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Managing Diabetes Can be a Fulltime Job

February 25, 2011

Washington Hospital Seminar Offers Tips for Partnering With Your Doctor

If you or someone in your life has diabetes, you know that managing the chronic disease can sometimes be overwhelming. People with diabetes must constantly be aware of how their actions will affect their blood glucose (sugar) levels. What they eat – or don’t eat – whether they exercise, and how well they handle everyday stress can dramatically affect their health.

"Managing your diabetes can be a fulltime job," said Dr. Dianne Martin, an internist and member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. "Trying to take care of the rest of your life and doing everything you need to do to keep your blood glucose under control can be difficult. That’s why it’s important to work closely with your doctor. Partnering with your doctor can help you stay motivated, especially when you feel overwhelmed."

She will present "Partnering with Your Doctor to Improve Diabetes Control," part of Washington Hospital’s free Diabetes Matters education series. The class is scheduled for Thursday, March 3, from 7 to 8 p.m., at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium at Washington West, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. You can register online at www.whhs.com or call (510) 745-6556 for more information.

Diabetes is a life-altering chronic disease that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is not able to use it properly. Insulin helps the body process glucose, which fuels the body. When this process doesn’t work properly, glucose levels can get abnormally high, which can harm the body.

Martin will offer tips for talking with your physician and getting the most out of doctor’s visits. For example, she said it’s good to bring a list of questions and issues you want to talk about so you can be sure to cover them during the visit. She also encourages her patients to get their lab work done before their visit.

"That way, your doctor will know how well you are managing your diabetes and they can help you address any issues," she said.

Preventing Complications

According to Martin, proper management is critical because high levels of glucose in the blood can damage the blood vessels as well as other organs like the kidneys, heart, and eyes. People with diabetes are at much higher risk for heart and kidney disease, stroke, eye problems, and bone and joint disorders. Other long-term complications include skin problems, digestive issues, sexual dysfunction, and problems with teeth and gums.

"The main goal is to prevent complications," she said. "People with diabetes need to take an active role in managing the disease, and your doctor can help."

She will talk about some of the tests that can help you and your doctor monitor how well you are controlling your diabetes. Of course, blood glucose levels have to be checked regularly. But other tests are also needed to show long-term control of blood glucose and measure the effect diabetes is having on the body.

For example, she said the glycohemoglobin A1c gives a three-month average of blood glucose levels, which shows how well the disease is being managed over time. Other tests are needed to determine if kidney function is being affected and regular eye exams can help to prevent eye diseases that are more common among people with diabetes, she added.

Martin also encourages patients to bring loved ones with them to the doctor to provide support and gain a better understanding of what needs to be done to keep diabetes under control. She said building a support team that includes your doctor, family, and friends, as well as joining a support group like the one at Washington Hospital can be very helpful.

"Sometimes partners may not be aware of how important it is not to snack or to get exercise and they unknowingly sabotage the patient’s efforts," she said. "It might be that the person with diabetes isn’t the one who shops for food and the one who does has no idea what they should or shouldn’t be buying. A lot of times just being involved helps."

To find out about the wide variety of services offered through the Washington Outpatient Diabetes Center, visit www.whhs.com/diabetes. To learn more about diabetes, visit www.diabetes.org.

World Kidney Day Seminar Coming in March
Diabetes is one of the leading causes of kidney failure in the United States. To help build public awareness about the strong connection between diabetes and kidney disease, Washington Hospital is conducting a free health fair and seminar about kidney health on Tuesday, March 8, from 1 to 4 p.m. The free event will take place at the Conrad E. Anderson M.D. Auditorium located at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. Register online at www.whhs.com.