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Top Ten Tips for People Newly Diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes

Updated: 8/14/21 9:00 amPublished: 2/19/14
By Adam Brown

by Adam Brown

Twitter summary: Top 10 tips for the newly diagnosed with t1 #diabetes – know that it will NOT hold you back

  1. Know that type 1 diabetes will NOT hold you back. Type 1 patients have climbed Mount Everest, completed Ironman Triathlons, and competed at the highest levels of professional sports. These include Charlie Kimball – the first driver with diabetes to win a race in the IZOD IndyCar Series, Missy Foy, the only runner with diabetes ever to qualify for Olympic Marathon Trials, Olympic cross-country skier Kris Freeman, ballerina Zippora Karz of the New York City Ballet, NFL quarterback Jay Cutler, NBA small forward Adam Morrison, PGA tour golfer Scott Verplank, LPGA golfers Michelle McGann and Kelli Kuehne, Olympic gold medalist Gary Hall, Jr, tennis legend Arthur Ashe, and many more!

  2. Think of glucose readings as information and every day as an experiment - A reading of 210 mg/dl or 45 mg/dl should never be thought of as a grade that reflects the quality of your diabetes management. Your glucose meter is your compass and is one of the best tools at your disposal to help manage the disease. Studies show that testing more often is associated with better diabetes control.

  3. Exercise is a critical tool at your disposal! It's important to find forms of exercise you enjoy, whether individually or in a group. Remember that people with diabetes tend to be at higher risk for heart disease and depression, and exercise can help with both (see studies that show how exercise has benefits for both heart disease and depression). Exercise also benefits your diabetes control immediately - even something as simple as five minutes of walking can lower your blood glucose quite dramatically. Many patients are fans of activity trackers (e.g., Fitbit, UP by Jawbone, Nike Fuelband, the Moves app), which help make your activity more transparent. You can also connect with Insulindependence, a non-profit dedicated to diabetes and exercise.

  4. Be a constant learner. The more you learn about type 1 diabetes, the more you realize how much there is to learn! There are many great books that can help you to understand more about type 1 diabetes: Think Like a Pancreas, Cheating Destiny, Understanding Diabetes, Pumping Insulin, Balancing Diabetes, Your Diabetes Science Experiment, Until There’s a Cure: The Latest and Greatest in Diabetes Self-Care, and many others.

  5. Remember that many things affect blood sugar beyond just food, insulin, and activity. For instance, too much stress and too little sleep both negatively affect blood glucose. Read more on how sleep can affect your blood sugars in adam’s corner.

  6. Diabetes management can be hard, but you are worth it. Studies show that with good care, people with type 1 diabetes can live just as long as those without diabetes. As our Advisory Board member Dr. Bill Polonsky says, "Well-controlled diabetes is the leading cause of nothing!”  

  7. Seek support. There are a variety of ways to get in touch with other people who have type 1 diabetes. You can reach out to your closest JDRF chapter or to other local groups, such as Carb DM if you live in the Bay Area. There are also quite a few online communities, such as Children with Diabetes, TuDiabetes, Diabetes Daily, and Diabetic Connect. Some of the most popular blogs include Six Until Me, Scott's Diabetes and Diabetes Mine.

  8. Consider trying CGM. A CGM is a sensor inserted under your skin that gives you blood glucose readings and trend information every five minutes. The data are wirelessly sent to a receiver, which sounds an alarm when your blood glucose value exceeds a set threshold. These systems have been shown to improve blood glucose control, help patients avoid hypo- and hyperglycemia, and spend more time in an ideal blood-glucose range. Dexcom and Medtronic both currently offer CGM systems in the US, and Abbott offers a system outside the US. You can read our test drive of the Dexcom G4 Platinum here and the Medtronic Enlite here.

  9. Consider trying an insulin pump. Studies show that patients on pumps improve their A1c values and tend to have greater quality of life and flexibility relative to those on multiple daily injections. Though a pump can be scary, many patients try it and would never go back to injections. Pumps available in the US are made by Animas, Asante, Insulet, Medtronic, Roche, and Tandem. Click here for more information on choosing an insulin pump. Most companies offer return policies, meaning you can send the pump back if you don’t like it. If the idea of tubing bothers you, Insulet offers the tubeless OmniPod pump, which is particularly popular among children.

  10. Review our Patient's Guide to Individualizing Therapy. This short list of questions is intended to help you and your healthcare provider discuss what therapies and goals are right for you.

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About the authors

Adam Brown joined diaTribe in 2010 as a Summer Associate, became Managing Editor in 2011, and served as Senior Editor through 2019. Adam brings almost two decades of personal experience... Read the full bio »