Have you had your blood glucose level checked lately? Does your family have a history of diabetes? Are you active, or are you the proverbial couch potato?
The answers to these questions could assist you and your healthcare provider in determining your risk for developing diabetes. And, if you have been diagnosed with this disease, the answers you provided could determine how well you live with diabetes.
The Houston County Health Department provides a variety of programs to assist diabetic patients and their families in managing this disease. A support group meets quarterly in the Conference Center at the Health Department that allows diabetics and family members to meet and share ideas and concerns. Special speakers are also brought in to provide educational opportunities in a relaxed setting.
During the most recent Wiregrass Diabetes Support Group meeting, Lanora Medley R.N., owner of Universa Diabetes – Education for Life, shared ideas of how to manage diabetes. Her program consisted of a seven-question quiz called “Two Truths and a Lie.”
A key, she noted, was for the participants to maintain a healthy lifestyle. The American Heart Association, she said, recommends 150 minutes of physical activity each week.
“Whatever activity you choose, it’s important to have good supportive shoes,” Medley said. “Also, find something that you enjoy doing. Walking is a good exercise. Gardening is a wonderful activity. It’s important to get that activity into your day.”
Monitoring for health risks also plays an important role in living with diabetes. One of the key factors is maintaining a safe blood glucose reading.
“There are three important lab tests for a patient with diabetes,” Medley continued. “Those are the A1c, blood pressure and cholesterol. It’s also important that you take your medications at the prescribed time and the proper dosage. If, for some reason, you forget to take your medications, do not double the dose the next time.”
If a diabetic patient becomes ill with the flu or other ailment, the quiz Medley provided recommended that the person check his/her blood sugar more often and to continuing taking their prescribed medications
“You need to keep control and manage your diabetes,” Medley said. “If you have low blood sugar, you typically feel bad, weak, shaky, dizzy and irritable. Even non-diabetics can have episodes of low blood sugar. Orange juice or any kind of juice will help. Juices are really good to use. Even a half-can of a soft drink will help. Have something on hand that works.
“If an episode occurs close to meal time, go ahead and eat. If not, eat a snack to stabilize your blood sugar.”
Diabetes can be a risk factor for developing heart disease. Controlling diabetes can decrease the risk for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke, Medley noted. According the quiz, heart disease is two to four times more common in people with diabetes than in those without diabetes.
Coping skills play a vital role in managing the disease. Medley says good communication between the patient and the healthcare provider is important. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, especially when it comes to managing diabetes and its effects.
“Don’t keep issues to yourself,” Medley cautioned. “Coping, that is what we’re doing here today. Support groups, support of others help us cope and manage diabetes. Have someone to talk to when you’re feeling sad.”
Diet, for obvious reasons, plays a major role in managing diabetes and the impact it can have on a person’s well being. Often, patients are told to shy away from carbohydrates.
“Your body needs carbohydrates (breads, pastas, milk, fruit, etc.) to function,” Medley said. “However, a low-fat diet reduces the risk of heart disease.”
One other factor should be considered.
“Education is key to managing diabetes,” Medley said.
The Houston County Health Department holds free monthly diabetes education classes. For more information about the classes, call 678-2800 and ask for the diabetes nurse. The quarterly support group meetings are also free and open to the public.