If you have diabetes, can you name the most important member of your diabetes care team? Though your healthcare providers, family, and other support networks all play important roles, YOU are the heart of your team.
YOU manage your diabetes daily, makes decisions about your medicine, what to eat, and how to be active. When it comes to managing your diabetes, your care plan needs to take your values, goals, needs, and preferences into consideration, along with other aspects of your health. Learn as much as you can about your diabetes, and do not be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone.
More than 30 million adults in the United States have diabetes. Left undiagnosed or untreated, diabetes can lead to serious health problems such heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, and vision loss. But these are not foregone conclusions. I work at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, and I’m pleased to say that research funded by our institute has shown that managing diabetes as early as possible can help prevent these diabetes-related health problems.
As a doctor, I like to remind my patients that I’m here to answer their questions, so they should ask away. I encourage them to write down questions and bring those questions with them to every appointment. I also want people to know that they can take notes during the visit. There is no penalty – only reward – for writing down answers to questions about your health when you are responsible for managing your disease.
The first step in managing your diabetes is to learn what you can do to stay healthy. With your diabetes care team, develop an action plan to manage your diabetes ABCs:
- A is for the A1C test (A-one-C). This is a blood test that measures your average blood glucose (sugar) level over the past three months. It is different from the blood glucose tests that a person with diabetes would do each day.
- B is for Blood pressure
- C is for Cholesterol
- S is for Stop smoking.
Managing diabetes also involves making healthy food choices, staying at a healthy weight, moving more every day, and taking medicines as prescribed. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to diabetes care, but sharing information with your health care team and asking questions can go a long way toward developing a diabetes care plan that works for you.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What are my most important health goals?
- What changes am I willing and able to make to reach my goals?
- What small change can I start with right away?
- What help do I need from others to stick with my plan?
Research shows that having a network of support can help you cope with the daily demands of living with diabetes and be more successful in managing your health. Expand your network by asking people you know to join you in cooking a healthy meal or taking a walk around the neighborhood. Join a support group or take classes to learn more about living with diabetes. To find a class, check with your health care provider or local clinic.
Take charge of your health by learning, asking questions and finding support -- putting yourself at the center of your care. Diabetes is a lifelong journey, but it doesn’t have to be a lonely one.