Reducing Risks: How a Diabetes Care and Education Specialist Can Help

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Reducing Risks: How a Diabetes Care and Education Specialist Can Help

If you have diabetes, you already know that living with and managing this condition on a daily basis can be challenging and downright hard. There’s so much to do to take care of yourself, including eating a healthy diet, being active, taking medicine, and monitoring glucose levels. Plus, you need to find time to keep your regular medical appointments, as well. If you’re feeling overwhelmed with everything it takes to successfully manage diabetes, you’re not alone. Fortunately, help is available!

What is a diabetes care and education specialist?

A diabetes care and education specialist can be a valuable member of your health care team. The Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists (ADCES) defines this team member as someone who “works with you to develop a management plan that fits your lifestyle, beliefs and culture.” For example, a diabetes care and education specialist can teach you how to use a blood glucose meter or continuous glucose monitor (CGM); they can also help you understand how your diabetes medicine works or how to count carbohydrates. When it comes to reducing risks for complications, learning how to better cope with diabetes, or find and access cost-savings programs, a diabetes care and education specialist is there to support you.

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Many diabetes care and education specialists have obtained the Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES) credential. Formerly known as a Certified Diabetes Educator, or CDE, “a CDCES is a health professional who has comprehensive knowledge of and expertise in diabetes prevention, prediabetes, and diabetes management,” says the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. In order to obtain the credential, health professionals go through a rigorous process that includes passing an exam that covers numerous aspects of diabetes care and management. The certification also requires renewal every five years.

Chances are, someone on your health care team is a CDCES. Dietitians, nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists, podiatrists, and even physicians are eligible to become a CDCES.

What does reducing risks mean?

You might be wondering why you have to do so many things to manage your diabetes. With the busy lives that we lead, it’s easy to lose sight of the importance of these self-care behaviors. Reducing risks refers to behaviors that can prevent or minimize complications and negative outcomes of prediabetes and diabetes.

Your health care provider might use the term “complications,” which can sound scary. There are two types of diabetes complications:

Short-term complications

These are when you have high or low blood sugar levels, which can put you at risk for falling, passing out, or even going to the hospital.

Long-term complications

These complications occur after having diabetes for many years. Heart attack, stroke, impaired or loss of vision, kidney problems, foot problems, numbness or tingling in the hands and feet, sexual problems, and skin problems are some of the more common types of diabetes complications.

How can you reduce your risk for diabetes complications?

ADCES states that, “Reducing risks means you need to acknowledge that preventive actions you do now will benefit you for years from now and that you have the power to change your health outcomes.” All of the work you currently do every day has a purpose, and that’s to prevent or delay problems so that you can lead a long, healthy life.

The good news is that you are likely already doing things to reduce your risk for complications. Here are steps to take to get you on your way and keep you on track:

  • Aim to keep your blood sugars within a healthy range. Talk with your diabetes care and education specialist or your provider about your blood sugar goals.
  • Monitor your blood sugars using a meter or CGM.
  • Follow a healthy eating plan. A dietitian can help you with this if you are unsure what to eat.
  • Make time to move more and sit less every day.
  • Check your feet every day for cuts, sores, or redness. Ask someone to check your feet for you if you have trouble seeing or reaching your feet.
  • Brush and floss your teeth daily.
  • Take your medicines as prescribed, including medicine for your diabetes, blood pressure, and cholesterol.
  • Keep up to date with your vaccinations, including annual flu shots.
  • Make a plan to stop smoking.
  • Let your provider know if you are feeling sad, down or distressed.
  • Schedule and keep your regular medical appointments.

How can a diabetes care and education specialist help?

How many items on the list, above, are you doing? Which ones do you struggle with? Seeing a diabetes care and education specialist, or CDCES can help! ADCES has outlined “four critical times” to see a diabetes care and education specialist:

  • When you are first diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes
  • When you experience changes that affect your self-management such as financial or emotional distress
  • When you have changes in your provider, insurance, or living situation
  • At least once a year

Your life and your diabetes will change over time; meeting with a diabetes care and education specialist can help you to adapt. Also, a yearly check-in can ensure that you are on the right track with your goals. It’s never a bad time to book an appointment with a diabetes care and education specialist!

How do you go about seeing a diabetes care and education specialist?

A good place to start is with your primary care provider or endocrinologist. They can provide you with a referral to see a diabetes care and education specialist within your network. You can also contact the member services department of your health plan. Or, visit the ADCES website to find a diabetes education program in your area.

Want to learn more about assembling your diabetes care team? Read “Your Diabetes Support System” and “Diabetes Management: It Takes a Team.”

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES

Amy Campbell, MS, RD, LDN, CDCES on social media

A Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator at Good Measures, LLC, where she is a CDE manager for a virtual diabetes program. Campbell is the author of Staying Healthy with Diabetes: Nutrition & Meal Planning, a co-author of 16 Myths of a Diabetic Diet, and has written for  publications including Diabetes Self-Management, Diabetes Spectrum, Clinical Diabetes, the Diabetes Research & Wellness Foundation’s newsletter, DiabeticConnect.com, and CDiabetes.com

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