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You’ve just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. What now?

Middle aged man hiking in a forest
Around 60 Queenslanders are diagnosed with diabetes each day.

Being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes may come as a shock, especially if you didn’t experience any symptoms of diabetes. Or perhaps you had suspicions that something wasn’t quite right, and so the diagnosis could have brought a certain sense of relief. No matter your experience, there’s a lot to take in.

Know that you are not alone – there are approximately 60 people diagnosed with diabetes in Queensland each day. A diagnosis of diabetes means you now have an opportunity to make changes to support your health right now and into the future to live well.

These tips can help to you know what to do following the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

What is type 2 diabetes

Diabetes is a condition where there is too much glucose (or sugar) in the blood.

There are three main types of diabetes:

  • Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune condition
  • Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition
  • Gestational diabetes, a type of diabetes that occurs in pregnancy.

While all three types of diabetes occur when the body cannot maintain healthy levels of glucose in the blood, they occur in different ways. Type 2 diabetes is closely linked to dietary choices and physical activity levels, as well as risk factors like age, gender, family history of diabetes, where you were born and genetic factors.

It’s important to know that we need glucose. Glucose fuels the brain and muscles and provides energy to do all the things we do in life. However, we only need a certain amount of glucose to do the job. Too little glucose and we may feel weak and shaky; too much and we may feel some symptoms like tiredness and lethargy, and damage may start to occur to blood vessels.

We get glucose through the food we eat, especially from foods that contain carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are found in many nutritious foods like breads, cereals, fruit and starchy vegetables like potato and corn. Discretionary foods like cakes, biscuits, chips, pies, pizza, chocolate, lollies and soft drink are also a source of glucose.

Healthy carbohydrate-rich foods including bread, pasta, rice, potato

Foods containing carbohydrates are digested and broken down into glucose. Glucose then enters the blood stream. This rise in blood glucose levels triggers our pancreas to release a hormone called insulin. Insulin acts like a key that unlocks the body’s cells – when the cells are unlocked, glucose can enter and be used as energy.

With type 2 diabetes, this process no longer works as it should. The pancreas is either unable to produce enough insulin to balance glucose levels, or the body’s cells may not respond to insulin (known as insulin resistance) or both. This leads to a build-up of glucose in the blood stream, and if left undiagnosed or untreated, these elevated blood glucose levels may damage the body’s nerves and blood vessels over time.

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong chronic condition, but with the right information and support you can live a long and healthy life.

Connect with your support team

There are a range of health professionals who can support you with your diabetes management and overall health. Your GP can coordinate referrals to:

  • Endocrinologist
  • Credentialled Diabetes Educator (CDE)
  • Other allied health professionals, such as an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD)
  • Appropriate healthy lifestyle programs like Get Healthy and Heart Foundation Walking.

Your health care team may change over time, depending on your needs. For example, regular check-ups by an optometrist can help monitor for changes to eye health, which is an important consideration with diabetes.

While health professionals provide you with the tools and advice to support you to manage your diabetes, your personal support network is also extremely important. Consider who you can talk to about your diagnosis, and who might offer support. There are many support groups around Queensland.

Man and woman having breakfast together

Register on the NDSS

The National Diabetes Services Scheme (NDSS) is a government initiative that provides subsidised products and services for people living with diabetes. This includes glucose monitoring supplies and other products, resources and diabetes education programs. Registering on the NDSS costs nothing and involves a form that is completed by your GP, CDE, or endocrinologist at diagnosis.

Take steps towards a healthier lifestyle

Regular exercise and healthy food choices are the cornerstone of diabetes management. Your doctor may also prescribe medication to support the management of your blood glucose levels and general diabetes health.

Regular physical activity keeps your blood glucose levels within a healthy range by increasing your body’s response to insulin and reducing circulating glucose. Speak with your GP or an exercise physiologist to find activities that are safe and effective for you.

Making healthy food choices assists with managing blood glucose levels. There is no ‘diabetes diet’ to follow, but it is important to understand how carbohydrate foods can impact blood glucose levels. An Accredited Practising Dietitian or Credentialled Diabetes Educator can provide you with individualised advice about label reading, portion sizes, and healthy food swaps.

You don’t have to wait to see a specialist before making dietary changes. You can use the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating to see if there are small, simple swaps you can make to balance your plate.

Group education programs are run in many locations across Queensland – ask your GP or health professional about what is available in your area.

Diabetes Australia has a free app that may help you keep track of specialist appointments, meal planning, as the latest news.

Learn about diabetes, blood glucose monitoring and medications

Some people may manage their type 2 diabetes with a healthy eating plan and physical activity for many years before requiring any diabetes medication. Other people might need medication as soon as they are diagnosed.

Regular blood glucose monitoring can assist you and your health care team to understand how your body responds to changes with food choices, physical activity, stress and whether you may require medication or changes to existing medication. Talk with your healthcare team to find out more about how to monitor your blood glucose levels.

Seek more information

Learning more about type 2 diabetes can assist you to understand and manage the condition. Diabetes Queensland is a source of credible evidence-based information for people living with all types of diabetes and those who support them – they have a range of helpful resources, including a Diabetes Helpline (1300 136 588).

If you have prediabetes, symptoms or risk factors for diabetes, speak with your GP.

Last updated: 31 July 2019