Diabetes education and support: What's your role?

  • Published
  • By Stuart Bapties
  • Health and Wellness Center
National Diabetes Month is observed every November to draw attention to diabetes and its effects on millions of Americans. 

This year the National Institute of Health's National Diabetes Education Program theme is "Diabetes Education and Support: Everyone Has a Role. What's Yours?" 

It highlights the need for ongoing education and support among people with the disease. While the vision is a life free of diabetes, simply raising awareness is one of the main efforts behind National Diabetes Month.  

Almost 30 million people in the U.S. have diabetes and another 86 million have prediabetes - a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but are not high enough for a diagnosis of diabetes. 

People with prediabetes are at increased risk for developing type 2 diabetes, as well as, for heart disease and stroke. Type 2 develops most often in middle-aged and older adults, but can appear in young people. 

Many people with diabetes are not aware they have diabetes due to the fact that symptoms, on their own, seem more like annoyances than signs of a dangerous condition.

So what is diabetes?
Diabetes is a group of metabolic diseases characterized by high blood sugar (glucose) levels resulting from defects in insulin secretion, or its action, or both.  It was first identified as a disease associated with "sweet urine" and excessive muscle loss in the ancient world because elevated levels of blood glucose lead to spillage of glucose into the urine. 

Normally, glucose levels are tightly controlled by insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas and the insulin lowers the blood glucose level. When blood glucose elevates (for example, after eating food), insulin is released from the pancreas to normalize the glucose level by promoting the uptake of glucose into body cells.

However, in patients with diabetes, the absence of, insufficient production of, or lack of response to insulin causes hyperglycemia. Diabetes is a chronic medical condition, meaning that although it can be controlled, it lasts a lifetime.

There are three main types of diabetes:
-Type 1 -- Your body does not make insulin. That creates problems because you need insulin to take the sugar (glucose) from the foods you eat and turn it into energy for your body. 
-Type 2 -- Your body doesn't make or use insulin well. In this case you may need to take pills or insulin to control your diabetes. Type 2 is the most common type of diabetes. 
-Gestational diabetes -- Some women get this kind of diabetes when they're pregnant. Most of the time, it goes away after the baby is born but, even if it goes away, these women and their children have a greater chance of getting diabetes later in life.

Things to keep in mind if diagnosed with diabetes
You're the most important member of your health care team. If diagnosed with diabetes, you're the one who will manage it daily, so talk to your doctor about how to best care for your diabetes to stay healthy. Some others who can help are:
-certified diabetes educators; 
-eye doctors;
-foot doctors; and

Learn more about diabetes
-Take classes to learn more about living with diabetes. To find a class, check with your Primary Care Manager or contact the Health and Wellness Center at 478-327-8480 to see what classes are available in the local area. 
-Join a support group, in person or online, to get peer support with managing your diabetes.
-Read about diabetes online by checking out www.YourDiabetesInfo.org.

Take diabetes seriously
You might have heard people say that they have "a touch of diabetes" or that their "sugar is a little high."  Those words suggest that perhaps diabetes is not that serious but, that's incorrect. Diabetes is serious, but you can learn to manage it very effectively.  People with diabetes need to make healthy food choices, stay at a healthy weight, move more every day, and take their medicine even when they feel good.   Why take care of your diabetes?

Taking care of yourself can help you feel good today and in the future and when your blood sugar (glucose) is close to normal, you are likely to: *have more energy;  *be less tired and thirsty;  *need to pass urine less often;  *heal better; and  *have fewer skin or bladder infections. 

You will also have less chance of having health problems caused by diabetes such as:
-eart attack or stroke;  *eye problems that can lead to trouble seeing or going blind;
-pain, tingling, or numbness in your hands and feet caused by nerve damage;
-kidney problems that can cause your kidneys to stop working; or 
-teeth and gum problems. 

Important actions you can take
-Ask your primary care provider what type of diabetes you have;
-Learn where you can go for support; *Learn how caring for your diabetes helps you feel good today and in the future; and
-Follow your care plan carefully and follow up. 

Editor's note:
For more information on local education or support programs call the HAWC at 478-327-8480.