Certified classes can help you learn to proactively manage your diabetes

Contributing columnistApril 11, 2014 

With more than 26 million Americans living with diabetes, at least 7 million of whom are undiagnosed, and more than 79 million exhibiting pre-diabetes, the disease is reaching epidemic proportions in America.

There are several types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce insulin. Insulin is needed to keep blood sugar levels normal. Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all incidences of diabetes and occurs when the body no longer uses insulin properly. Type 2 diabetes may be caused primarily by poor diet, lack of exercise, and being overweight.

Pre-diabetes is when the blood sugar is higher than normal, especially in a fasting state, but have not yet reached the level of diabetes. Because diabetes is a progressive disease, people with pre-diabetes may, without proper management, eventually be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

For many with diabetes, it may be helpful to take a diabetes management class once diagnosed. To start, your physician will refer you to a class.

Classes may vary in length and frequency, but they should give you the basics of what diabetes is, what causes it and what you can do to help manage it. Managing diabetes is key to preventing some of the acute and chronic complications that can be caused by diabetes.

Diabetes classes should cover: meal planning, movement, medication and monitoring and stress reduction.

First, meal planning is key. In diabetes classes you'll learn the importance of portion control, how to limit and count carbohydrates, the need for eating three balanced meals a day and not skipping meals. Also, it's important to eat heart healthy foods that are low in cholesterol, fat and sodium.

Secondly, movement. It's crucial to get daily exercise of at least 30-60 minutes, five days a week. Third, the classes will teach you about your medication, including diabetes pills and insulin.

Another key with diabetes is monitoring. It's important to check your blood sugar regularly, tracking it as ordered by your physician. How often you need to check depends on how high your blood sugar is.

Stress reduction is also important, as stress can raise your blood sugar. This can be caused by emotional stress, pain, disruption in sleep patterns, or physical stressors as illness or surgery.

Complications from diabetes can cause serious health issues and even death, so it's important to manage diabetes from its onset. You have the opportunity to control your health when diabetes is a concern, so be proactive and learn the tools that can help you lead a healthier life.

Dana Graves is a Diabetes Clinical Nurse Specialist at Saint Joseph Hospital

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