10 Top Tips For Newly Diagnosed Diabetics
When you're newly diagnosed with diabetes, it can be quite scary! Check out my post on 10 tips for newly diagnosed diabetics to help give you reassurance..
Have you just been newly diagnosed with type 1 diabetes? Then let me start by saying, you’re going to be okay!
I’ve been living with diabetes for 10 years now, and it doesn’t have to stop you from achieving your dreams goals, and everything you want too!
That being said, I’m sure you’re feeling frightened, overwhelmed and probably a little confused. Finding out you have diabetes isn’t exactly fun.
Well, below I’m going to take you through 10 tips for newly diagnosed diabetics, that I wish I had read!
Before we delve in, I actually want to specifically outline some different types of diabetes, because whilst I have type 1 diabetes, a lot of these types are relevant to all variations.
Different types of diabetes
Let’s consider some of the main different types of diabetes, before I give you some newly diagnosed diabetic tips!
There are actually quite a few different types of diabetes, but I’m going to discuss the ones that I have actually heard of and know something about.
Type 1 diabetes
This is the type of diabetes that I live with.
Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune disease that causes your pancreas to break down and stop working.
Essentially it dies, which means your body is unable to produce insulin which will affect your ability to regulate blood sugar levels among other things.
Type 1 diabetes isn’t caused by anything specific, there is no cause.
It’s not caused by sugar, being overweight, or whatever other weird myths you’ve heard of. Unfortunately there is no cause and therefore no cure.
Type 1 diabetes affects around 10% of the diabetes population, and it’s most common in people under the age of 40.
You don’t need to have a family history of type 1 diabetes either, it’s one of those wonderful diseases that just chooses you randomly!
Type 1 diabetes is controlled via insulin injections or an insulin pump. Common systems include weight loss, constant peeing, drinking a lot and fatigue.
Type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the condition that always gets the airtime, and I’m not surprised since it covers the vast majority of the diabetes population.
Type 2 diabetes has a variety of causes, some of which are not preventable. Type 2 diabetes develops when the body becomes resistant to insulin or when the pancreas is unable to produce enough insulin.
Why this happens is unknown, however both genetics and environmental factors, such as being overweight and inactive, can be contributing factors. If your type 2 diabetes is a result of being overweight and inactive, you can help reserve the severity of the condition by changing your lifestyle. However, this is of course, not the case for all type 2 diabetics.
Type 2 diabetes is treated and controlled via diet, tablets, and insulin injections.
MOYD is otherwise known as “Maturity onset diabetes of the young” and this type of diabetes is more likely to be inherited than other types of diabetes, due to a stronger genetic risk factor. Around 1-2% of the diabetic population have this form of diabetes and It is a form of diabetes that develops before the individual reaches 25.
You can read more about it here.
This form of diabetes is quite rare and it is diagnosed in children who are younger than 6 months old.
It’s caused by a variety of genetic factors and it’s treatable and in some cases you may not need insulin.
There are actually two main forms of it and the first form, known as “Transient Neonatal Diabetes Mellitus”, typically disappears within a year of birth (but can return in childhood) and the second form, “Permanent Neonatal Diabetes Mellitus”, stays indefinitely for the rest of the life.
LADA is also known as Latent Autoimmune Diabetes of Adulthood and is a form of type 1 diabetes that develops in later adulthood. My mum actually has this.
It develops more slowly, so can often be misinterpreted as type 2 diabetes. It’s best described as type 1.5 as this does indicate the fact that LADA is a form of type 1 diabetes that shares some characteristics with type 2 diabetes.
It’s more common in the age group of 30-50.
Type 3C diabetes
This is a rarer form of diabetes that can happen when the pancreas stops producing enough insulin for the body.
It can only be type 3C diabetes if an external illness or condition has affected your pancreas such as, pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer, cystic fibrosis amongst others.
This condition is often misdiagnosed as type 2 diabetes due to the lack of awareness.
10 Tips for newly diagnosed diabetics
Okay! Now it’s time to check out my tips for newly diagnosed diabetics. Being a diabetic for over 10 years, I’ve compiled some thoughts, feelings and tips I wish I had of read when I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
So hopefully you get some sort of motivation, inspiration or reassurance below.
1. Always remember: "diabetes will NOT hold you back"
There is very little that diabetes can stop you from doing.
Actually, I can’t even think of anything off the top of my head.
After you're diagnosed with diabetes, all those dreams you had beforehand, will still be possible. My personal dream is to travel to every country in the world, and diabetes certainly won’t stop me from doing that, and if anything, it’s made me more determined to achieve my goals.
I won’t lie to you and say that achieving your goals and dreams might require a little extra work, a little more planning and maybe it won’t happen as quickly as you hoped, but you can 100% achieve anything you want to achieve when diagnosed with diabetes.
