Diabetes Awareness Month
Written by Erin Goodrich, MS, RDN, CDN, CDE
November marks the start of the holiday season. It also marks the start of Diabetes Awareness Month.
What exactly is Diabetes Awareness Month? It signifies a lot of different things, depending on how diabetes affects your life or your loved ones.
For some, it means knowing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Knowing if you are at risk, and getting tested on a regular basis, will help prevent the chance of developing diabetes or complications related to diabetes. Many people are unaware they may be at risk for developing diabetes and do not find out until they come into their doctor’s office with very high blood sugars or the beginning of a diabetes-related issue. You may be at risk if you have been told by your health care provider that you have a body mass index of 25 or higher and:
- History of cardiovascular disease
- A parent or sibling with diabetes
- High blood pressure
- Low good cholesterol (HDL) or high tryglycerides
- A diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Low physical activity or sedentary lifestyle (if you sit a lot for work, or spend most of your time watching tv)
- A body mass index of 40 or greater
For others, diabetes awareness month means becoming more aware of how to better manage diabetes, whether they have type 1, type 2, or LADA. This can be an overwhelming task. There is SO MUCH information to know on a daily basis, and there is SO MUCH that we hear from well-meaning family, friends, the internet, or other equally less reliable sources.
So, where to start? And how can you keep it up so that you live a long, healthy life with diabetes? Below are some tips from myself, health care providers, and others living with diabetes to help make this disease a little easier to manage.
- Listen to the advice of your doctor, physician assistant, nurse practitioner, dietitian, nurse, and diabetes educator. Catherine Goetz, PA-C at the Brockport center states it might seem cliché – but we are here for a reason! When we tell you to take your medication a certain way – for example, taking mealtime insulin 15 minutes before eating – it’s because we know that it will help your blood sugar to stay in a healthy range. If your health care provider or diabetes educator asks you to check your blood sugar at a certain time, it’s not because your diabetes “is bad”; we need this information so together with you, we can make a decision on how best to treat your diabetes.
- Come in with an open mind. I find a lot of patients to be VERY hesitant about coming to see a dietitian or diabetes educator. Or, they have had a bad experience with someone they saw in the past and don’t want to come back again. Some people feel that because they work as x, y, or z and they have already learned everything about diabetes. What I tell patients is this: diabetes is an ongoing process and is always changing, and diabetes care and education should be as well. We are here to work with you and support you throughout your time with diabetes.
- Eat your veggies! Nanette from Bangor, Maine states that she eats some kind of vegetable (usually spinach or kale) before most of her meals to help with blood sugar spikes. Vegetables are high in fiber, which is hard for your body to break down and digest. Also, fiber itself does not need any insulin to be digested. These effects of fiber help prevent blood sugar from climbing too high.
- Don’t forget your protein. Karen R, author of the book “Poking Fun At Diabetes” states having protein at each meal and snack helps her manage her blood glucose because it also helps in preventing large swings in blood sugar. You could include a low-fat cheese stick, an ounce of nuts, or greek yogurt with your snack and lean protein (think chicken, turkey, or fish) with dinner. Other good sources of protein include plant-based protein such as chickpeas, dried beans, lentils, or soy (bonus: beans and lentils are both a healthy carbohydrate and protein, and are high in fiber!).
- When in doubt, fingerstick. Karen advises if you feel “off” in any way or is having a sick day, don’t be afraid to do some extra blood sugar checks to see what is going on with your blood glucose. Not feeling well can be a sign of very high or very low blood sugar and could need immediate attention. Being sick with a cold, the flu, or stomach bug, can cause havoc on your blood sugars, and keeping a close eye on them can help prevent a potential hospital visit.
- Carry a source of fast-acting sugar. If you take insulin or pills that may lower your blood sugar, carry some kind of glucose tablets, candy, juice, or regular soda in case of low blood sugar. Low blood sugar should be treated immediately because if your blood sugar gets too low you could become unconscious and need medical attention. Signs of low blood sugar include feeling shaky, dizzy, sweaty, confused, hunger, weakness, headache, and anxiety.
- Find a good team for your diabetes management. Christina H. encourages people to work with their health care team in managing their diabetes. This includes reaching out if you have a question, any kind of diabetes-related issue, or are struggling financially with diabetes. Your team at Oak Orchard Health includes a doctor, nurse practitioner or physician assistant, an LPN, RN Care Manager, a dietitian/certified diabetes educator, and a patient navigator. We are here to help if you have difficulty with your blood sugars, prescriptions, diet or need resources for financial assistance. Don’t be afraid to reach out to us!
Erin Goodrich, MS, RDN, CDN, CDE
Certified Diabetes Educator