Facing a new diabetes diagnosis can be seriously daunting, but do not despair. Taking control of your health is the key to a long and healthy life.

If you were recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you are probably grappling with some pretty tough emotions. Feeling shocked, afraid, and overwhelmed is understandable, but believe it or not, there is much to be hopeful about. Diabetes care has come a very long way, and many recent advances in the understanding and treatment of diabetes have allowed for millions to successfully manage this disease and live a happy and healthy life with it. While this is certainly encouraging news, you may be unsure of where to turn next. The first step? Educate yourself. Knowledge is power, and understanding the basics of diabetes will help you to come to terms with it so that you can then confidently take the next steps toward putting a successful management plan into place.

Type 2 diabetes: the facts

  • Over 37 million Americans share your diagnosis, and it is estimated that 54.9 million will be diagnosed by 2030. Around 96 million have prediabetes today, which means they are at risk of diabetes down the road if left untreated.
  • Risk factors for diabetes include having prediabetes, being overweight, being 45 years old or older, having a family history of diabetes, leading a sedentary lifestyle, and previous diagnosis of gestational diabetes.  African Americans, Hispanic or Latino Americans, American Indians or Alaska Natives are also at higher risk.
  • Type 2 diabetes symptoms often take several years to develop. Some people don’t notice any symptoms at all. Typical symptoms include frequent urination, heightened thirst, excessive hunger, fatigue, and blurry vision.
  • Diagnosis includes taking A1C, fasting blood sugar or glucose tolerance tests to measure the amount of sugar in your blood. Elevated blood sugar levels generally indicate diabetes.

Managing your diabetes may be easier than you think

When first learning the nuts and bolts of managing diabetes, it is easy to feel discouraged. After all, you will need to consider what you eat and drink, how often you exercise, and which medications you may need to take. You may also need to prick your finger to keep track of your blood sugar multiple times a day. It might seem overwhelming at first but just like adapting to any new healthy lifestyle, after a bit of learning, patience, and practice, these changes will just become a regular part of your everyday life.

What to keep in mind when managing your type 2 diabetes

Þ Plug into a good support system. The great news is that you do not need to manage your diabetes alone. Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support is available nationwide and is covered by Medicare and most health insurance plans. A vast network of resource and support communities are available to help you connect with people going through exactly what you are experiencing. They will help you learn the skills you need to thrive every step of the way.

Þ   Design a healthy lifestyle plan. Learn how to eat reasonably portioned, balanced meals. Eating with diabetes used to be full of restrictions, but today’s food choices have greatly expanded which means you may still be able to enjoy your favorite foods. Also, aim for 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity exercise which can include walking briskly, dancing, swimming, bicycling, or playing sports. Do not worry about making these big changes all at once. Take small steps at first, because small improvements over time will help you sustain a healthier lifestyle for years to come.

Þ   Don’t forget to check your blood sugar regularly. Maintaining normal blood sugar will help keep you feeling good. Blood sugar is typically checked upon first waking up, before a meal, two hours after a meal, and at bedtime.

Þ   Know the signs of high or low blood sugar. Recognizing when your blood sugar is too high or too low will help you act quickly to correct it. Blood sugar targets are typically between 80 and 130 mg/dL before a meal and less than 180 mg/dL two hours after the start of the meal. Signs of low blood sugar include shakiness, sweating, dizziness, and hunger, where signs of high blood sugar are feeling fatigued, having blurry vision, feeling thirsty, and needing to urinate more frequently.

Þ   Prevent complications. People with diabetes are more likely to have heart, kidney, and nerve conditions. Taking care of yourself by maintaining target blood sugar levels, eating healthy, and exercising regularly will help to keep these complications at bay so that you can stay healthy in the long run.

Þ   Care for your mental health. Living with any chronic health condition is an emotional journey, and if you feel frustrated, sad, and anxious, you are not alone: people with diabetes are twice as likely to have depression and 20% more likely to suffer anxiety than people without diabetes. Taking proper care of yourself may be more challenging when you are struggling, so prioritize your mental health. Seek the help of a therapist if needed to help you feel better.

A few helpful things to remember

Facing a new diabetes diagnosis is not easy, but there is hope: it is very much possible to live a normal, joyous, and healthy life, and this actuality is within your control. You will be in charge of managing your condition and will hold the reins when identifying and carrying out your own treatment goals. You may feel overwhelmed by the many drastic changes expected of you at first, but remember you do not need to tackle them all at once. Reaching small goals as time goes on will lead to the lasting healthy habits you will need to enjoy life to the fullest.