It’s very easy to become disheartened and frustrated, but you’ll soon realise how strong diabetics are and you’ll soar in life.
2. Make use of the diabetic support network around you
There is SO much support in the diabetes network. Of course I can’t speak for other support groups of other illnesses (as thankfully, it’s just type 1 diabetes I have), but I’m pretty sure the diabetic community is the most awesome!
There are so many fantastic websites out there to help you get information, amazing forums to ask all the questions you’re thinking about, brilliant Facebook groups (like Type 1's Rant, Moan & Share Stories) to share frustrations and stories with fellow diabetics and so much more.
You’ll never be alone with your diabetes diagnosis and you’ll always find someone who can relate to how you’re feeling. That goes for all ages and all different types of diabetes.
I’ve made a list of some of my favourite diabetes resources in the community!
- Beyond Type 1 & Beyond Type 2 (epic communities with a young vibe, helping to make diabetes cool!)
- JDRF (they do brilliant discovery days to meet other diabetics and learn about new technology etc)
- Diabetes Sisters (they share real life stories of women living with diabetes with ALL types of diabetes)
- American Diabetes Association (Great resource for forums, advice and more for all types of diabetes)
3. A CGM can make your life easier
We are actually very lucky because we live in a time when diabetes management is getting easier.
We now have access to technology that makes a massive difference to the stress of living with diabetes and the actual ability to control our blood sugars.
Seriously, it wasn’t that long ago that people had to test their blood sugar via urine and now we can scan it!
A CGM is a continuous glucose monitor that enables you to consistently see your blood sugar on a phone screen, external monitor, smart watch etc and you can set alarms to warn you if your blood sugar is going high or low.
This allows you to gain better control of your blood sugars and help reduce those swings between high and low, which are quite common when you’re newly diagnosed and getting into the swing of things.
In the USA more and more insurance companies are covering these types of products which makes it more accessible, and it’s possible to self-fund too.
In the UK, some CGM style products like the Freestyle Libre are now available on prescription and you can self-fund other CGM'S like Dexcom or the MiaoMiao.
Some CGM companies/products that you can check out include:
Read more: My review on the Dexcom VS Freestyle Libre
4. An insulin pump is also great
When you’re just diagnosed, the chances are you’re going to be started on insulin pens, which is fine and completely normal.
Typically once you start showing you’re getting the hang of the whole insulin pen world, and you learn how to count carbohydrates (more on that later), then you can be offered an insulin pump. An insulin pump is attached to you, but it also allows you to get precision when it comes to blood sugar management, and it’s perfect for people who love to exercise, travel, and generally have busy lives because there are lots of added options to help you manage those moments.
When you get an insulin pump, there is a learning curve involved, but it’s totally worth it (in my opinion).
What I will say is that if you’re the type of individual who has a set routine in life, and you do the same thing every day, and you eat the same meals weekly etc, then you’ll get by fine on just insulin pens.
But if you’re young and just diagnosed
and are worried that you’ll not be able to “do certain things”, then an insulin pump might be a great, and more flexible option for you. There are lots of insulin pumps on the market and I’ve listed a few below that you can check out.
The reason I mention the insulin pump to someone who is newly diagnosed is the fact that when I was diagnosed, no one mentioned it as a possibility, so me being afraid of injections was fully freaking out at the prospect of injecting myself 4-5 times a day forever.
Thankfully, the insulin pump reduces that dramatically to once every 3 days!
But, that’s why it makes my list of tips for newly diagnosed diabetics.
5. The honeymoon phase is a real thing
Oh, the honeymoon phase, how I miss you.
One of the wonderful yet annoying things with type 1 diabetes is that when you’re first diagnosed, you honestly think, “oooh, I hardly need any insulin, maybe I’m cured”...I’m not joking, this thought crosses your mind.
And the reason it does is because of the “honeymoon period”. This is a period after diagnosis where your pancreas is still letting out some insulin, so you find you don’t need as much insulin to manage your food intake.
It’s basically the period of your pancreas dying out, so it makes management a little easier, and then when it goes away, you think, “wow, now it’s time for the real fun!”.
The honeymoon period can actually last up to 4 years in some individuals, but for most people it lasts around 2-3 months after diagnosis, and as more insulin-producing cells die, the honeymoon period comes to an end and you’re fully committed ;)
6. Learn to count carbs early to make life easier
I mentioned about counting carbohydrates earlier with regards to an insulin pump, but counting carbohydrates is something every diabetic needs to do.
You’ve probably heard the rumors that “diabetics can’t eat sugar, or pasta or pizza”...or whatever.
