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November is Diabetes Awareness Month

American Diabetes Month couldn’t come at a more appropriate time of year. November is the start of the holiday season, bringing more treats and bigger meals to the table. It’s also the start of colder weather, which discourages, to some degree, physical activity. In the face of these diet and exercise challenges, raising awareness of diabetes and ways to help prevent the disease can guide people to establishing or maintaining healthy lifestyles, long-term.

Diabetes is an ever-growing disease that, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), affects over 29 million people in the United States. Diabetes is a group of diseases characterized by high blood glucose levels that result from defects in the body’s ability to produce and/or use insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches, and other food into energy. It’s a serious health condition that can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, high blood pressure, and blindness, especially if not managed or treated properly. Type 1 diabetes, previously called juvenile diabetes because it’s usually diagnosed before the age of 20, is a form of diabetes in which the body does not produce insulin. The most common form of diabetes, however, is type 2 diabetes. With type 2, the body either resists the effects of insulin or doesn’t produce enough to maintain normal glucose levels. But this type of diabetes can be prevented or successfully managed with proactive care, such as choosing healthier foods and smaller portion sizes. Increasing physical activity is another factor that can help to achieve and maintain good health. Even small changes, like adding a 20-30 minute walk to your daily routine, can help keep your blood sugar in check.

Accountability, knowledge, and behavior change are all effective means to the self-management of diabetes. Physicians, diabetes educators, nutritionists and other diabetes practitioners work to empower people with diabetes to take control of their disease and actively participate in their care. At Sturdy, the Diabetes Management Program promotes the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) self-care behavior framework, which encompasses seven goals: healthy eating, being active, monitoring blood sugar, taking medication, problem solving, reducing risks and healthy coping. Each are significant steps to improved well-being, while living with diabetes.

Because diabetes is a progressive, demanding condition, working with your health care team to understand each aspect of your care is necessary. Your physician and diabetes educator will provide you with the knowledge needed to determine what medications are appropriate, and overcome any physical or emotional barriers to healthy behaviors. Understanding the disease, as well as incorporating the seven self-care behaviors into your treatment, will help you to control your diabetes more effectively.

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When committing to living well with diabetes, it is important to meet with your physician and diabetes educator on a regular basis to set achievable goals and work through obstacles. As part of a complete diabetes management plan, additional steps should be taken to further reduce risks and complications, such as:

•   Quitting smoking

•   Regular eye, foot and dental examinations

•   Blood pressure monitoring

•   Self-monitoring blood glucose

•   Making healthy food choices

•   Controlling weight

•   Exercising

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Additional tools are available to allow easy monitoring of these new behaviors such as, mobile applications that include fitness tracking, food journals, and logging progress towards goals. Another helpful resource is diabetes healthy living magazines, which include recipes, body well-being tips, along with other diabetes topics, tips, and tricks. Though monitoring fitness and nutrition is important, daily self-monitoring of blood glucose is essential to providing insight as to how these activities and foods are affecting your health.

Sturdy’s Diabetes Management Program, recognized by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) for being a quality diabetes self-management and education program, is an interactive education process led by a diabetes educator. The multidisciplinary program aims to assess, identify, and assist people with diabetes, and their families. It incorporates education on ways to best manage diabetes and prevent complications. In conjunction with the program, Sturdy offers Nutritional Counseling, Endocrinology, Ophthalmology, and Podiatry Services, a Wellness Exercise Program, and free Diabetes Support Groups.

To learn more about the Diabetes Management Program at Sturdy Memorial Hospital, please call the Diabetes Office Coordinator at 508-236-7497.

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