National Diabetes Month

October 31, 2017

by Lauren Teague, MHS, RD, CSSD, LDN, CDE

November is National Diabetes Month.  This month we will bring awareness to this growing chronic disease.  The theme for this 2017 is “You Are the Center of Your Diabetes Care Team.” 

It is important to remember that as a patient with diabetes, you are the most important member of your diabetes care team.  You are in charge of managing your diabetes but you should also enlist expert help and advice from your doctors, dietitians, diabetes educators, pharmacists, family and friends to successfully manage your diabetes.

This year the National Institute of Diabetes has developed four simple steps to managing diabetes for life.

Step 1: Learn about diabetes.

 It is important to know what diabetes is and how it affects your body.  There are three main types of diabetes.  Type 1 diabetes means that your body does not make insulin.  Insulin helps get the sugar you eat in foods into the cells to be used for energy.  Individuals with type 1 diabetes will need to take insulin every day in order to live.  Type 2 diabetes means that your body does not use the insulin well or does not make insulin.  Type 2 diabetes can be controlled with diet and exercise, pills or insulin.  Type 2 diabetes is the most common.  Lastly, is gestational diabetes, this affects some women when they are pregnant.  It will go away after the baby is born but can increase the chance of getting diabetes later in life.

To learn more about diabetes, consider taking classes.  At Haywood Regional Medical Center, we offer Diabetes Self-Management Education classes monthly.  These classes can be taken via physician referral. 

Step 2: Know your diabetes ABCs. 

A stands for A1c.  The A1c test is a blood test that measures your average blood sugar over the last three months.  It lets you and your health care team know how well your blood sugars have been controlled over time.  The goal of your A1c is less than 7% according to the American Diabetes Association but always check with your physician about your goal.

B stands for blood pressure.  Blood pressure is the force of your blood against the wall of your blood vessels.  It is important to keep your blood pressure controlled because when it is too high, it makes your heart work too hard.  The blood pressure goal for individuals with diabetes is 140/90 or less according to the American Diabetes Association, however, speak to your physician about your goal. 

C stands for cholesterol.  Cholesterol is important to control because of the increased risk of developing heart disease when you have diabetes.  It is important to control both your LDL “bad” cholesterol and your HDL “good” cholesterol.  Please speak with your physician about your cholesterol goals.

Step 3: Learn how to live with diabetes.

You many feel overwhelmed, sad or angry when living with diabetes and this is common.  Some tips for living with your diabetes including learning to cope with your diabetes, eating right and being active.

Learning to cope with your diabetes is very important.  Emotional stress can cause your blood sugars to rise.  Learning ways to lower your stress such as deep breathing exercises can help.  Since you are the center of your healthcare team, consider asking for help if you feel down.  Consider speaking with a counselor, joining a support group, speaking with a member of clergy, or friend that will listen to your concerns.

Eating right is very important to diabetes control.  Finding a meal plan that helps control your carbohydrates is very important.  Increasing fiber content can help lower blood sugars.  Switch from white foods to whole wheat foods.  Balance your meals and snacks by eating protein, carbohydrates and fat at each eating occasion.  Considering asking for a referral to see a dietitian before following a fad diet.  At Haywood Regional Medical Center, we have dietitians that can help you get on a meal plan to control your blood sugars.

Exercise is a great tool to help lower blood sugars.  The goal is to get 150 minutes per week.  However, if that seems like too much, consider starting with 10 minutes per day and working your way up to 150 minutes per week as you start to get stronger. 

Step 4: Get routine care to stay healthy

It is important to see your health care team at least twice per year.  Things to help checked at each visit include blood pressure, weight, foot checks and self-care plan.  Your A1c can be checked up to 4 times a year but some physicians may only check it twice per year.

Routine care that should be checked yearly includes cholesterol labs, complete foot exam, dental exam, dilated eye exam, flu shot and urine and blood test to check for kidney problems. 

Of course your physician may want to check other things but these are some recommendations by the American Diabetes Association.  Please speak with your physician at each visit about what needs attention in regards to your diabetes.  Remember, you are the center of your healthcare team. 

If you would like to know more about the Diabetes and Nutrition Education Services at Haywood Regional Medical Center, please call (828) 452-8092 or visit

Diabetes affects roughly 30 million Americans, and nearly ¼ of those people don’t even know. Find out if you or a loved one are at risk with this Diabetes Risk Test: #DiabetesEducationWeek