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Of the 26 million Americans with diabetes, more than half are currently not meeting medical targets established by the American Diabetes Association. Another 79 million Americans are at risk for developing diabetes. Odds are, diabetes impacts your life or someone close to you. The good news: with the right knowledge and support, people with diabetes can feel good and live strong, healthy lives.
David Edelman, president and co-founder of DiabetesDaily.com – an online community for people with diabetes – receives queries daily from people with diabetes and their family members searching for the best resources to help them make decisions.
“We receive the same short, frustrated email nearly every day: I was just diagnosed with diabetes. What should I do?,” said Edelman. “Every time we respond, I think to myself this question is so big it deserves a better answer.”
As American Diabetes Month draws to a close, Edelman has identified the top seven most useful resources to arm people with diabetes – and those that support them – with the knowledge they need all year.
1. Personal Support Network: It is critical to build a strong network of family, friends, and other people living with diabetes. Do not forget to include your doctor. These people all bring a different element of support, and their unique perspectives may help you understand different ways diabetes affects you. Whether you communicate through email or meet in person, stay connected with your network, share your struggles and triumphs.
Know someone with diabetes? Be that critical support tool for your friend or loved one.
2. The Diabetes Online Community: People with diabetes have built a national support network through blogs, online support communities like DiabetesDaily.com, diabetes social networking sites like TuDiabetes and through traditional social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. These online resources offer you the chance to connect emotionally and seek advice and information from others living with diabetes- from the newly diagnosed to those who have been managing the disease for years.
There are multiple ways to connect, from skimming message boards to leaving comments for or emailing bloggers to joining a community, or even starting your own blog. And the information and relationships in this community are valuable whether you or someone you know has diabetes.
3. Formal Diabetes Education: A diabetes educator can help you understand why blood sugars behave the way they do is a resource. Your doctor or local diabetes association can help connect you with a good educator. However, the unfortunate reality is there is just one diabetes educator for every 2,630 people with diabetes. To maintain and enhance education between visits with your educator, consider attending local support groups or workshops (often hosted by hospitals or health networks).
For diabetes patients and family and friends trying to better understand its impact, books can help you better understand diabetes, like “50 Diabetes Myths That Can Ruin Your Life and the 50 Diabetes Truths That Can Save It” by Riva Greenberg. Finally, consider an online education course like “Workshop for Better Blood Sugars” from Diabetes Daily University (university.diabetesdaily.com), which allows you to learn at your own pace and connect with others in a virtual classroom. Ensure online courses are taught by a credentialed and nationally recognized physician or educator.
4. Meal Planning/Recipe Guides: There are endless resources for finding diabetes friendly recipes, meal planning guides and calorie and carbohydrate guides. Joslin Diabetes Center works closely with CalorieKing, which provides software with a detailed food database as well as the popular Calorie Fat & Carbohydrate Counter book to accurately track carbs and calories. The American Diabetes Association has excellent recipes on its website, and DiabetesDaily.com has an entire section of original recipes from culinary guru Elizabeth Edelman.
Modern diabetes-friendly recipes are delicious and flavorful, so friends and family can enjoy a meal together without feeling as though anyone is missing out.
5. The Meter: It seems simple, but this simple tool provides a wealth of information about personal diabetes management. Test often, record results to help you identify patterns; use the knowledge you gain to modify and tweak your diet and activity to find the things that work best for you. Having a better understanding of how certain foods or activities impact your blood sugar makes it simpler to adjust when you choose to vary your routine.
For friends and family members, learn how to interpret blood sugar readings and the impact certain foods have on your friend or family member so you can better support individual choices – like having ice cream for dessert. Often, concern can come across as judgment when well-wishers are uninformed.
6. Exercise Specialists/Instructors: A good fitness instructor can provide information and exercises not only to help control weight, but also that specifically benefits diabetes management. For example, Diabetes Daily co-founder and certified yoga instructor Elizabeth Edelman recommends certain yoga poses to stimulate the pancreas, liver and kidneys. Try taking a class or enlisting a buddy for group support.
7. Yourself: Edelman believes the key to successful diabetes management is taking ownership of diabetes. Take the time to examine choices, actions and emotions objectively, without assigning guilt or blame. Evaluate yourself realistically- from what works to what does not.
For those providing support, empower friends and family with diabetes to take ownership of their own actions, and avoid being the diabetes police.
Published: December 22, 2011 – Volume 10 – Issue 36