condition, and how it may impact your daily life.  

It is important to gather support from your family and friends, your doctor or dietitian, and consider finding exercise buddies or online resources such as Type 2 diabetes communities, so that when it becomes tough, you have people to lean on.  Remember that Type 2 diabetes is manageable, and with the right tools and support systems in place, you can live a long and happy life. 

If you’d like to learn about a Type 2 Diabetes research study that you may qualify for, please apply here.