Your First 9 Steps Toward Managing Your Diabetes

by David Mendosa Patient Advocate

So you've recently been diagnosed with diabetes... now what? Here's a handy guide on the first steps you should take to manage your condition.

Find the blood glucose meter your health insurance covers

Whatever type of diabetes you have, the first thing you need is a blood glucose meter. It will tell you whether your blood glucose, also known as blood sugar, is just right, too high, or two low. But don’t start by going to a drug store or online! Too many people make this costly mistake, as I did when I was diagnosed. Instead, check what brands of meters your health insurance’s formulary covers.

Buy the meter and test strips

Get a prescription from your doctor for the meter and test strips that your insurance covers and that your doctor prefers. Take this prescription to your pharmacy or ask your doctor to fax it there. This is better because you won’t have to wait as long at the counter. If you can get a prescription for a three-month supply of test strips, this would be better yet, because the cost per strip can be less.

What if you don't have any health insurance?

The blood glucose meters in insurance formularies generally have more features and can be more accurate. But since most of us need to limit our expenses and those meters may not be much better than cheaper ones, you might want to consider the lower priced house brands of stores like Walmart, namely “ReliOn” and Target, namely “up & up.”

Set your blood sugar testing goals

Different doctors and diabetes organizations have quite different ideas what your blood sugar level should be. The basic guide is that they should be as low as possible without becoming dangerously low, which we call “going hypo.” This is a level of 70 mg/dl or lower.

What blood sugar targets should you see when fasting or after meals?

Unless your doctor or nurse has specific advice, you can follow the guidance of the Joslin Diabetes Center at “Goals for Blood Glucose Control.” It says that your level should be below 100 mg/dl before breakfast and below 140 mg/dl two hours after the first bite of your meals. Start the timer two hours after the first bite of your meal.

Learn what makes your level be too high

Checking in pairs before and after a meal is the best guide to telling you what you should avoid or minimize to keep your blood sugar level where it should be. If it’s too high, you will have to cut back on how much carbohydrates you eat. The fat you eat doesn’t change your level, and protein will raise it only a tiny bit.

Change what you eat

Of the foods that people here commonly eat, those that raise your blood sugar level the most are the high-glycemic carbs: potatoes, wheat (including bread and anything else made from it), rice, the other grains, and breakfast cereals. Cutting out these foods entirely or at least cutting way back on them will help you the most.

Learn more about diabetes

Knowledge of diabetes will give you the power over it that you need to manage it. You can read my articles here. Then study two outstanding books: Dr. Bernstein’s Diabetes Solution by Dr. Richard K. Bernstein and The First Year: Type 2 Diabetes by Gretchen Becker. Diabetes is a disease that more than any other that depends on us more than on our doctor, and only you can manage it effectively.

David Mendosa
Meet Our Writer
David Mendosa

David Mendosa was a journalist who learned in 1994 that he had type 2 diabetes, which he wrote about exclusively. He died in May 2017 after a short illness unrelated to diabetes. He wrote thousands of diabetes articles, two books about it, created one of the first diabetes websites, and published a monthly newsletter, “Diabetes Update.” His very low-carbohydrate diet, A1C level of 5.3, and BMI of 19.8 kept his diabetes in remission without any drugs until his death.