The most successful way to manage your diabetes is to start with some solid information. Much of what you need to know can be gleaned from a specialist called a certified diabetes educator, or CDE.
Find out what certified diabetes educators say are the most important things to know about good diabetes management.
“Diabetes educators provide an overview of diabetes care as well as individualized guidance on living well with diabetes,” says Alison Massey, RD, CDE, LDN, director of diabetes education at The Center for Endocrinology at Mercy Medical Center in Maryland.
They’re able to dedicate much more time than a physician to in-depth discussions about healthy diet, medication management, exercise, blood glucose monitoring, and other diabetes self-care related topics.
Certified diabetes educators are qualified health professionals, including registered nurses, registered dietitians, physiologists, and pharmacists, with a special interest in diabetes. They can be reached at endocrinologist offices or freestanding medical centers.
Everyday Health spoke with Massey and Laura Cipullo, RD, CDE, to find out what tips they regularly tell their own patients about diabetes — and what they believe all people with diabetes should know.
Don’t think diet, think lifestyle change.
Eating to manage diabetes and possibly lose weight may require a shift in the way you normally plan meals, Massey says. “Start with one or two small dietary changes that you know you can sustain for a lifetime,” she adds. Working with a CDE can help you learn to identify healthy portions and food options that are delicious and enjoyable.
Blood glucose readings aren’t pass or fail.
Blood glucose monitoring is simply a way of increasing your awareness of how your diabetes management plan is working. “You can use this information to make different choices and as a point of discussion regarding your diabetes care when you visit your doctor,” says Massey, who advises her patients to avoid becoming discouraged or defined by these numbers.
High blood sugar levels in the morning shouldn’t be ignored.
If you struggle with high morning bloods sugar levels, take a look at what you’re eating at night, says Cipullo, author of The American Diabetes Association Diabetes Comfort Food Cookbook.
If you can’t pinpoint the culprit, your high blood sugar could be a result of what’s called the dawn phenomenon, she says. That’s a surge of hormones that everyone experiences around 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. each day.
Individuals with type 2 diabetes don’t have enough insulin to respond to a surge of glucagon hormone, and the result is higher blood glucose levels.
Eating dinner earlier or taking a walk after meals may help keep morning blood sugar in check. Talk to your healthcare provider if these changes don’t make a difference.
You can eat carbs, but make sure to time them right.
Most foods can fit into your meal plan, says Cipullo, who recommends eating meals that include a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and fat at consistent times throughout the day. The important thing is to stay within your carb range.
This number is specific to you and is based on factors such as your level of physical activity and medications you take. To see how your body responds to a particular food at a particular time of day, test your blood sugar immediately before you eat and two hours after your meal, she adds.
Exercise is free medicine for the body.
“Exercise is an often overlooked component of self-care for individuals living with diabetes,” Massey says. “Physical activity lowers blood glucose levels and also plays an important role in stress management.” She recommends scheduling exercise just as you would other appointments and making it a priority.
Good diabetes management means constant diabetes management.
Uncontrolled diabetes sets the stage for a wide variety of health issues, including heart attack and stroke, hypertension, blindness, kidney disease, amputations, and nervous system diseases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Good diabetes management is important for reducing the risk of these and other complications — and that’s why it should be priority number one.