Diabetes Alert Day
This Tuesday, March 28th, is Diabetes Alert Day; a day set aside to annually “sound the alarm” on the prevalence and risk factors of type 2 diabetes. It’s a day to learn more about type 2 diabetes, how to take action against it, and to encourage people to spread the word about diabetes risk factors and the importance of a healthy lifestyle. This is a significant message, not only because early detection can reduce your risk of developing complications from diabetes, but also because finding a realistic way to manage your diabetes is critical to your success.
Since we all have varying levels of diabetes knowledge, I’d like to offer some tangible “next steps” dependent on your relationship with type 2 diabetes.
If diabetes isn’t on your radar…
Please read the symptoms below to assess if you may unknowingly be at risk for type 2 diabetes:
- Urinating often
- Feeling very thirsty
- Feeling very hungry – even though you are eating
- Extreme fatigue
- Blurry vision
- Cuts/bruises that are slow to heal
- Weight loss – even though you are eating more (common with type 1 diabetes)
- Tingling, pain, or numbness in your hands or feet
Also, please take the one minute test to assess your risk (listed here)
If diabetes is on your radar due to family history, a doctor’s suggestion, or information gleaned from above…
Please review the list above to see if you are experiencing any symptoms and also take the one minute test to assess your risk. If you have any symptoms and/or risk factors, please contact your physician to ensure that you get regular checkups with labs (including A1C level, fasting blood glucose, and cholesterol levels). Early detection can reduce your risk of developing complications from diabetes.
If you have been diagnosed with prediabetes or diabetes…
Take a deep breath and know that diabetes management is an art and a science. The science is in all the information you have received; the art is learning how to implement all this information in a realistic way so that you can manage your diabetes in your life. Often when we are diagnosed with a condition, we are given a lot of facts and suggestions to process. Then we are sent home, where we immediately face the stress of, “How on earth am I going to do all this?” Please know that most people need support as they figure out how to make lifestyle changes on their own terms. You are still you. You are still the expert on your body and how you feel. You are still in charge of your health. Seek a qualified team (certified diabetes educator, registered dietitian, and/or health coach) to help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be.
For anyone looking to make lifestyle changes to improve their quality of life and reduce their risk of diabetes and/or having complications related to type 2 diabetes…
One first step could be to determine if you need information, motivation, or a combination of both. Diabetes management is not a “one size fits all,” and a good habit to start practicing is to ask yourself, “What do I NEED?” If you need information, please reach out to your health care provider, or team (physician, certified diabetes educator, and/or registered dietitian).
There’s a wonderful phrase in the coaching world that states, “Information isn’t motivation.” Often we are loaded up on information, either by a medical professional, or through our own research, but the motivation to implement the desired changes is lacking. So how do we tap into our motivation and start making changes so that we feel better in the short-term and live longer and healthier lives in the long-term?
I am always impressed by the individuals who get a diagnosis, and immediately make drastic life changes to manage their health and create the lives they want. Their resolve is impressive and they should be extremely proud of themselves. However, I’ve met many more people who are overwhelmed by all the lifestyle changes they think they have to implement all at once. So overwhelmed that they do nothing, or little, until they have the energy to make more drastic changes. Having a close relationship with diabetes (we go way back, on both sides of my family), I have to caution that the energy you are waiting for may not come until your diabetes (or prediabetes) is managed. So what is one area you can focus on now, with the energy you do have? Taking your medications regularly? Walking five minutes after a meal? Learning about nutrition?
Nearly every participant I’ve worked with has been surprised by how much momentum is created by committing to small steps and succeeding at them. Yes, it may seem painful to start slowly and build a solid foundation of healthy habits. It definitely takes more time. But when you take the time to do it right, the habits last, and when it comes to chronic conditions, this is a marathon, not a sprint. I once worked with a participant who always said, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” The journey to health often feels overwhelming and our minds start focusing on the elephant, not the bite. Focus on the bite. The rest will come in time.
To thine self be true.
A pivotal change occurred in my father’s life when he was diagnosed with diabetes twenty years ago. I’d love to report that he was one of those individuals (from above) whose diagnosis catapulted him towards health and management of his disease, but that wasn’t the case. It seems that as soon as my father was told he had diabetes, he began to eat more food, specifically sweets. For a lot of diabetics (and non-diabetics) food isn’t simply food; it’s the glue holding some parts of their lives together. When that glue is perceived to be challenged, resistance ensues. Peter Senge said, “People don’t resist change. They resist being changed.” An antidote to this is to remind yourself that you are in charge of your choices, your attitude, your body, your health, and your life. So take the information you have and find ways to make it work for you, on your terms.
But be open to change.
I cannot guarantee much, but the one thing I know for certain is that our lives and our experiences change as each moment passes. What a lot of people don’t realize as they start making positive changes, is that they, too, will change. What is difficult in this moment, may not always be difficult. What we need today, we may not need tomorrow. Our bodies crave health and vitality; it’s what we are designed for. We just need to listen, and try not to resist. If you start to pay attention to how your body feels, it will guide you in new, and sometimes uncharted, directions. All you have to do is listen, and be open.
Reach out for help.
Don’t feel that you have to tackle diabetes, or any chronic condition, on your own. In different seasons of our lives we need different things, and you might be in a season when you need more support and/or information. Get the help you need to take care of yourself; you deserve it.
– TANYA RUNCI, BA, MA, ADE, CHC | Health Advisor