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9 Questions Every Diabetes Patient Needs to Ask Their Doctor

Simply being in a doctor’s office can be intimidating. And it’s not uncommon to feel a bit rushed. But getting the answers you need makes the difference between taking good care of your diabetes and letting it slip from your control. Start with the tips here.


How often should I check my blood sugar?

The answer will depend on several factors. At each visit, you’ll want to review and discuss how you are using your monitoring results at home and whether you should increase or decrease your monitoring schedule. These are different tests diabetics might need.


How and when do I take my medications?

This is critical, and 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. Do you need to avoid alcohol if you have diabetes? Are there potential interactions with other drugs that you should know about? This information will be in the bag when you pick up your prescription, but the language can be hard to understand, so it doesn’t hurt to ask while you’re in the office.


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.


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 your doctor and let her know right away. Don’t wait for the next appointment.

iStock/Eva Katalin Kondoros

What sort of eating plan should I follow?

For a real answer to this question, you’ll 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. Most doctors’ offices offer pamphlets that give healthy eating suggestions for people with diabetes. Typically this will involve not skipping meals, eating the same time 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. Here are 9 of the best foods for diabetics.


Can I drink alcohol?

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. (Make sure to know these symptoms of fatty liver disease.)

iStock/Don Bayley

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, like drinking several cans of regular soda every day, which have the equivalent of 12 teaspoons of sugar each, will have to change.


Am I cleared for exercise?

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. She 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 okay. Here are 10 powerful reasons to work out if you have diabetes.


When can I reduce some of my meds?

That 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.

Originally Published in Reader's Digest