You get a call from your doctor’s office to come in and discuss some test results. “Let’s get right to it,” your doctor says. “I’m afraid the test shows you have type 2 diabetes.” Maybe she hands you a sheaf of pamphlets and the phone number for a diabetes clinic. Probably she says something about what to do next. But you are so upset that all you can hear through the fog of emotion is the odd word: diet … exercise … medication. But mainly, you hear your own voice inside your head: “No! No! Not me!”
A diagnosis of diabetes is definitely nothing to shrug at, so you’re right to be concerned. But there are also many useful, trustworthy resources available that will help you understand what’s happening to your body and equip you to manage your diabetes for the best possible outcome.
What is type 2 diabetes?
Insulin is a hormone your body produces to use the fuel (glucose -- a simple form of sugar) your body makes from foods such as potatoes, fruit and bread, as well as from sugary foods such as ice cream and doughnuts. If you have type 2 diabetes, either your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin, or your body doesn’t properly use the insulin it does make. Either way, glucose builds up in your blood. (This is what “high blood sugar” means.) Diabetes doesn’t go away by itself. Left alone or not managed well, it can cause heart disease, kidney problems, blindness and nerve damage leading to amputation.
The good news about diabetes
Your doctor will set a target range for your blood sugar level, and if you keep within that range, you can live a long and healthy life. To do this, you’ll need to:
- Eat healthy meals and snacks.
- Get regular exercise.
- Take your diabetes medication faithfully, if prescribed.
- Check your glucose levels regularly.
As well, there are lifestyle changes that can make a positive difference (and not just if you have diabetes):
- Don’t smoke.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Manage your stress.
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol levels on target.
- Visit your dentist and eye doctor regularly.
Some people, at least at first, can manage their blood sugar through diet and exercise alone. But keep in mind that diabetes is a progressive, life-long condition that can be managed -- but not cured. Over time, controlling your blood sugar may get harder, and your healthcare team may need to adjust your diet, activity level or medication.
Managing diabetes is a team effort
Your family doctor or endocrinologist is only one of several healthcare professionals who can help you deal with your disease. Other team members could include your pharmacist, a dietician, a foot-care specialist, an eye doctor or even a psychologist. But by far, the most important team member is you. Be informed, be realistic, be positive and take an active part in managing your disease -- and you can prevent or delay complications and live a long, full and satisfying life.
Here’s some of the help that’s available from hospitals, associations and dieticians:
- Canadian Diabetes Association General Inquiries
- Living with Type 2 Diabetes
- Take the 2-minute online CANRISK test
Diabetes education centres
- All about Diabetes Education Programs
- Sun Life Financial Banting and Best Diabetes Clinic (University Health Network)
Nutrition, menus, food shopping, recipes
- Find a dietitian (Dietitians of Canada)
- Diabetes and healthy eating (Eatright Ontario)
- Healthy diabetes recipes from the Caribbean, China, South Asia, Latin America
- Diabetes menu plan (Eatright Ontario)
Monitoring your blood sugar
- Checking Your Blood Glucose (American Diabetes Association)
Diabetes and heart health
- The big risk of diabetes: heart disease (Public Health Agency of Canada)
Diabetes and your kidneys
- Diabetes and Kidney Disease (The Kidney Foundation of Canada)
Diabetes and exercise
- Physical Activity & Diabetes (Canadian Diabetes Association)
Diabetes and your teeth
- Diabetes and dental care: Guide to a healthy mouth (Mayo Clinic)
Diabetes and your vision
- Eye Damage (Diabetic Retinopathy) (Canadian Diabetes Association)
- Eye Connect: Diabetic retinopathy (Canadian National Institute for the Blind)
Support groups and local resources
- Diabetes: Community support. Choose “Diabetes” and your province from the drop-down menus, then find your city in the list.
- Banting and Best Diabetes Centre (University of Toronto)
Find out what Sun Life is doing to Team Up Against Diabetes