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Here's to You: Diabetes health depends on self-care

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Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects more than 23 million people in the United States.

If managed well, people with diabetes can live normal, healthy lives. However, the many devastating effects of uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes are fairly well known: Diabetes, which increases a person's chances of heart attack or stroke by 200 percent to 400 percent, respectively, is the seventh leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation. But with proper management and control through daily food, fitness, medication and lifestyle choices, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of diabetes related complications.

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That said, diabetes is largely a self-care disease, which means that most of the time, you are in charge of many day-to-day decisions that affect your condition. This responsibility puts an individual with diabetes in the driver's seat of their personal care team - and that's a lot of pressure.

So what's the most important tool you need to successfully manage diabetes? Knowledge!

There is a lot of information available about diabetes. In the information age, there is certainly no shortage of diabetes related books, cookbooks, websites and magazines. Unfortunately, information about diabetes is not always credible and some of the information out there is just flat-out incorrect or bad advice.

How do you decide whether the information you read or hear about diabetes is safe and reliable? Fortunately, you don't have to do this on your own. A diabetes educator can help.

A diabetes educator is a qualified professional - typically, a registered nurse, registered dietitian, pharmacist, or a nurse practitioner - who provides diabetes self-management education or diabetes self-management training on an individual basis or as part of a multidisciplinary team in a group setting. MedSave's InCharge DSME/T team of educators include a nurse practitioner who specializes in diabetes care, registered dietician, pharmacist, registered nurse and psychologist/wellness coach.

The American Association of Diabetes Educators defines DSMT as a collaborative process through which people with or at risk for diabetes gain the knowledge and skills needed to change behavior and successfully self-manage diabetes and its related conditions. DSMT typically focuses on the following seven behaviors - sometimes referred to as the AADE Self-Care Behaviors:

- Healthy eating.

- Being active.

- Monitoring.

- Taking medication.

- Problem solving.

- Coping skills.

- Reducing risks.

Participating in diabetes self-management education will help you understand what is going on inside your body. You'll learn the best methods of daily self-care and how everyday decisions regarding physical activity, meal planning, testing your blood sugar, taking your medication and checking your feet all impact your condition - and your risk for complications. Finally, diabetes education will teach what and when you should be receiving standard diabetes care from your primary care provider such as A1C testing, foot exams, blood pressure, cholesterol checks and dilated eye exams.

While there is typically a fee charged to receive diabetes education from a certified diabetes educator and/or attend a DSME/T program, it is important to note that many health insurance plans, including Medicare, cover this cost. Contact your insurance carrier to make certain that your plan covers diabetes self-management education. If you are uninsured, you may be able to receive free or reduced cost services through MedSave, your local health department or hospital. Even if you have to pay some money out of pocket, it will be a very important investment in your health.

While there are many free resources and tools for people with diabetes, these are no substitute for the personalized education and detailed knowledge you'll gain by visiting a diabetes educator and/or attending a DSME/T program. Because of the positive impact it can have on diabetes care and diabetes outcomes, it is highly recommended that all individuals with diabetes meet with a diabetes educator and/or attend a DSME/T program. To find out when MedSave's next series of classes will be starting please call Cathy at 444-7800.

Adapted from:

"Get the Facts You Need to Manage Your Diabetes" by Amy Poetker, registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator.

"Diabetes Education Fact Sheet" from the American Association of Diabetes Educators, www.diabeteseducator.org.

"Diabetes Statistics" from the American Diabetes Association www.diabetes.org.

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Richard Chernugal is owner-pharmacist at MedSave in Bemidji.

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