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Five Things to Do After a Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis

If you’ve been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, you may be worried about what comes next. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed. A diabetes diagnosis is a big responsibility. Diabetes is a chronic condition where your blood glucose (or blood sugar) is too high, which, if left untreated, can lead to serious health problems.

Although a diabetes diagnosis can be tough, the good news is type 2 diabetes can be manageable. It can be an opportunity to take control of your health and invest in your well-being. By making some lifestyle changes and staying on top of preventive care, you can effectively manage the disease and prevent health complications.

And remember, you are not alone. We have a variety of resources available to help you take charge of your health and control how you live with the disease.

What to Do After a Type 2 Diabetes Diagnosis

1. Create a treatment plan and assemble a team.

The first thing to do after a diabetes diagnosis is to meet with your primary care doctor. Your doctor will go over the basics, such as what diabetes is, what high blood sugar means and how it impacts your health, medications, dietary changes, exercise, and other lifestyle habits such as alcohol and smoking. Your doctor will develop a diabetes treatment plan to help you stay healthy.

Your primary care doctor will play a key role in your diabetes care and will lead the team helping you. That team, depending on your needs, may also include an endocrinologist, optometrist, podiatrist, dentist, pharmacist, registered dietitian and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist. In some cases, a mental health professional is part of the multidisciplinary care team too. They can help people cope with the stress they may feel about managing their diabetes.

It may also be helpful to talk to a mental health professional since depression and diabetes are linked. 

Independence Blue Cross (IBX) Registered Nurse Health Coaches are specially-trained nurses who are available 24/7 to help you understand your diabetes diagnosis. They can educate you about your condition, and help you make lifestyle choices that can reduce your health risks. Our Health Coaches will work with you on your individualized diabetes management plan, and direct you to a variety of diabetes resources that we have available for members (e.g., diabetes education groups and support groups, nutritional counseling, help getting a blood glucose monitor for free, as well as help accessing fresh food).

To reach a Health Coach at any time, call 1-800-ASK-BLUE (1-800-275-2583) (TTY/TDD: 711).

2. Monitor blood sugar levels regularly.

One of the most important things to do after being diagnosed with diabetes is to start a new routine of checking your blood sugar. If your blood sugar falls too low or rises too high, it can cause serious complications. You can check your blood sugar at home daily with a blood glucose monitor. It’s helpful to test before and after meals and exercise to see how your blood sugar levels vary and what causes fluctuations. IBX offers blood glucose meters to most members at no cost.

Your doctor will also order regular bloodwork, known as the A1C test, to monitor your average blood sugar levels at least twice a year (but may be more depending on your situation). Talk to your doctor about how often having this test is right for you.

3. Prioritize dietary changes and weight management.

Focus on high-fiber (non-starchy) fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins. Stick to water and try to avoid sugary sodas and sports drinks. Since carbohydrates (including starches and sugar) will increase blood sugar levels, practice portion control when eating carbohydrates like bread and pasta. This will help regulate your blood sugar levels. Small diet tweaks will help you when it comes to weight management as well. If you are overweight, losing just ten pounds may be enough to improve control of your diabetes. 

Nutritional counseling: If you want help making dietary changes, our Health Coaches can direct you to a registered dietitian who can help you come up with a sustainable diabetes meal plan.

If you’re an Independence member, you may be covered for six free annual visits with a registered dietitian. Check to see if your health plan covers nutrition counseling. To find a participating registered dietitian, Independence members can use our Find a Doctor Tool or call 1-800-ASK-BLUE (1-800-275-2583) (TTY: 711).

If you live in an area where fresh produce is hard to find, our Health Coaches can help you get access to fresh produce. For example, many local churches and community centers distribute produce at no cost. Find food distribution sites in Philadelphia.

4. Move as much as you can every day.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that adults with type 2 diabetes get at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic exercise per week, such as walking, swimming, biking, or running. They also recommend two to three sessions of resistance exercise or strength training per week, such as yoga or weightlifting. It’s also important to limit sitting, and break up long bouts of sedentary activity by getting up and walking around every 30 minutes.

This can seem intimidating if you’re not very active, but the key is to start small.* Swapping out a few habits for healthier ones is more sustainable than overhauling your life all at once. Start by including more physical activity in your daily life — use the stairs instead of the elevator, go on a walk after lunch every day, or bike to the library instead of driving. Activity trackers and apps such as Strava, MapMyWalk, or FitBit can also be highly motivating.

5. Take medication, if needed.

Along with lifestyle modifications, you may also need medication to help you control blood sugar levels. This could include pills or injectable medication such as insulin. You also may need to take medication for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, or other conditions. Your primary care doctor will determine whether you need medication to help keep your blood sugar levels normal and reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Additional Resources

A diabetes diagnosis can be tough, but remember, you are not alone. There are a variety of resources available to help you navigate your new diagnosis with confidence.

*Always consult with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen.
Rodrigo Cerdá, M.D., MPH

Rodrigo Cerdá, M.D., MPH, is senior vice president of Health Services and chief medical officer at Independence Blue Cross. He leads Independence’s collaborative efforts to bring together health insurers, hospitals, and doctors together to improve access to well-coordinated, high quality, and affordable health care to the region.