So you have diabetes? Here’s what you need to know.

by Sandy Andrews, RN, CDE

You have just visited your provider for your annual check-up, and labs reveal an elevated blood sugar. It’s at a level, you are told, that meets the criteria for a diabetes diagnosis.  How can that be?  How can you have diabetes and feel so good?  “I just can’t have diabetes,” you think. “There must be some mistake!”

A diabetes diagnosis may not be easy to accept. The key to living a great and long life is understanding your diabetes, so you can manage it. The more you know, the better (and healthier) you’ll live.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes is a problem with your body that causes blood glucose (sugar) levels to rise higher than normal. This is also called hyperglycemia. Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. If you have type 2 diabetes your body does not use insulin properly. This is called insulin resistance. At first, your pancreas makes extra insulin to make up for it. But, over time it isn’t able to keep up and can’t make enough insulin to keep your blood glucose at normal levels.

What are the Symptoms?

Often, when a person is diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, they have no symptoms. You might feel like you always feel, which is to say more or less normal. However, diabetes is similar to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and chronic kidney disease in the sense that there may be no noticeable symptoms, but there are changes taking place in the tiny nerves and blood vessels in the body. If left untreated, there is an increased risk for heart attack and stroke, and complications affecting many organs of the body.

How is it treated?

It is important to understand there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, but it can be managed. Balancing the food you eat with exercise and medicine (if prescribed) can keep your blood glucose in a healthy range. Many people with diabetes live long and healthy lives. Southwest Health has a great team of providers who work together with you to provide the education and counseling you will need to live a healthy life.  Your provider will likely refer you to Southwest Health’s certified diabetes educators, who will meet with you and identify areas where lifestyle changes may be beneficial. Together, you will agree on a plan that will help you lower your blood sugar and improve your heath. This plan may include aspects of healthy eating, activity, medication, and home blood sugar monitoring.  A series of education sessions are offered at times convenient for you. The educators then work closely with the providers to discuss recommendations to help you succeed.

Yes, there is a lot to learn about living well with diabetes. Getting it in control might take some time. It’s going to mean making some changes in your life. But you can start with small changes, and you don’t have to make them all at once. And you don’t have to do it alone.  The team at Southwest Health is here to help!

Sandy Andrews RN, CDE
Diabetes Education Program Coordinator
Direct (608) 342-4709

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