Accepting a diabetes diagnosis can be difficult, especially when you must change previous habits and adapt your lifestyle. But there’s good news: millions of people live full, happy, active and healthy lives, even with diabetes, and they’ve shared their best advice for doing the same.
Stay active and track your reactions
When David Weingard was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 36, he faced with some tough adjustments. From taking his new medication to monitoring his blood sugar, he fought to stay active and fit, eventually founding his diabetes coaching company, Fit4D. For Weingard, exercising had to remain a part of his life and he encourages other diabetics to do the same.
“Exercise is critical to long-term physical and mental health. Mentally, we need positive energy (and endorphins) to combat the 24/7 strain of the condition. Physically, we need to help our bodies stay strong and avoid the long-term effects and complications of diabetes,” he says.
But to figure out how much you can withstand and what works for your body, he also notes that keeping track your reactions will help create a plan that works uniquely for you. “Detailed record keeping is a key factor in realizing the benefits of exercise and minimizing blood sugar swings—especially highs and lows. You can reference these records to repeat workouts and your body should yield similar results most of the time,” he says. Find out what the best exercises are for people with diabetes.
Build a support system
Though Rachel Zucker is only 24 years old, she’s been managing her type 1 diabetes diagnosis since she was four years old, making her quite the expert. She described diabetes as a full-time job: She had to accept that there are no days off, no breaks or vacations. That’s why she recommends having supportive friends and family around you who will move with your highs and lows—they’re essential to keeping a good attitude and mindset. Instead of hiding your diagnosis, Zucker says wear it with pride. “I tell anybody and everybody close to me that I’m diabetic. Making sure people around you know you’re diabetic can be life-saving in an emergency situation. In college, I made sure everybody around me knew I had type 1 diabetes, so when I went out to a party or to a sorority fundraising event, there was always someone looking out for me. Some people are afraid or embarrassed to tell others about their medical condition; I would highly encourage them not to be. Nobody has to do this alone,” she says. Find out how fruit can lower your diabetes risk.
Don’t be overwhelmed
Now 67, Carol Gee wasn’t diagnosed with type 2 diabetes until her late 50s. Although her new life was scary at first, she says that leaning into the unknown helped her manage her new lifestyle and adjust her habits, ensuring that she lived vibrantly throughout middle age. “Diabetes is scary, but with knowledge comes power. Take the medications the way you are supposed to and it will get easier. I was afraid of needles, so I considered it a great victory when I injected myself without passing out. Know that you ‘can’ survive and thrive with diabetes. You just have to say it—and more importantly—believe it.” Learn what interval training can do for diabetes.