Well, the truth is, we can eat all those delicious things, and have great blood sugars. The secret? Perfecting the art of carbohydrate counting!
This is typically done in a course style way. I spent a week learning carbohydrate counting and it completely transformed my diabetes. It allows you to be more flexible with what you eat, when you eat and you can go out to restaurants without worrying about how you are going to know what insulin to take!
What I will say is, the earlier you learn to carbohydrate count, the easier it will be for you to. Carbohydrate counting is a learning curve, but when you achieve it, it actually allows you to bring some normality back to your life, so you don’t feel like every meal is a guessing game, or feel like you have to avoid certain foods.
So, find an opportunity to learn how to carbohydrate count sooner, rather than later.
In the UK, the official program is known as the DAFNE program, and in the USA, there are a variety of providers available.
7. You can eat whatever you want
So, another great tip or thing to know for newly diagnosed diabetics is that you can eat whatever you want. This follows on nicely from the last point.
This is especially true for type 1 diabetics, who probably have many people asking them “did you eat too much sugar?, is that why you have type 1 diabetes?”.
This is one of the worst and most dangerous diabetes myths out there!
I personally want to yell at people who ask me that question, but they’re just uneducated, and you can educate them!
You can eat whatever the hell you want with type 1 diabetes.
Of course, a healthy diet is recommended for ALL people in the world, not just diabetics. So the way you have food before your diagnosis does not need to change after your diagnosis. There is no specific “diabetic diet” you need to follow.
Now, some people will argue that low carb is better, and as someone who was low carb for 6-7 years of their life, I can say it does make diabetes management easier, of course. Because you don’t need insulin for carbs, and you’ll need less insulin for low carbs.
BUT, as someone who now eats carbs, I can tell you that my HBA1C has not changed for the worse, but for the better, when incorporated carbs back into my diet.
If you want to lose weight, then low carb is the way to go, but if you enjoyed carbs in your life before you were diagnosed, then you do NOT have to give them up when diagnosed.
Perfecting the art of managing certain carbs takes practice, but practice makes perfect and having an insulin pump, CGM and knowing how to carbohydrate count will help make that all easier.
The whole point of these newly diagnosed diabetic tips is to show you that your life doesn’t have to be different from the “normal” you already knew.
You can still be YOU and that includes the food you eat.
8. It’s okay to be sad
Often when you ask someone what the hardest thing about diabetes is, if they're being honest, they’ll say the mental aspect.
Diabetes isn’t easy all the time, and you won’t get it right all the time, so it’s important to appreciate and accept your frustrations.
You need to allow yourself to feel sad, feel angry and you can feel this way as many times as you want. I typically feel like this every couple of months.
I love how strong I am now, I can appreciate the effort and work I put into managing my diabetes, but that doesn't mean I don’t get sad about it.
But I allow myself too, I write down my frustrations, I cry it out with my boyfriend and then I feel better and ready to get going!
For a long time when I was diagnosed with diabetes, I hid any sort of frustrations or fears I had. And everyone used to say “wow, you’re managing this so well”, and inside I wanted to scream, and it wasn't until I actually joined the diabetes community and shared some of my frustration that I really accepted my diabetes and it was great seeing and hearing from other diabetics who shared the exact same frustrations as me!
Don’t be afraid to seek help from doctors, friends, fellow diabetics or family.
You’re allowed to feel vulnerable!
9. It will get easier
Practice makes perfect and honestly it gets easier.
When I was first diagnosed with diabetes, I genuinely thought, how would I manage this, how could I make this life adjustment, and now, I look back and think “wow, I’ve done good”. Because you often underestimate the strength you have as an individual, and you’ll be surprised at just how much you can do and achieve.
When you have set-backs, you just need to try new things, and keep going. Let’s face it, diabetes is “s**t”, but I promise you, it does get easier.
10. There are solutions if you’re afraid of needles
WHY didn't someone tell me this when I was diagnosed with diabetes!! I briefly mentioned that I was afraid of needles (pre-diagnosis).
I HATED getting my blood taken and the thought of injecting myself was like, “wow”. But there are so many solutions to help with a fear of needles.
Even with finger pricking, thanks to CGM’s you can scan your blood sugar, or see it on your phone, (with a device like the MiaoMiao sensor) there are devices to help you give injections without pain, like Genteel which allows you to get blood for your finger pricks, without an actual finger prick!
If someone had told me all that when I was just diagnosed, I probably wouldn’t have panicked so much.
So there you have it!
I hope reading this spot has made you feel a little more prepared and comfortable with your newly diagnosed diabetes but the main thing to remember is that you are never alone in this!
So, welcome to the world of diabetes, it’s an adventure!
If you’ve got any other tips for newly diagnosed diabetics that you would like to share, then drop a comment below.
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