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Diabetes Education Through Washington Hospital

Diabetes Education Through Washington Hospital

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Diabetes is a chronic disease that can have a major impact on long-term health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more than 37 million people in the U.S. have the disease. To avoid life-threatening complications, it’s critical to keep diabetes under control, but that can be difficult without support.

November is Diabetes Awareness Month – a good time to learn more about the disease and the resources available to help manage it.

Diabetes occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is not able to use it properly. Insulin is a hormone needed to convert food into energy. When this process doesn’t work right, glucose (sugar) in the blood can get too high and cause serious health problems.

“Diabetes can be very dangerous because it affects so many organs, including your eyes, heart and kidneys,” said Lina Huang, clinical manager of the Diabetes Program at Washington Hospital. “The problem is a person doesn’t feel it. There aren’t any real symptoms, so someone could have diabetes and may not even realize it.”

Huang said health complications include cardiovascular disease, stroke, cataracts, glaucoma, blindness, kidney failure, and foot sores that can lead to amputation.

“You also need to be concerned if you have what we call pre-diabetes,” Huang added. “That happens when your blood sugar is too high, but not high enough to be considered full-blown diabetes. You are at higher risk for these health problems too, so you need to get your glucose levels under control.”

Get the Basics

Washington Hospital offers a range of services to Tri-City residents, including diabetes self-management, medical nutrition therapy, a monthly support group and educational seminars as well as specialized diabetes care for pregnant women and inpatient care for those staying in the hospital.

“We help people get the tools they need to better manage their diabetes on a day-to-day basis,” Huang explained. “Diabetes is a lifelong condition, so it’s something you constantly have to think about and make the right choices for your health. Diabetes comes with a lot of stress, because the information can be overwhelming. We provide ongoing support to help you through it.”

According to Huang, when patients are diagnosed with diabetes, nearly everything can impact blood glucose levels, including diet, activity levels, and how much stress they are experiencing. Washington Hospital uses the BASICS Program, a comprehensive curriculum that provides just about everything necessary to know about living successfully with diabetes. This includes meal planning, carbohydrate counting, glucose monitoring, exercising, medications, blood pressure and cholesterol control, and dealing with stress, as well as tips for staying out of the hospital and caring for feet, eyes and teeth.

“I’m proud to say we offer medical nutrition therapy (MNT) – very intensive nutrition assessment and planning,” Huang added. “Patients receive an individualized diet plan. Studies show that diabetes education coupled with MNT helps patients achieve more effective outcomes. Our diabetes educators include specially trained RNs and dietitians who can provide both types of interventions.”

Specialized Care for Moms-to-be

Washington Hospital also provides specialized education and support to pregnant women with diabetes. Diabetes raises some health risks for moms and their babies. It is especially important for pregnant women to keep their blood sugar levels under control.

“High glucose levels put pregnant women at risk for miscarriage, high blood pressure, preterm birth, and an extra large baby, which can make delivery very difficult,” she said. “The baby is at higher risk for birth defects, cardiovascular issues, diabetes and obesity.”

Anyone staying at Washington Hospital benefits from inpatient diabetes care that includes a multidisciplinary approach to helping patients control their glucose levels while getting the care they need. Dietitians meet with patients and develop an individualized meal plan, nurses monitor glucose levels, and diabetes educators help patients learn how to better manage the disease and connect them to outpatient diabetes services.

Diabetes Matters

Washington Hospital’s Diabetes Matters offers ongoing educational support with expert speakers who provide science-based information about diabetes. The free seminars are held the first Thursday of every other month from 7 to 8 p.m. A special Health & Wellness seminar titled “Diabetes: Understanding and Controlling Complications” is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 8, from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit www.whhs.com/events.

“All of our seminars are available on YouTube,” Huang added. “We encourage people to include their family members. It takes a good support system to be successful at controlling diabetes.”

Support Group Makes a Difference

She said loved ones are also welcome to join the diabetes support group, held the first Thursday of every month from 8 to 9 p.m. through Zoom. The group gives people with diabetes the opportunity to share their successes as well as their struggles with the disease.

“There are people who have been involved with the group for many years,” Huang said. “It’s nice to have a support group to talk about the disease, share tips, and even commiserate. It can be difficult maintaining a certain lifestyle that support diabetes management, especially during the holidays. There are a lot of food events coming up. There is also a lot of stress surrounding the holidays. It helps to talk to others who understand what you’re going through.”

To learn more about diabetes programs and services at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/diabetes or call 510.818.6556.