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November is Diabetes Education Month

By: Marvel Blazek, ARNP

When a person has diabetes, the food he or she eats cannot be used for energy because
the body is not making enough of the hormone, insulin, OR the insulin the person has is
not working the way it should. Insulin is made in the pancreas, an organ that lies behind
the stomach.

Most food is broken down into a form of sugar called glucose. Sugar is the body’s main
source of energy. As sugar enters the bloodstream, the amount of sugar in the blood
rises. Normally the body reacts to the rise in blood sugar by signaling the pancreas to
send insulin into the bloodstream. Insulin helps sugar leave the bloodstream and enter
the cells. To understand how insulin works, think of a cell as a house with many locked
doors. Insulin is the key that unlocks the doors and lets sugar leave the bloodstream and
enter the cells.

When a person has diabetes, the pancreas makes little or no insulin OR the insulin is not
working the way it should. Either way, sugar cannot get into the body’s cells. Instead of
entering the cells, it stays trapped in the bloodstream, raising the amount of sugar in the
blood to abnormally high levels.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of diabetes are urinating often, being thirsty
more often than usual, being hungry more often than usual, unusual weight loss, tired
more often than usual, irritability, blurry vision, problems with sex, wounds that won’t
heal, and numb or tingling hands or feet. Sometimes people experience no symptoms at
all.

Diabetes can trigger health problems throughout the body. Controlling blood glucose
helps to reduce the risk of long term complications. Areas of the body affected by high
blood glucose include: nerves, eyes, teeth, heart, kidneys, and brain.

Millions of people today have diabetes. Diabetes cannot be cured. But it can be
managed. Good diabetes care takes a team. Your doctor, nurse, diabetes educator,
dietitian, and others are all members of the team. A typical diabetes care plan includes: a
meal plan, a physical activity plan, a plan for how and when to check blood sugars, your
personal blood sugar goals, when to take diabetes medications, other health goals (such
as managing weight and blood pressure), a schedule for regular health checkups, and
ways to deal with stress.

It is not easy to cope with diabetes. But there are three key factors that can help. Number
one is KNOWLEDGE. Try to learn all you can about diabetes. Find out what you can
do on a daily basis to manage it for the rest of your life. Number two is SKILL. There’s
a difference between knowing what to do and being able to do it. Developing good
coping and self-care skills helps you take your knowledge and put it to good use. Give
yourself time to learn these new skills. And number three is SUPPORT. Most people
find it easier to deal with the challenges of coping with diabetes when they have the
support of family, friends, and members of their diabetes care team.

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