By: Laurie Edwards for Diabetes1
Having diabetes means taking on a lot of self-care and disease management techniques to feel your best. While your relationship with your primary care physician or endocrinologist is important to get this process started, there are plenty of other specialists and resources you can utilize to feel your best and prevent further complications.
Routine exams to check your eyes, heart, and kidney function are important preventive measures for monitoring long-term complications. But don’t focus so much on eye specialists, cardiologists, and nephrologists that you forget another part of your medical team – your podiatrist.
Growing your care circle:
Assembling your own team isn’t hard to do – ask your physician to recommend specialists who are familiar with diabetes and its complications. Interview your prospective specialists, and don’t be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
Get moving – some health insurance plans offer discounts on gym memberships and fitness trainers, so look into your plan before you fill out a membership form.
Don’t forget that you have a built-in support system – your family and friends can be a great source of support. Don’t be afraid to educate them about your disease and the lifestyle changes you are going through. They may be able to make the transition easier for you.
Over time, diabetes can cause nerve damage and poor circulation that can make it difficult to tell if you have foot injuries. If possible, scheduling an annual exam to check foot health is a great way to prevent damage. In addition, you should always see a doctor to remove corns or calluses instead of using home remedies, and staying vigilant about circulation every day is helpful. Put your feet up when you sit, don’t cross your legs for extended periods of time, and wear comfortable, supportive footwear.
Mental health is an equally important component of self-care, and for some, seeing a psychologist, psychiatrist, or counselor can be extremely beneficial. The huge lifestyle transition diabetes involves and the fear and stress that being diagnosed causes are significant factors; it can be difficult trying to process these emotions on your own.
Diet, Nutrition and Lifestyle Resources
The period just after diagnosis can be an overwhelming and confusing one, making it the optimal time to make an appointment with a certified diabetes educator (CDE). CDEs are healthcare professionals who have completed comprehensive licensing and education themselves, and they are trained to help you in many aspects of diabetes disease management. From assessing nutrition goals to planning lifestyle changes to helping you select the right education class, the role of the CDE is to help you learn as much as possible about what is going on in your body and how to take control of your condition and treatment.
Most people will also find a dietitian or nutritionist to be extremely valuable. For people with type 2 diabetes, whose disease is especially impacted by lifestyle interventions, such services are particularly helpful. In fact, the American Diabetes Association reported that research on obese patients with type 2 diabetes suggests working with a dietitian resulted in “weight loss, reduced waist circumference, reduced glycated hemoglobin (A1C) levels, less use of prescription medications, and improved health-related quality of life when compared with the usual care.”
Even if you’ve mastered the daily routine of eating, checking in with a dietitian or nutritionist before the holiday season or in preparation for a vacation or extended trip is also a great idea.
Personal trainers are another option worth exploring. Research sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found that for adolescents with type 1 diabetes, the use of a personal trainer or facilitator enhanced motivation and capacity for self-management. Typically, personal trainers can help you with goal-setting, problem-solving skills and self-monitoring techniques.
Exercise is essential for maintaining good health and minimizing long-term complications. If you are having trouble getting motivated and don’t know where to start or if you’re getting bored with your usual workout and want some ideas for new challenges, working with a fitness trainer is a good option. Make sure your trainer is aware of your condition and that he or she can help you tailor an individual exercise regimen that best meets your needs.