I recently met a woman who had just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She was frightened because she had no idea what diabetes was or what to do to take care of it.

She told me how thirsty she had been and how many times she got up at night to use the bathroom. She complained of being tired, and her eyesight was blurred. It was her blurred vision that in the end made her make an appointment to see her physician.

Her physician did a finger stick in his office, and when the reading came back at 350mg/dl, he sent her to the hospital for further blood tests. The lab confirmed the diagnosis, and she went to the BHB Diabetes Centre for education, frightened and concerned, convinced she was going to have to give herself a needle.

When I met her, she seemed a little withdrawn, and I knew she was worried. I did a finger stick and the reading was now 160mg/dl. She had eaten over two hours ago, and she told me that she completely stopped drinking sugary drinks.

I told her not to worry; being diagnosed with diabetes meant that she was going to learn how to be healthy, and in no time she was going to feel great and have lots of energy. Sometimes being diagnosed with diabetes is like being given the gift of good health. Being diagnosed with diabetes, I told her, was an opportunity for her and her whole family to learn how to make changes to improve their health.

1. If you are diagnosed with diabetes, you need to know how to eat healthy, regular meals that are low in saturated fats and excess sodium and do not have a lot of hidden added sugars. You will learn how to read a food label and why eating healthy food is important. We will help you make a shopping list with healthy options.

2. You will need to know why it is important to be active and do aerobic exercise every day. Being physically active helps control your blood sugar levels as well as your cholesterol and blood pressure.

3. You may need to take medicine. Your doctor will decide whether you should be on medicine, and then you will need to learn how to take it, when to take it and whether there are any side effects.

4. You will need to know why it is important to test your blood sugars. By testing your blood sugars, you can find out whether the exercise and meal plan is working, or whether your medicine (if prescribed) is working or needs to be increased, decreased or discontinued.

5. You will need to learn how to problem solve. Diabetes is affected by everyday activities such as eating and exercise as well as illness and stress. You will need to learn how to recognize a high blood sugar and a low blood sugar and how to treat appropriately. You will also learn how to make choices in a restaurant and what to choose from a buffet.

6. You need to know how to prevent complications. When people are newly diagnosed with diabetes, they worry about going blind, losing a limb, having a heart attack or requiring dialysis for kidney disease. You will be taught what checks should be done at regular visits with your physician such as eye exams, blood pressure measurements, foot examinations and dental exams as well as routine lab tests for cholesterol, blood fats, kidney function and blood sugar. You will learn what the blood test results mean. You will learn what a hemoglobin A1C blood test is. This test tells you how your blood sugars have been, on average, for the previous three months.

7. You will need to know how to cope with special situations that are stressful and impact your diabetes. You will learn that stress can raise your blood sugar levels as well as impact your blood pressure. You will learn what blood pressure means and why it is important to keep your blood pressure at a normal level. A normal blood pressure is 120/80.

The most important thing, though, is something we cannot teach someone to do. The person with or at risk of developing diabetes must want to make changes. If you want to make changes to improve your health, you will, but if you don’t want to or are not ready to make changes you won’t. Having the education as to why change is important helps.