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Sharp Health News

Learning to live with diabetes

Nov. 2, 2020

Learning to live with diabetes
California is famous for its sunshine, beaches, national and state parks, and a variety of frequently visited landmarks and cities. Unfortunately, the Golden State is also home to a high population of people with diabetes — nearly 50% of adults live with prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes, and 10% live with Type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes — the most common type of diabetes — occurs when the body doesn’t use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone the body needs to get glucose (blood sugar) from the bloodstream into the cells.

While some people can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, others may require medication or injected insulin, and most will need help learning how to manage it. If left untreated, diabetes can lead to complications, such as kidney and eye damage or an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. However, well-controlled diabetes can lead to good health.

“While a diabetes diagnosis can be shocking, it is most important to know that you can take control of the disease and live a long, healthy life,” says Cheryl Armstrong, RN, BSN, lead certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) with the Sharp Rees-Stealy Center for Health Management. “As certified diabetes care and education specialists, we see many patients become success stories in improving their diabetes management.”

Armstrong and her colleagues at Sharp Rees-Stealy are part of an accredited diabetes program that aligns with the teachings of the American Diabetes Association. Whether someone is at risk for prediabetes or has been diagnosed with Type 1, Type 2 or gestational diabetes, the team of primary care doctors, specialists, dietitians and nurses provides diabetes management education, treatment plans and expert care to help people thrive.

“Diabetes education is not a lecture on what not to do,” says Sharon Nelson, RDN, a certified diabetes educator with the program. “It is real-life guidance, coaching and support to help you understand how to best manage your diabetes. We help turn your diabetes fears, questions, struggles and barriers into confidence, understanding, hope and action.”

According to Nelson, educators spend time with people — either virtually or in person — problem-solving, sharing skills to adopt healthy behaviors, and developing a plan that helps them overcome the barriers they face in managing their diabetes. “We see you as an individual, not a disease, and understand that diabetes can be overwhelming, impacting every aspect of your life,” she says.

Some examples of the many activities they may perform with program participants include:
  • Helping them understand exactly what diabetes is and how it affects their body
  • Determining the best type of glucose monitoring device for their circumstances
  • Explaining how diabetes medications work and when or why they may be indicated
  • Helping people understand how different foods affect their blood sugar and how to plan meals — including culturally appropriate meals — that fit their life
  • Helping them learn how to recognize, treat and prevent high and low blood sugar
  • Determining how much and which kinds of exercise are appropriate
Armstrong and Nelson recommend that people consider working with a certified diabetes educator upon diagnosis; every few years as their life circumstances change and their diabetes may progress; when there is a transition in care; or if they are experiencing diabetes-related complications, such as vision changes, heart or kidney disease, or depression.

“We work as your partner to help you make informed decisions and behavior changes that will improve your health,” Nelson says. “We may be considered diabetes experts, but you are the expert of your own life. And working together, we make a pretty awesome team.”

Learn more about the diabetes program at Sharp Rees-Stealy.

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