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Just Diagnosed With Diabetes? 9 Questions You Have to Ask Your Doctor

Getting the answers you need makes the difference between taking good care of your diabetes, and your health in general, and letting it slip from your control.

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How often should I check my blood sugar?

The answer will depend on several factors. At each doctor visit, you'll want to review and discuss how you are using your monitoring results from blood sugar testing at home and whether you should increase or decrease your monitoring schedule. These surprising things can raise your blood sugar.

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How and when do I take my medications?

This is critical to know after a diabetes diagnosis. The instructions for you might be different than for somebody else, so pay careful attention, and take notes. Make sure you know if you should take your medication or insulin before or after meals, at night or in the morning, with or without food, etc. Do you need to avoid alcohol? Are there potential interactions with other drugs? This information will be in the bag when you pick up your prescription, but the language can be hard to understand, so ask while you're in the office.

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Is there a generic version of my medication?

If money is a concern, ask about drug alternatives. Sometimes a doctor can switch you to an older drug that's equally effective and less costly or to a generic version of the drug.

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What side effects could I experience?

Any prescription you receive should come with a patient pamphlet that describes possible side effects and symptoms, but it's smart to discuss these issues when the doctor first prescribes your medications. Are some side effects more likely than others? Will the medication make you drowsy or unable to drive a car? What symptoms warrant a call to the doctor? Should you stop taking a drug if you experience certain unpleasant effects? If for any reason you do stop taking a medication, call you doctor and let him know right away. Don't wait for the next appointment.

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What sort of eating plan should I follow?

For a real answer to this question, you may want a referral to a registered dietitian, since most MDs are not very well trained in nutrition. In the meantime, it's still a good idea to ask your doctor for general guidelines on a healthy diabetes diet. Most doctors' offices have pamphlets that give healthy eating suggestions for people with diabetes. Typically this will involve not skipping meals, eating at the same time of day every day, eating about the same amounts of food at a given mealtime, and focusing on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean protein foods. These 10 eating habits can help prevent or treat diabetes.

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Can I drink alcohol with diabetes?

If you choose to drink alcohol, the general guideline is no more than one drink a day for an adult woman and a maximum of two drinks per day for an adult man. (One drink is 5 ounces of wine or one 12-ounce beer.) If your doctor has concerns about your kidneys or liver, he may suggest that you abstain from alcohol.

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Should I avoid certain foods?

Based on your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar averages, your doctor may suggest some dietary changes. The prevailing school of thought is that you can still enjoy most of the foods you enjoyed before being diagnosed with diabetes, including sweets, though maybe not in the same amounts or prepared in the same way. Some habits, though, will probably have to change (read: drinking several cans of regular soda per day).

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Am I clear for bungee jumping or basketball?

As long as you don't have serious health complications, most doctors will recommend moderate exercise such as walking, swimming, or riding a bike for 30 minutes most days a week. Still, it is a good idea to get the go-ahead from your physician if you're starting a new physical activity or exercise regimen. He may want to give you a physical or at least consider your condition (whether you have kidney disease, nerve damage, signs of heart disease, or other problems) before giving you the green light.

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Can I reduce any of my medications?

This is a good question to ask if you've been eating well and exercising religiously, and you've seen significant improvements in your blood sugar numbers as a result.