By: Margaret Pauly, MS, RD, LD
Did you know that November is designated as National Diabetes Awareness Month? And this week the focus is on diabetes education. As a registered dietitian, I think that diabetes education has been one of the most frustrating yet fulfilling things I’ve ever done. It’s frustrating because so many people are not given any diabetes education when they are diagnosed, and it’s fulfilling when I can help a person with diabetes learn to control their disease and live a better life.
There are two organizations that focus on diabetes – the American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the one most people are familiar with. My diabetes instruction mostly came from the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), and I like their seven-step approach to diabetes self-care. It’s very holistic (caring for the whole person) and easy to understand. Let me briefly walk you through each of them:
Healthy Eating – It’s not about deprivation or not eating anything white as many of you have been told. It’s about knowing what affects your blood sugar and eating to support your health. As I always say, it’s about quality AND quantity.
Being Active – Did you know that a short 15-minute walk after a meal can help you control your blood sugar? It can also help with other health issues such as lowering your blood pressure or stress level.
Monitoring – Checking your blood sugar regularly helps you to know what foods raise your levels and lets you know if medication adjustments need to be made. Many people find it discouraging and stop monitoring regularly. Although it can feel more like a chore or punishment, try to think of it as an effective tool to help you control your blood sugar.
Taking Medication – Medication works with your lifestyle (healthy eating and being active) to keep you healthy. It also can reduce your risk of complications from diabetes. It’s important to take your medication as prescribed by your doctor. If it doesn’t seem to be working for you, speak to your doctor.
Problem Solving – I love that AADE helps with problem solving skills – such as what to do when you have the cold or the flu, or have low blood sugar. These are important skills to know.
Reducing Risks – Yes, you have more risks than other people of developing other health issues. It’s always better to know that beforehand, right? Then you can plan better and make better choices.
Healthy Coping – Many people with diabetes struggle with depression or denial. Neither help you manage your diabetes well. It’s important to recognize when you are feeling down and to get help. You are not alone in this. Contact a mental health professional, talk with a friend or your clergy/minister to work through the times you are feeling overwhelmed or down.
Here is a link to the seven steps: https://www.diabeteseducator.org/living-with-diabetes/aade7-self-care-behaviors .
If you struggle with controlling your diabetes, be sure to contact your doctor, certified diabetes educator or dietitian. You are not alone.