Learning to live with type 2 diabetes
Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is a life-changing event. You can choose to learn all you can about the disease and its treatment, or you can ignore your physician's advice and suffer the consequences down the road. I chose the former path.
How I live with type 2 diabetes
Here are a few things I learned about living with diabetes and keeping myself healthy:
- You can't manage what you can't measure. I monitored my blood sugar levels very closely after my diagnosis. On my doctor's advice I measured twice a day -- first thing in the morning before breakfast and two hours after a meal. Once my blood sugar levels were under control, I reduced it to once a day, usually in the morning. But once a week or so I would check two hours after a meal just to make sure I was within range. I also weigh myself every morning to keep my weight under control, and periodically check my blood pressure. Finally, I check my feet frequently, because they are usually the first body parts to show signs of neuropathy and skin problems.
- Track what you eat. I keep a food journal of what I eat (particularly carbohydrates). This is critical in the early stages of learning to manage type 2 diabetes. After a few months, I had a very good idea of the correct portion sizes and carbohydrate counts for most foods. As a part of this measurement, I learned to read food labels, particularly with respect to the carbohydrates. For foods that don't have labels (fresh fruits and vegetables, for instance), there are books and Internet sites available that provide accurate carb counts. Size matters, however. A small apple is about 15 grams (one serving) of carbohydrate, so I don't buy the big apples anymore.
- Get regular checkups. In the beginning, I saw my doctor three months after diagnosis and every six months thereafter. He gave me a physical examination and ordered blood tests to check my A1c, cholesterol, triglycerides, and other indicators. I am now down to a yearly checkup. I also visit my ophthalmologist once a year because diabetes can cause damage to the eyes. Another regular visit is to my dentist to have my teeth cleaned and inspected every six months.
By following these guidelines, I plan to avoid the severe complications of blindness, heart disease, potential amputation and other consequences of untreated diabetes.