06/11/2012 11:29 am ET Updated Aug 11, 2012

When Newly-Diagnosed With Diabetes Do This, Not That (Part 1)

1. Get yourself signed up for a comprehensive diabetes class. Don't go ask someone you know that has diabetes what to do.

Although there are people who are quite knowledgeable about diabetes, there are considerably more people who are not. Over the many years I have been a diabetes educator I have often found that people that have had diabetes for long periods of time know far less than they think they do, in part due to the fact that a lot of what they may have learned about treating the disease at the time of their diagnosis is outdated and has been replaced with current strategies as a result of new knowledge of the disease.

It is a common and often harmful misconception to assume that people that have had diabetes for many years know a lot about it. On frequent occasions patients have come in to our class making the comment, "I could teach this class." As I previously stated, treatment for diabetes has changed tremendously over the years and many longstanding patients hold steadfast to the less-modern way of treating the disease. These are not the people you want to learn from even though they are often more than willing to offer advice to try to help you out. Because of this, we subtly try to discourage people newly diagnosed with diabetes from sitting next to someone in class that has had diabetes for many years.

2. Get your very own blood glucose monitor. Do not use a monitor that was ever used by someone else. No exceptions!

Newly-diagnosed diabetes patients show up at our classes weekly with a blood glucose monitor that was given to them by a friend, relative, or colleague. This, on the surface, does not seem to be a problem, but it can end up being a big one. It is never recommended to use a monitor that was used by someone else due to the risk of passing on dangerous blood borne pathogens to the new user. A relatively clean looking monitor could potentially have germs you want nothing to do with all over it. Get a prescription for a blood glucose monitor from your doctor, or better yet, your doctor may even give you one.

3. Watch your carbohydrate intake until you can see a dietitian or attend a diabetes self-management class. Do not eliminate all carbohydrates and sugar from your diet.

It is natural to be scared or nervous when first diagnosed with diabetes. Usually it is far more of a concern of mine when people aren't at least a bit upset. Having diabetes is a big deal, a very big deal. It will affect most of what you do for the rest of your life.

As a result, it is common that once the doctor tells you that you have diabetes you go overboard and start cutting all foods out of your diet that contain sugar. Again, a completely normal response, but don't do it. This is of particular concern if the doctor has put you on insulin injections or a class of medications known as sulfonylureas. The combination of taking these diabetes medications plus significantly reducing your carbohydrate or sugar intake (the same thing) could allow your blood sugar levels to drop well below normal, resulting in you feeling very poorly (shaking, experiencing cold sweats, particularly above the neck, a pounding and racing heart and light headed).

For more by Milt Bedingfield, click here.

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