If you’ve been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you’ll probably never forget the moment your doctor shared the news--and the rollercoaster of emotions that followed. Maybe you saw it coming; your doctor told you sometime within the last decade that you were pre-diabetic, and you always assumed diabetes was inevitable. Or maybe it came out of left field. I’m not even overweight, you thought.
First, know this: All your feelings are valid—and completely normal. It’s overwhelming to find out that you have a chronic illness such as Type 2 diabetes. And it can make you feel as if you don’t have much control over your health and life right now. We get it. The very empowering silver lining is, there are a number of things you can do--from monitoring your glucose levels with the most accurate tools to tweaking your diet without depriving yourself--to make this journey more manageable. Here, six perspective-changing points to remember when dealing with a new Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
1. Don’t blame yourself
Yes, lifestyle factors can lead to Type 2 diabetes—being overweight, sedentary, and skimping on sleep are a few of the biggies. But that’s not all. Your genetics can play a large role in your diagnosis. Research has shown that your lifetime risk of developing Type 2 diabetes is 40% if you have one parent with the condition, and 70% if both parents live with Type 2 diabetes.
Your race can also contribute to a diagnosis. According to the recent guidelines, South Asians, Chinese, and Blacks are most at risk for diabetes. So, while your lifestyle can trigger the disease, your predisposition to developing Type 2 diabetes may be something that is completely out of your control.
2. Diet tweaks go a LONG way
Managing your carb intake may help reverse some of the effects of Type 2 diabetes. It’s well-known that carbohydrates, especially processed ones full of refined sugars, raise your blood sugar levels more than fats or proteins. So, curbing them may help keep your levels in check.
In a 2021 study published in BMJ, patients placed on even a short-term low carb diet had better success managing their condition than those on a different diet. The benefits of a low-carb diet included weight loss and less use of medication at the six-month mark. Experts say more research is needed in this area, but we know that eating fewer simple carbs (baked goods, white bread and pasta, soft drinks, etc.)--the type that sends your blood sugar soaring--can help keep glucose levels more steady and within the target range—the ultimate goal when managing your Type 2 diabetes.
3. Take glucose levels into your own hands
Monitoring your blood sugar levels with a blood glucose meter can make managing diabetes, well, more manageable. The idea may seem daunting at first (I have to prick my own finger?!?), but with an easy-to-use meter, it’s doable—and the info you’ll gain from the process can help you to see if you’re moving in the right direction.
Knowing your fasting blood sugar, what your levels look like two hours after a meal, and even where they are before and after a workout can help you identify patterns and make it easier to determine which foods and meal times work best for you. One simple (and highly accurate) blood glucose meter is Accu-Chek Guide Meter. Place a drop anywhere along the unique, easy-edge strip design using the spill-resistant vial, log your data automatically by connecting to the mySugr app, and use the feedback to live your life comfortably—without experiencing the dangerous highs and lows of out-of-balance blood sugar. Get your free* meter here.
4. Movement matters, a lot
The benefits of exercise for all of us are endless, but for those living with Type 2 diabetes, breaking a sweat can keep blood glucose levels in check, promote weight loss, and prevent some serious diabetes complications such as vascular and cardiovascular diseases. And exercise may help you get or stay off meds. Regular exercise can decrease dependency on glucose-lowering oral medications and insulin for those living with Type 2 diabetes, according to recent research in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.
Your workout routine doesn’t have to be extreme. Diabetes Canada recommends 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense exercise spread over three sessions a week for those with Type 2 diabetes. Ideally, you want a mix of cardio and strength or resistance training. Divide that up into a few days a week or aim for 30 minutes five days a week. Find a mode of movement you can handle and enjoy: walking, swimming, cycling, dancing, and using free weights are just a few examples of workouts that help with Type 2 diabetes.
5. Support is out there for you
When you first find out about your Type 2 diabetes, you may feel a bit isolated. Let’s face it; having to eat differently than your friends and family can make you feel like you’re alone in the process. But that’s not true at all. The number of Candians living with diabetes is expected to jump to 5 million or 12% of the population over the next 10 years, which means a ton of resources and support services are available—beyond your team of healthcare professionals. Do a quick search for “Type 2 support group” on Facebook and you’ll find groups focused on sharing tips, diabetic-friendly recipes and more. There are also support groups and opportunities to get involved with Type 2 diabetes via Diabetes Canada. Talking with people in the same situation can feel empowering and offset some of the emotional effects of the disease.
6. There’s no cure, but you can manage your condition
Type 2 diabetes is a chronic, progressive disease, which means if left untreated, it may get worse with time. But certainly not always. Through diet and exercise, weight management, self-monitoring with a Blood Glucose Meter, and potentially glucose-lowering meds, you can control your disease and its symptoms. There’s the possibility that you can even achieve remission, which is generally defined as no longer needing meds and sugar levels that have been stable for at least a year. It takes work and a lot of self-care to manage Type 2 diabetes, but it is possible.
*Certain conditions apply.