Diagnosed with diabetes? Here’s what you need to know

Laura Hieronymus, DNP, MSEd, MLDE, BC-ADM, CDE, FAADE

By Laura Hieronymus, DNP, MSEd, RN, MLDE, BC-ADM, CDE, FAADE, associate director for education and quality services at the UK HealthCare Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center

When you have diabetes, you are certainly not alone. Diabetes is one of the most common chronic conditions affecting more than 30 million people in the U.S. About 5 percent of people with diabetes have Type 1. Type 2 diabetes is more common and occurs in approximately 95 percent of those with diabetes. If you are a woman with a history of gestational diabetes during pregnancy, your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes as you age is 40 to 60 percent and increases to 50 to 75 percent if you are obese.

Before developing Type 2 diabetes, many people experience pre-diabetes. This is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough for a diabetes diagnosis. Experts estimate that 84 million people age 18 or older have pre-diabetes.

Education is key for self-management 

Regardless of the type of diabetes you have, you will self-manage about 95 percent of your care. This means taking an active role in managing your care. Education and support from diabetes educators is essential to help you develop the skills and confidence to manage your diabetes. Not only should you be well-educated about your diabetes when you are diagnosed, but you should also be educated annually to help prevent complications specific to your treatment goals.

Diabetes self-management education and support can help you adapt when challenges to your usual level of activity, ability to function, health beliefs and/or well-being occur. Also, whenever factors such as other health issues, aging or pregnancy complicate self-management, additional diabetes education is usually necessary.

Do research to find services available for your diabetes self-management education. Check to see if the services are either accredited by the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) or recognized by the American Diabetes Association. If you have pre-diabetes, look for a diabetes prevention program (DPP) that has achieved Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recognition.

Developing necessary life skills

Lifelong skills, as well as ongoing decision-making support, are necessary to self-manage diabetes. The AADE has developed seven key skills to focus on for optimal diabetes health. They are eating a healthy diet, being active, monitoring, taking medication, problem solving, reducing risks and healthy coping. The diabetes prevention program will help you develop necessary lifestyle skills to prevent or delay Type 2 diabetes.

In addition to your diabetes care team, you will ideally have diabetes support from family and friends. Lay health and community health workers who are not diabetes educators may also be instrumental in reinforcing elements of your diabetes treatment plan as well as offering emotional support. Your support system should also encourage follow-up on a routine basis with your diabetes care team and consultation with the team if you have questions or needs.

If you have diabetes – get a referral for diabetes self-management education. Likewise, if you have pre-diabetes, ask your healthcare provider for a referral to a certified diabetes prevention program. Take charge, be proactive and seek diabetes education-related services to optimize your health.

For more information about Barnstable Brown Diabetes Center education services, call 859-323-BBDC (2232), option 3.

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