I met a man once who said being diagnosed with diabetes saved his life. What a powerful statement that was. He explained that before being told he had diabetes, he didn’t pay attention to health habits that were causing him great harm. When he learned he had diabetes, he attended classes to learn to take care of it. He said he was living healthier with diabetes than he ever had before he was diagnosed.
Diabetes is a disease with a well-deserved bad reputation. People know that diabetes is associated with all sorts of very scary complications. The big secret that this man learned is that the power to manage diabetes is in your hands. Good diabetes self care can reduce risks of complications.
Most of diabetes management is about what can be done at home:
1. Learn about the disease. Meet with a certified diabetes educator. Take a class in diabetes management. Learn what causes blood glucose (sugar level) to rise. Learn what brings it down again. Learn how to check blood glucose (sugar level) and how to make changes to improve blood glucose levels.
2. Make food choices that will help diabetes remain in control. Foods like starchy vegetables, grains, fruits, milk and, of course, sugar sweetened foods are carbohydrates. Carbohydrates provide us with energy, so we should have them as a part of a healthy meal plan. However, unlimited amounts of carbohydrates can cause your blood sugar to rise to unhealthy levels. A diabetes educator or a dietitian can help you understand how many carbohydrates you should have at each meal or snack.
3. Moving more, or exercising, uses the sugar from our food, lowering blood glucose level. Find out what amount of exercise is safe for you. Start slowly, increase as you can and watch the improvement in your blood glucose.
4. Check your blood glucose. Checking will tell you whether your food choices and activity choices are working to lower your blood glucose levels to a healthy range. The American Diabetes Association indicates healthy fasting blood glucose numbers are between 70 mg/dL and 130 mg/dL, with after-meal numbers of less than 180 mg/dL. Your healthcare provider may have other goals for your blood glucose, so check with him or her.
5. Partner with your health care provider. Your family doctor or nurse practitioner can help you with the medical management of diabetes. Have regular visits, blood tests, and discussions about what actions will help your diabetes management.
6. Take your diabetes medicine as prescribed and report any problems to your healthcare provider right away. Different diabetes medicines have different actions, so you may be asked to take more than one or two kinds of diabetes medicines as a way to keep your blood glucose levels in a healthy range.
7. Don’t forget to take care of your emotional health. Stress plays a role in how well we take care of ourselves. Stress can also raise our blood glucose levels. Ask for help if you need it. According to the American Diabetes Association, 25.8 million people in the United States have diabetes, about 8.5 percent of the population. Of those people, an estimated 7 million have not been diagnosed. Many patients first learn they have diabetes when they are treated for one of its life-threatening complications: heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and nerve disease. Diabetes self-management education attended early in the disease process has been shown to help reduce the risk of developing these complications.
MEET THE RN Joanne has been a registered nurse since 1975 and has been a certified diabetes educator (CDE) for 18 years. Before joining the team at Winter Haven Hospital, Joanne was a program manager at the University of South Florida’s College of Medicine. She helped coordinate an international, multi-center landmark diabetes clinical study, and currently serves on a statewide collaborative to improve access to diabetes education throughout Florida. Joanne’s role at Winter Haven Hospital is to design and coordinate outpatient diabetes education services at the hospital and in the community. She also designs diabetes-related staff education programs.
story by JOANNE VACCARO-KISH, RN, CDE
Coordinator for Winter Haven Hospital’s diabetes Education Program
Winter Haven Hospital’s diabetes self-management education program has been awarded the ADA education recognition certificate. For more information on the classes at Winter Haven Hospital, call (863) 293-1121, ext. 3066.