Changing health behaviors is vital for the nearly 26 million Americans with diabetes and the 79 million American adults with pre-diabetes. That’s because improperly managed diabetes can bring serious complications, including heart disease or stroke, kidney disease, nerve damage, vision loss or amputation.
However, behavior change is not an easy process. Diabetes affects every area of a person’s life, and it takes a considerable amount of time and effort to manage the disease. Some of the most difficult aspects of the disease are learning to change life-long patterns of eating and activity, and adhering to a new monitoring and medication-taking routine.
Adjustments – small and large – need to be made to an individual’s lifestyle, but where does a person start?
The American Association of Diabetes Educators outlines seven areas of self-care that are essential for living a healthy life with diabetes. Known as the AADE7, they are:
* Healthy eating – learning to make healthy food choices by paying attention to nutritional content and portion sizes.
* Being active – recognizing the importance of physical activity and making a plan to start moving today.
* Monitoring – learning to check and record your blood glucose levels and other numbers important to your diabetes self-care.
* Taking medication – remembering to take your medications as prescribed and understanding how they affect your body and diabetes management.
* Problem solving – gaining skills to identify problems or obstacles to your self-care behaviors and learning how to solve them.
* Reducing risks – understanding the potential complications you are at risk for with diabetes and taking steps to prevent them.
* Healthy coping – developing healthy ways of dealing with difficult times in your diabetes management.
Health care professionals known as diabetes educators can help people with diabetes learn self-care strategies for each of the AADE7, and work with individuals to set and achieve behavior change goals in order to reduce the risk of developing complications.
“It’s just not one of those diseases that you take a pill for in the morning and wait for it to take effect,” says certified diabetes educator, Donna Tomky, president of the American Association of Diabetes Educators.
“Diabetes is unique in that it requires constant supervision of diet and other factors. And while this can be burdensome, the good news is that diabetes education works,” Tomky says. “Once patients understand the complexities involved, they get much better at managing – and improving – their outcomes.”
Medicare and some insurance plans include diabetes self-management training/education as a covered benefit. To find a diabetes educator, visit www.diabeteseducator.org/find or ask your doctor for a referral to a diabetes educator in your area.