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by Theresa Linck, RN, BSN, CDE, Christian Hospital Diabetes Institute

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Whether you’ve just been diagnosed with diabetes or you’ve had diabetes for years, there may be times when you need a little extra help managing your disease. Even if you’ve already learned the skills you need to manage your diabetes -- while this knowledge may be powerful, it doesn’t make diabetes any easier to manage.

It’s not uncommon for patients to become overwhelmed with their treatment plan and just give up. Some patients experience a condition called “burnout,” which can hinder routine diabetes self-care behaviors like checking your blood sugars, taking your medication, or following your meal plan and exercise program. Burnout also can increase the possibility of unhealthy behaviors like smoking, overeating, alcohol use and missing appointments.

If this sounds familiar to you, remember that your body is like a machine. It requires attention. You have to fill your car with gas, change your oil, check your fluid levels, and rotate and balance your tires to keep your car running smoothly, right? If you neglect these routine maintenance tasks, it’s inevitable that your car will break down -- and repair work can be costly.

The same goes for your diabetes care. If you neglect routine self-care behaviors, bad things can happen to your body. Making a commitment to manage your diabetes is serious and requires motivation. If you need assistance, your diabetes care team can assist you in turning your good intentions into successful actions.

Getting Started
Evaluate your life, and identify your barriers to healthy behaviors. Write down the things in your life that make it hard for you to follow your treatment plan, and then think of ways to improve the situation. If you haven’t seen your doctor recently, set up an appointment. Maybe your management plan isn’t working for you because it doesn’t fit your lifestyle. Discuss this with your doctor to see if changes can be made.

Depression is twice as common in patients with diabetes than in the general population. Mental health problems may interfere with diabetes self-management and diabetes control.

Small Steps Make a Difference
Small lifestyle changes can have a positive impact on your health. You can improve your blood sugars, cholesterol and blood pressure just by being more active and making better food choices. Turn off the TV and do something creative and fun.

  • Put your tennis shoes by the door. Walking is a great exercise that most people can do. Buy a pedometer, and see how many steps you can walk daily (2,000 steps=1 mile). Plan for weather changes; if it’s too hot to walk outdoors, go swimming, buy an exercise CD or just dance
  • Buy nutritious food. Use your days off to plan menus and make a grocery list. Double recipes, and freeze leftovers when you’re too busy to cook. Avoid fast-food stops by packing your lunch the night before. Watch your portions . . . you don’t have to clean your plate. When dining out, look for healthy choices and ask for a to-go container at the beginning of your meal
  • Monitor your blood sugars as directed. If you stop testing due to pain, ask your health care provider about alternative site testing
    meters. Patients with limited income may qualify for assistance with blood glucose monitors and testing supplies

Get on the Road to Good Health
If you’ve gotten off track, don’t beat yourself up -- it happens to all of us. Today is a new day, and you can start over. Rev up your engine -- it’s time for you to get behind the wheel and take control. Remember: Good diabetes self-management prevents long-term complications and will keep you on the road to good health for years to come. And if you need a little extra help, diabetes experts across BJC HealthCare can give you a tune up to get you back on track.

 
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