Certified diabetes educators offer support for a lifetime of good health

If you have diabetes, you must carefully manage your condition. Information about diabetes from friends and family who want to be helpful, the Internet, television and other sources may not be accurate. A sound plan, that is made just for you by a certified diabetes educator (CDE) can help you manage your diabetes, stay healthy and feel good.

CDEs are licensed healthcare professionals, such as registered nurses, pharmacists or registered dietitians. Their most important job is to help you keep your blood sugars at the right level so you don’t have other health problems caused by diabetes. A CDE has passed a written exam to verify his or her knowledge of managing diabetes. CDEs must also keep pace with changes in diabetes monitoring and medicines through continuing education each year.

A first meeting with a CDE is typically an hour. With ample time set aside to work with you, a diabetes educator will address any of the following areas:

• Healthy Eating. Choosing the right amounts of healthy foods and learning the best times to eat are important for managing diabetes.

• Being Active. Important for overall health, being active can help improve body mass index and weight loss, control lipids and blood pressure, and reduce stress

• Monitoring. A CDE can teach you how to monitor your blood sugar and help you understand your target blood sugar goals. They also teach you how to reach those goals.

• Taking Medication. Without treatment, diabetes can get worse. Your CDE can help you understand how your diabetes medicine(s) work, when to take them and any side effects.

• Problem Solving. A person with diabetes must be ready to address a low or high blood sugar reading or a sick day with a quick, informed decision about food, medicine and activity.

• Healthy Coping. Coping can be difficult for a person with diabetes, especially if there has been a setback or if their diabetes worsens.

• Reducing Risks. Regular eye, foot and dental exams reduce health problems from diabetes and improve quality of life. A CDE can teach you about these services and assist you in getting them.

Diabetes education and support is important for your entire life. Your first meeting may be followed by group classes, which are like support groups, or a few more one-on-one classes as needed. You should go back to your CDE every six to 12 months to adjust your care plan. You can always schedule extra classes to help you prepare for things like holiday parties, travel or an elective surgery.

Even people who have managed their diabetes successfully for years can experience new challenges. Changes in health, medicines and times of stress can change blood glucose levels in unfamiliar ways. A CDE teaches, coaches and guides you through these challenges so you can successfully manage your condition.

Support from a CDE is typically covered completely or in part by insurance or Medicare. Your doctor can make a referral, or you can ask your doctor to refer you to a CDE or diabetes education program.

— Palumbo is a registered dietitian/nutritionist licensed by the state of Pennsylvania to practice medical nutrition therapy. She holds a master’s degree in adult education and specializes as a certified diabetes educator and insulin pump trainer at the Diabetes & Nutrition Care Center at UPMC Susquehanna. Tammy teaches the free Getting Healthy for Your Surgery class at the River Valley Regional YMCA in Williamsport and other nutrition and diabetes education classes and programs.