Managing Your Diabetes; It Takes a Team
Diabetes isn’t going anywhere, so let’s work together and do our part. November is National Diabetes Month, a time when communities across the country team up to bring attention to diabetes. This year's focus is on managing diabetes by building your health care team.
Diabetes is a disease that occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. It affects about 37 million Americans, including adults and youth and, 1 in 5 people do not know that they have diabetes. Diabetes can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart, and is linked to some types of cancer.
Working with health care professionals who can offer you the personal care you need may help improve your health and remember you are the most important participant in your diabetes care. Here are seven quick tips to help you manage diabetes and build your health care team:
- You are the most important participant in your diabetes care.
Learn as much as you can about your disease and talk with your primary care provider about how you can get the support you need to meet your goals. Remember to ask for a referral to your local Diabetes Education Center.
- Manage diabetes as early as possible.
Take steps to improve your health. Talk with your primary care provider about how you can manage your diabetes and create a diabetes care plan. Research has shown that taking action soon after being diagnosed can help prevent diabetes-related health problems such as kidney disease, vision loss, heart disease, and stroke. Most insurance companies pay for diabetes education and medical nutrition therapy every year, though less than 5% of those with Medicare take advantage of this benefit, whereas only 7% of those with commercial insurance take advantage of this insurance benefit.
- Build your diabetes health care team.
A team of health care professionals can tailor your care for your specific needs. Besides a primary care provider, your health care team should include a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) and a certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES). Other healthcare professionals that can help support you with your diabetes would be a nurse, pharmacist, endocrinologist, podiatrist, cardiologist, dentist, ophthalmologist, nephrologist, family and friends and a support group. With having diabetes, you have a lot on your mind. It can leave you feeling run down, emotionally drained and completely overwhelmed. Many emotions arise as you manage your diabetes, so find a mental health care provider to navigate your disease. Feeling good physically is half the battle. Feeling mentally good is the other half.
- Prepare for visits with your providers.
Before your appointment with any doctor or healthcare professional you see, it’s important to be prepared. Write down a list of questions, review your diabetes self-care plan, and record your blood glucose results.
- Take notes at your appointment, ask for a summary of your visit, or check your online patient portal.
Routine tests at your checkups can spot problems early to prevent complications. Be sure to have a blood pressure check, foot check, and weight check at each physician visit. Your A1c will get checked every 3-6 months, you want to get your A1C below or as close to 7 percent as possible. Get regular dental exams as well as cholesterol and triglycerides checked, known as a lipid panel, 1 – 2 times per year. A yearly dilated eye exam and kidney test is important to be done to prevent complications.
Talk with your team about medications and new treatment options, as well as the vaccines you should get to reduce your risk of getting sick.
- Start with small changes to create healthy habits.
Think small and consistent rather than big and infrequent. Meet with a CDCES as they are “change agents” to help people with diabetes make the most meaningful changes to prevent serious debilitating health problems.
- Make physical activity and healthy eating part of your daily routine.
Set a goal and try to be active most days of the week and follow a diabetes meal plan. Choose fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, tofu, beans, seeds, and non-fat or low-fat milk and cheese. Consider joining a support group that teaches techniques for managing stress and ask for help if you feel down, sad, or overwhelmed. Sleeping for 7 to 8 hours each night can help improve your mood and energy level.
For over 31 years, the Diabetes Wellness Center at Manchester Memorial Hospital has made available an outpatient program for adults with diabetes and prediabetes. It is nationally recognized though the American Diabetes Association for providing the highest quality of care and education to all who participate in the program. The center is made up of experienced registered dietitians and certified diabetes care and education specialists, that offer individual and group classes year-round, virtually and in person.