What Happens After a Diabetes Diagnosis?

Receiving a diabetes diagnosis can be overwhelming and even frightening. However, with the right medications and lifestyle changes, individuals can thrive with diabetes. What might those lifestyle adjustments look like? A primary focal point is on one’s diet.

Julie Allen, certified diabetes care and education specialist
Julie Allen, certified diabetes care and education specialist

Julie Allen, certified diabetes care and education specialist at the Riverside Diabetes Wellness Center, has 30-plus years of experience as a registered dietitian—with 22 of those years dedicated to diabetes, both in research as well as teaching and management. Here, she shares her expertise surrounding this condition.

Why Does Diet Play Such a Key Role?

Diabetes develops when the body is unable to turn food into energy. The way diabetes is recognized is through blood work and elevated glucose or blood sugar levels. One can see how certain foods might aggravate blood sugar levels, such as high-sugar or processed foods.

Allen recommends individuals living with diabetes get plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains. There has been a “movement” to go low-carb, but Allen advises against this.

“We need carbohydrates for energy. So, we definitely need to eat them, but in balanced amounts. Not overdoing it, and picking healthy choices of those carbohydrate foods.”

Of course, diet and exercise alone is likely not enough for someone who has been diagnosed with diabetes. Medication use, such as oral medications or injectables, can be a complementary approach to lifestyle changes.

Signs and Symptoms of Diabetes

Unfortunately, there are many people who have diabetes but are undiagnosed. It’s important to keep an eye out for potential symptoms, like:

  • fatigue
  • excessive thirst
  • excessive urination
  • blurred visions

If any of these sound familiar to you or a loved one, it’s essential to get checked out. Diabetes is a progressive disease if not treated appropriately, and early symptoms like the above can turn into more serious conditions like blindness, reduced kidney function, and neuropathy (nerve damage). It’s also important to adhere to medication guidelines so diabetes stays under control.

Diabetes Wellness Center: Education for Life

A helpful resource is the Diabetes Wellness Center, which offers a complete education series of visits with a registered nurse and a registered dietician, all of whom are diabetes specialists. The center assists any patient—whether they were diagnosed last week or have been living with diabetes for 35 years. Part of the program involves dispelling popular diabetes myths as well.

“Diabetes is not the death sentence we viewed it even 50 years ago, when the medications weren’t as numerous or as good as what we have now. Our knowledge about food and the way food affects blood sugar is so much greater now. At the Diabetes Wellness Center, we always want to give that hope to people. If they have diabetes, it can be a manageable condition,” assures Allen. “It is a process, though. It’s not going to be instant gratification the way Americans and humans in general want. We want instant results. Diabetes does not work that way. Be patient, be persistent, and good things will come.”