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Why Do I Need to See a Diabetes Educator?

Get the Facts You Need to Manage Your Diabetes
  -- By Amy Poetker, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator
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% to 400%, 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.

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 Certified Diabetes Educator is a qualified professional—typically, a registered nurse, registered dietitian, or a pharmacist— that provides diabetes self-management education (DSME) or diabetes self-management training (DSMT). 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 AADE7 TM Self-Care Behaviors:
  1. Healthy eating
  2. Being active
  3. Monitoring
  4. Taking medication
  5. Problem solving
  6. Healthy coping
  7. Reducing risks
Your diabetes educator 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 the complications. Finally, a diabetes educator can explain the basic diabetes care you should be receiving from their doctor such as A1C testing, foot exams, blood pressure, and cholesterol checks.

While there is typically a fee charged to receive diabetes education from a Certified Diabetes Educator, 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 find free or reduced cost programs through 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 SparkPeople offers many free resources and tools for people with diabetes (created by registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators), these are no substitute for the personalized education and detailed knowledge you'll gain by visiting a diabetes educator near you. 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. Talk with your doctor or visit www.DiabetesEducator.org to find a diabetes educator in your area.

Sources

Diabetes Education Fact Sheet from the American Association of Diabetes Educators (www.diabeteseducator.org).

Diabetes Statistics from the American Diabetes Association (www.diabetes.org).