Diabetes Diagnosis: What You Should Know
Have you been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes recently? Are you feeling lost or confused? Talk to your health care provider! We are here to help you. Diagnosis of diabetes should not be taken lightly. Here is some information to help you understand and manage your diabetes.
The first thing you should do is find out your A1C to get a picture of your average blood sugar.
What is A1C?
A1C (also called hemoglobin A1C) is a blood test that shows what your average blood sugar level has been over the past 3 months. It is an indicator of long-term diabetes control. If you have diabetes, you should have A1C tests every 3 months. This is why we do regular checkups every 3 months with people who have diabetes. For most people with diabetes, the goal A1C is less than 7.0. For people over age 65, the goal A1C is around 7.5-8.5. Your health care provider will help you set your goal.
What About Checking Blood Sugar with a Glucometer?
The number you get from your glucometer is your blood sugar at that particular moment and indicates short-term diabetes control. For example, when you eat a big meal with a lot of carbohydrates, your blood sugar level will go up; if you haven’t eaten anything for a while, your number will be low. Here are the goals for blood sugar levels when you check with your glucometer.
- Before breakfast: 80-130
- Before lunch 80-130
- Before dinner 80-130
- Bedtime – less than 180
Some patients tell me during their diabetes check-ups that their A1C is high today because they ate a big breakfast or a dessert last night. This is incorrect because A1C is the average of your blood sugar over the last three months and it is not affected by how much you have been eating in the last couple days. Your A1C does not change quickly. For this reason, checking your A1C more frequently than every three months is not helpful.
Why is it Important to Control My Blood Sugar Level?
Although type 2 diabetes affects every part of your body, small blood vessels are more affected by chronic uncontrolled high blood sugar. Eyes and kidneys have a lot of small vessels within the organ and are especially vulnerable. Chronic high blood sugar can damage the small vessels in the eyes, leading to blindness (eye disease called diabetic retinopathy). The same thing happens in the kidneys; high blood sugar damages the small vessels in the organ, eventually leading to dialysis (a kidney disease called nephropathy). Nerves are also affected and damaged by high blood sugar. Some people with diabetes develop numbness, tingling or pain in the hands and feet called neuropathy. High blood sugar also affects the vessels in the heart and brain over time, increasing the risks of heart attacks and stroke. You can prevent these complications by checking your blood sugar and taking your medications as directed by your health care provider, as well as by implementing life style changes such as eating healthy, exercising, and quitting smoking.
The Type and Amount of Food Eaten Affects Your Diabetes
Changing the type and amount of food eaten can help people with type 2 diabetes lose weight, improve blood sugar control, and lower cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Carbohydrates, which are sugars our bodies use for energy, can raise your blood sugar level. Foods that have a lot of carbohydrates include the following:
- foods with added sugars such as soda and candies
Cutting down on sugary foods prevents blood sugar spikes. Ask your healthcare provider to refer you to a dietitian who specializes in diabetes. He or she can work with you and help you plan healthy meals.
Physical activity can lower your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol, and improve your overall health. We generally recommend thirty minutes of aerobic exercise five days a week. Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, swimming, and dancing.
Smokers with diabetes have an increased risk of heart attacks and/or strokes and developing complications from diabetes. You can decrease your risks by smoking cessation. Most people who smoke find it difficult to quit; talk to your healthcare provider because they can help you with smoking cessation.
Foot Problems are a Complication of Diabetes
Foot problems are a common complication in people with type 2 diabetes. Chronic high blood sugar can damage the blood vessels and nerves, causing numbness and/or neuropathy pain in the feet. If you have a sore in your foot, you might not notice it because you cannot feel it. Because of the poor circulation due to blood vessel damage, even a small sore can develop into a serious problem. It is important to examine your feet every day and wear shoes at all times. Foot exams, either by your health care provider or a foot doctor (Podiatrist), are helpful in determining if you have any loss of sensation in your feet. You should have yearly foot exams with a doctor.
As a diabetic it is important that you regularly see:
- Your primary care provider every three months
- Your podiatrist (foot doctor) every year
- Your ophthalmologist (eye doctor) every year to make sure diabetes is not affecting your eyes (called diabetic retinopathy)
- Your dentist at least every year – People with diabetes are more at risk for dental problems and infection of the gums
Learn more about Diabetes care at CHI Health or schedule with a provider today.