Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.
The most important thing you can do for yourself right now is to start getting educated. There’s a lot of confusing information about diabetes out there, and you will need enough basic knowledge to sort through it all.
Important: Do not expect to sit back and have your doctor do everything for you!
Diabetes is a self-managed disease. The doctor, nurse, or diabetes educator you work with can help guide you, but most of the time you’ll be out and about, living your daily life, and managing diabetes alongside everything else you’re responsible for. So let’s get you trained up a bit:
Controlling your blood sugar levels (otherwise known as “diabetes management”) is a balancing act between:
-The food you eat
-The medications you take
-The physical activity you do
Food makes your blood sugar go up. Physical activity makes your blood sugar go down. And the diabetes medications you’ll take are designed to help keep your blood sugar at a nice, steady level.
Learn about carbohydrates, the food element that most directly impacts your blood sugar, here.
Learn about the various diabetes medications here.
Numbers you need to understand:
You were surely given a glucose meter by the doctor who told you that you have diabetes (we certainly hope so!)
What do the numbers on this meter mean? Well, the ideal, healthy range for blood glucose levels is between 70 and 120 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter – the American measure).
Anything under 70 mg/dl is considered too low blood sugar (called hypoglycemia), which can cause unpleasant reactions like shakiness, sweating, and racing heart beat. If you go extremely low, you can also become unconscious.
Anything over 180 mg/dl is considered too high blood sugar (called hyperglycemia), which can cause headaches, fatigue, and irritability – and is also the cause of diabetic damage to your body (those complications) over time.
When you have diabetes, your blood sugar goes up any time you eat anything containing carbohydrate (foods either made up primarily of sugar or those that convert to sugar in your system, such as starches like potatoes and pasta).
Therefore, the blood sugar target range for diabetics is generally considered to be: less than 130 mg/dl before meals, and less than 180 after meals mg/dl.
Learn more about using your glucose meter here.
Your medical test numbers:
You absolutely should get familiar with 5 simple medical tests that are good indicators of each person’s own individual health risks with diabetes:
-hemoglobin A1c (blood test, measuring average blood glucose levels)
-blood pressure (arm cuff test, indicating heart health)
-lipid profile (blood test for cholesterol and triglycerides)
-microalbumin (urine test, demonstrating kidney damage)
-annual eye exam