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Managing Your Diabetes Can Be Challenging

July 26, 2011

Washington Hospital Seminar Offers Tips for Achieving Success

Keeping your diabetes under control can be challenging. Just about everything you do can affect your blood glucose (sugar) levels. What you eat, how active you are, and whether you are feeling stressed all have an impact on your diabetes.

"Properly managing diabetes can help to reduce some of the serious health risks associated with the disease," said Dr. Aruna Chakravorty, an endocrinologist and member of the Washington Hospital medical staff. "But it can be difficult."

She will offer tips during an upcoming seminar titled "Managing Your Diabetes: Overcoming Challenges to Achieve Success" on Thursday, August 4, from 7 to 8 p.m. It will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditorium, 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West), in Fremont.

Chakravorty will be joined by Vida Reed, RN, a certified diabetes educator at Washington Hospital. The seminar is part of the hospital’s free monthly Diabetes Matters education series. You can register online at www.whhs.com or call (510) 745-6556 for more information.

The seminar will cover seven self-care behaviors that can help people with diabetes successfully manage the chronic disease, which occurs when the body does not produce or properly use insulin. Insulin helps to turn food into energy the body can use. These behaviors include:

Healthy eating. Everything you eat affects your blood glucose levels, according to Chakravorty. You don’t necessarily have to give up the foods you love, but you may have to figure out how to work them into your meal plan. People with diabetes need to count carbohydrates and keep portions under control to better manage blood glucose levels, she added.

Be active. Physical activity has many health benefits that can help people with diabetes manage their disease. According to Chakravorty, it can help you lose weight and keep blood glucose and cholesterol levels under control. Exercise can also help to reduce stress, she added. Start with activities that are easy to work into your daily life, like walking around the neighborhood or doing chair exercises.

Monitoring. Regularly checking blood glucose levels helps to determine how well you are managing the disease and what modifications you may need to make to better control it, Chakravorty explained. She said it’s also important to get an A1C test every three or four months, which measures long-term blood glucose control. Diabetes can take a heavy toll on the body, so it’s important to monitor other aspects of your health as well. She said people with diabetes should get regular blood pressure and cholesterol checks as well as eye and foot exams.

Taking medication. Whether you take insulin or other medications for your diabetes, it’s important to understand what you are taking and why. Chakravorty encourages people with diabetes to know the names, doses, instructions, and side effects for all medications they are taking. You should also talk to your doctor about any supplements you are taking because they may interfere with the effectiveness of your prescribed medications, she added.

Problem solving. Everyone with diabetes experiences problems with their diabetes control from time to time. Maybe you skipped a meal or engaged in physical activity, and now your blood sugar is too low. What do you do? Chakravorty said it’s important for people with diabetes to be able to solve these problems and get their blood glucose back on track.

Reducing risks. People with diabetes are at increased risk for a number of other health problems, including heart, eye, and kidney disease, according to Chakravorty. She said it’s important to reduce that risk by keeping blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control, avoiding tobacco smoke, and getting regular checkups.

Healthy coping. The daily struggle of living with diabetes can cause people to feel stressed and even depressed. Chakravorty said it’s important to find ways to cope because stress can actually increase blood glucose levels. She said gaining a sense of control over your diabetes and sharing your struggles and successes with others who have the disease can help. Washington Hospital offers a diabetes support group that meets right after the Diabetes Matters education session each month.

"Everyone has different challenges, so I will spend a lot of time answering questions," Chakravorty said. "We will discuss ways to overcome your challenges so you can keep your diabetes under control and stay healthy."

To learn about other diabetes programs at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/diabetes.