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Understanding Your Diabetes Diagnosis

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A diabetes diagnosis can be a lot to process. But take heart — you’re not alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 38.4 million people have diabetes — 8.7 million of whom don’t even know they have it yet.

If you’ve recently been diagnosed with diabetes, you might be feeling a bit overwhelmed, and you likely have some questions. Tashrique Alam, DO, a family medicine physician at AdventHealth Medical Group Family Medicine Land O’ Lakes, is breaking down what you need to know about your diagnosis.

Understanding Your Diabetes Diagnosis

“The first step in taking control of your diabetes is learning about which type of diabetes you’ve been diagnosed with and how to manage your condition,” says Dr. Alam.

The three primary types of diabetes are:

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Type 2 diabetes

Understanding Type 1 Diabetes

“If you have Type 1 diabetes, your pancreas doesn’t make the insulin your body needs to get glucose (blood sugar) from your bloodstream to your body’s cells,” explains Dr. Alam. “So, managing your insulin therapy and diet is critical. You may be prescribed slow-acting insulin to help regulate your glucose levels between meals and fast-acting insulin to regulate your glucose levels after meals.”

Type 1 diabetes symptoms can be severe and should be taken seriously. They may include:

  • Bed-wetting in children who’ve never wet the bed before
  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Extreme hunger
  • Frequent urination
  • Mood changes and irritability
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Weakness and fatigue

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk with your primary care provider.

Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body resists the insulin it’s making, creating an issue with blood sugar regulation.

“If your condition isn’t well-controlled, your muscles, fat and liver can’t absorb the glucose from the bloodstream they need to function properly,” shares Dr. Alam. “In this situation, your body then tries to work harder to make insulin to help regulate your blood sugar levels, but it can’t keep up with the demand, and your glucose levels skyrocket.”

Symptoms you might experience with Type 2 diabetes include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Frequent urination
  • Unintended weight loss

It’s important to recognize these signs and get treatment, as chronic high blood sugar can cause serious health issues, including:

  • Heart attack
  • Kidney disease
  • Nerve damage
  • Peripheral vascular disease
  • Stroke
  • Vision issues

Understanding Gestational Diabetes

Insulin resistance during pregnancy is called gestational diabetes. This form of diabetes doesn’t commonly have any noticeable symptoms, so testing for it is a routine part of your prenatal care and typically happens during weeks 24 – 28 of pregnancy.

You may be at a higher risk for gestational diabetes if you:

  • Are African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander
  • Are older than 25
  • Are overweight
  • Had gestational diabetes from a previous pregnancy
  • Have polycystic ovary syndrome
  • Previously gave birth to a baby weighing over 9 pounds

If you are diagnosed with gestational diabetes after undergoing a glucose challenge while pregnant, it’s especially important to attend all of your prenatal appointments and closely follow the treatment plan you’ve been given. These guidelines may include:

  • Checking your blood sugar
  • Eating balanced meals, being sure to include protein and vegetables
  • Having your baby’s growth and development checked at prenatal examinations
  • Staying active, based on your provider’s guidelines
  • Meeting with a high-risk OB/GYN

“Though it’s important to take gestational diabetes seriously while you’re pregnant, having it doesn’t mean you’ll have diabetes after your pregnancy,” shares Dr. Alam. “Most cases of gestational diabetes go away shortly after giving birth to your baby, but if yours doesn’t resolve itself, it’s then considered Type 2 diabetes.”

How Your Care Team Cares for You

Diabetes is a chronic health condition and can be quite serious. Fortunately, you can manage it effectively and still enjoy the things that bring you joy — like your time with family and friends and your favorite activities.

“Your health care team will work closely with you to develop a personalized plan that helps you understand your diagnosis and manage your condition,” shares Dr. Alam. “We’re here to ensure you get your questions answered and have access to the resources and support you want and need.”

In addition to your primary care provider, your care team may include:

  • A nurse dedicated to help answer your questions, coordinate care and connect you with resources
  • A diabetes educator to provide education, training and support to help you manage your diagnosis
  • A dietitian to help you develop healthy eating habits to control your blood sugar levels
  • A pharmacist to answer questions about medication

5 Tips for Living With Diabetes

Managing diabetes effectively requires a healthy lifestyle that positively centers your wellness around your body, mind and spirit. Your care team will work closely with you to educate and support you as you begin your journey to make healthy changes to improve your whole health.

Five ways to jumpstart your healthy lifestyle include:

1. Focusing on your nutrition — Stick to a regular meal schedule, spacing meals throughout the day. Moderate how much you eat and ensure you eat a balanced variety of healthy foods, like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, non-fat dairy, lean meats, or meat substitutes like beans and legumes.

2. Incorporating regular exercise into your routine to manage blood sugar levels — Talk with your doctor about creating an exercise plan with goals that are safe for you. For example, your exercise plan might look like:

  • Aerobic activity that gets your heart pumping
  • Regular stretching to help you stay flexible
  • Staying active throughout the day by taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking farther away, or standing up and walking around at least once each hour
  • Strength training with weights or resistance bands

3. Reach or Maintain a Healthy Weight — “Losing weight can help improve your blood glucose levels, along with lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure,” shares Dr. Alam. “Your care providers can help you reach your weight-loss goals safely.

4. Monitor Your Glucose Levels Regularly — Checking blood glucose levels at home is important in understanding and managing your diabetes.

5. Be Mindful of Your Medications — “If your care provider prescribes medicine to help manage your diabetes, it’s important to follow the instructions and take it exactly as directed,” explains Dr. Alam. “Diabetes medication can help control your glucose levels and reduce the risk of short and long-term complications from your blood sugar level getting dangerously high or low.

Living a Full Life With Diabetes

Whatever your diagnosis and treatment plan, we’re here to help you live your best life. If you or a loved one have any questions or concerns about your diabetes diagnosis or want to learn more, schedule an appointment with Dr. Alam today.

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