Four ways a Certified Diabetes Educator provides support

Sometimes living with diabetes is just plain tiring and confusing. From medications to diet, exercise to blood glucose monitoring, balancing the day-to-day duties is exhausting. Enter the Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE). Because a certified diabetes educator (CDE) takes time to give you comprehensive support and coaching, your visit can both reinvigorate you and lead you to better health.

Only 37% of adults with diabetes can brag that their average blood glucose levels are on target. Significantly fewer have each blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. If you aren't one of the few, or even if you are but want more education, support and someone to help you solve your diabetes problems, make an appointment to see a CDE. Here are four ways we can help you.

Four ways a Certified Diabetes Educator can help you

1. Help you tweak and improve your diet. My patients have more questions about food than anything else. You likely have a few diet questions too, even if you were diagnosed with diabetes years ago. No surprise since food labels are confusing, family members prefer different foods and too many people are too quick to offer diet advice.

A CDE can review your current diet and help you select just the right amount of carbohydrate. If quick and simple is your way, your diabetes educator may teach you a food grouping technique often called the 'Plate Method.' If you're more of a numbers person and crave flexibility, you can learn carbohydrate counting. Whatever method works best for you, your diabetes educator can help you individualize your diet. Your diabetes and your life not the same as anyone else, so your diet should be unique as well. Many people have strong opinions about what is the best diet for someone with diabetes. Actually, there are many ways to a healthy plate. Our job is to help you find yours.

A CDE might be a Registered Dietitian (RD) like I am, a registered nurse (RN), exercise physiologist, pharmacist or come from a number of any other disciplines. A CDE from any discipline can help you with basic diabetes meal planning. If you have in depth questions or a complicated nutrition history, discuss your diet with a CDE who is also a registered dietitian.

2. Help you make the most of your blood sugar results. Many people with diabetes look at a high number flashing on their blood glucose meter and feel defeated, confused and even depressed. The number is feedback about your diabetes control and nothing more. It is not a judgment of you. That number, along with all of your other numbers and information about your diet and medications, is merely information to tell you if you need a change in plan.

CDEs make sense of that information and offer suggestions for changes in your exercise routine or diet or work with your physician for medication changes. By looking at your history and taking the time to hear your story, we help you use your blood glucose record to complete the puzzle.

3. Help you set goals. Do you set goals to eat better, lose weight, exercise more or lower your A1c? These are the types of vague goals I often hear. All of them are worth striving for, but none of them is specific enough to show you a clear path to success. A CDE can help you make specific and measurable behavioral goals such as removing poultry skin before eating the meat, eating at least three cups of non-starchy vegetables daily and no more than 45 grams of carbohydrate per meal. Goals like these tell you exactly what to do and allow you to measure your success. These examples may not work for you, but you and your diabetes educator can help figure out what's best for you and how to achieve it.

4. Help you cut through the contradictory advice. Don't eat fruit; eat blueberries to improve insulin resistance; exercise only after eating; exercise whenever you can fit it in; take your pills with dinner; no, take them on an empty stomach. Everyone -- from your next-door neighbor to the guest on the morning news show -- is giving you advice. Diabetes educators are trained in all aspects of diabetes self-management. And we keep up with the changing research and clinical practices, as we re-certify every five years either by taking a comprehensive exam or by completing 75 hours of continuing education. You can be confident in your CDE's advice.

Let a certified diabetes educator help you fit diabetes self-management into your everyday life and answer your small questions before they become big problems. You can find a CDE in your area by visiting the website for the American Association of Diabetes Educators.


Have a question for Jill? Head over to our Ask the Expert section and submit your question today.

About Jill Weisenberger

Jill Weisenberger, MS, RD, CDE serves as contributing editor of Environmental Nutrition and has written articles for publications such as Diabetic Living and Today's Dietitian. You can follow her on Twitter @nutritionjill.


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