Diabetes Education: Take the Class, Take Control
The Diabetes Care Center at Saint Francis offers a comprehensive diabetes education program that includes a one-hour individual assessment followed by a two-day class designed to teach people with diabetes to manage their disease and avoid complications. A support person is welcome to join program participants. During our program you can expect to learn how to:
Set and meet your blood sugar goals
Checking your blood sugar is a useful tool to make sure your diabetes is under control. You and your diabetes team will decide when and how often to check your blood sugar. Some important times to check include:
- When you wake up in the morning and go to bed at night
- Before meals or snacks
- One to two hours after meals or snacks
- Before and after physical activity
During your individual appointment, we will provide you with a glucose monitoring kit if you need one, and teach you how to use it. When you arrive for your group sessions, you will test your fasting blood sugar level. Your nurse educator will go over your glucose monitoring technique and help to establish blood glucose target goals with you.
Manage your disease with and without medication
Your blood sugar level can be affected by what you eat, how much you eat, how active you are and how you deal with stress. Some people with Type 2 diabetes can manage their blood sugar by careful adherence to a diet and exercise plan. But medication is frequently necessary to keep the disease in check. There are many types of effective medications including those taken by mouth and those taken by injection. The certified diabetes nurse educator begins the day of classes with an explanation about diabetes and how the disease causes high blood sugar. She will also discuss how diabetes is diagnosed, the different types of diabetes, complications of the disease and anti-diabetes medications. Knowing how to balance your diet, exercise and medications is crucial to controlling your blood sugar.
Plan healthy and delicious meals
One of the first things people with diabetes ask is "what can I eat?" The good news is the answer is practically anything you like, as long as you limit the amount you eat and how often you eat certain foods. Your meal plan should include:
- A wide variety of foods so you get needed nutrients
- Many of your favorite foods so you enjoy what you eat
- Foods that are easy for you to prepare or purchase
Our dietitians will teach you about a healthy diet. This will include details about carbohydrates, fats and proteins. Carbohydrates are the main kind of food that raises blood sugar levels, so it is important to be aware of the amount of carbs you eat. Not all fats are created equal, so it's important to know which ones are OK and which you should avoid. Proteins are important to build and repair your body tissues. You will also learn about portion sizes. You will leave the program with an individualized meal plan built around foods that you prefer.
Understand injectable medications
Insulin and other injectable medications can be key to managing diabetes. We discuss and demonstrate insulin pens and can even show an insulin pump. Myths and misconceptions about insulin are addressed.
Diabetic foot conditions develop from a combination of causes including poor circulation and neuropathy. Diabetic neuropathy can cause insensitivity or a loss of ability to feel pain, heat, and cold. People with diabetes suffering from neuropathy can develop minor cuts, scrapes, blisters, or pressure sores that they may not feel. Poor circulation can complicate diabetic foot problems by reducing the amount of oxygen and nutrition supplied to the skin and other tissue, causing injuries to heal poorly. Diabetes-related foot and leg problems can include:
- Infections and ulcers (sores) that don’t heal. An ulcer is a sore in the skin that may go all the way to the bone. Because of poor circulation and neuropathy in the feet, cuts or blisters can easily turn into ulcers that become infected and won’t heal. This is a common – and serious – complication of diabetes and can lead to a loss of your foot, your leg, or your life.
- Corns and calluses. When neuropathy is present, you can’t tell if your shoes are causing pressure and producing corns or calluses. Corns and calluses must be treated properly or they can develop into ulcers.
- Dry, cracked skin. Poor circulation and neuropathy can make your skin dry. This may seem harmless, but dry skin can result in cracks that may become sores and can lead to infection.
- Nail disorders. Ingrown toenails (which curve into the skin on the sides of the nail) and fungal infections can go unnoticed because of loss of feeling. If they are not properly treated, they can lead to infection.
- Hammertoes and bunions. Nerve damage affecting muscles can cause muscle weakness and loss of tone in the feet, resulting in hammertoes and bunions. If left untreated, these deformities can cause ulcers.
- Charcot foot. This is a complex foot deformity. It develops as a result of loss of sensation and an undetected broken bone that leads to destruction of the soft tissue of the foot. Because of neuropathy, the pain of the fracture goes unnoticed and the patient continues to walk on the broken bone, making it worse.
During our program, a podiatrist teaches the group on how to prevent and detect foot problems. At the end of this session, participants will have an opportunity to have an individual foot examination.
Create and stick to an exercise plan
As the ancient Chinese philosopher once said, "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.'' For people with diabetes, that can mean a short walk, a bike ride, swimming, dancing or even vacuuming the carpet. Health experts recommend starting any exercise routine gradually with a goal of being physically active for at least 30 minutes five days a week to maintain your current weight and 45 minutes if your goal is to lose weight. Classes will focus on exercise and setting health and physical activity goals.
Stay healthy, even if you get sick
Stress, minor illnesses and other disruptions can make it more difficult to control your blood sugar. Our program concludes with a session on managing diabetes when you are sick and preventing complications when you are well.
Eight weeks following conclusion of the two-day program, participants are invited for a follow-up appointment at the Diabetes Care Center.
Click here for a sample class schedule
Source: "Diabetes and You: Your Guide to Better Living with Diabetes," Cornerstones4Care, 2011 Novo Nordisk
Diabetes Care Center at Saint Francis
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