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Proper diabetes management involves “knowing your numbers,” but many patients struggle to effectively keep track of blood sugar levels. The patient education program at St. Joseph’s Medical Center is working to change that, allowing patients and their loved ones the opportunity to learn as much as they can about the disease.
“When it comes to a chronic disease like diabetes, the more you know, the more powerful you are. What I always say is that diabetes, per se, does not cause blindness, or heart disease, or strokes, or the loss of a limb. What causes all of that is uncontrolled diabetes,” states Dr. Kwabena Adubofour. “The more you know, the more you are in control, and the fewer complications you’re going to have. That is why patient empowerment, patient education, is absolutely crucial when you are managing a chronic disease such as this.”
Gauging successful diabetes management comes in the form of blood sugar testing. Levels reveal success in diet, exercise, and medication efforts. Patients will have unique goals, based on age, how long they’ve had diabetes, and any comorbidities that may be involved.
For example, an older individual who has a harder time taking care of himself may have different targets than a younger patient who is better able to maintain self-care. “Patients need to talk to their clinicians to ensure that the target range they’ve set for both fasting blood sugar and prandial blood sugar is appropriate for that individual. This is really, really important,” stresses Dr. Adubofour.
Patients living with diabetes also have to take into account what types of foods negatively impact blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association’s guidelines state that if the appropriate combination of food and medications are met, one’s blood sugar should not be more than 180 milligrams per deciliter two hours after eating.
“This is really important for patients to know, and I emphasize it to my patients all the time. In about two to four weeks those individuals who are diligent about really checking their blood sugars and knowing what they’re doing with their foods become masters of this craft. It becomes so much easier to manage the disease when you know what you’re doing,” advises Dr. Adubofour.
Another important number for patients to understand is A1C. Through a process called glycosylation, doctors are able to determine the value of A1C.
“The amount of blood sugar in your blood gets attached to a portion of your hemoglobin, and that hemoglobin is referred to as the A1C. The higher your blood sugar is over a period of three months, the higher your A1C is going to be. That number is used to determine how well you’ve been coping with the disease over that period of time,” explains Dr. Adubofour.
Blood sugar testing technology has advanced greatly over the past few decades. Continuous glucose monitoring involves a sensor being placed under the skin, allowing patients access to their levels throughout the day. Some options even provide that information via a smartphone app.
“It’s a wonderful tool, but you may still have to poke yourself one or two times a day just to calibrate the machine. It definitely beats having to poke your fingers several times a day,” notes Dr. Adubofour.
Having daily tabs on blood sugar levels also helps patients monitor how their lifestyle behaviors impact their diabetes, which is a key part of diabetes management. Diet and exercise can make a significant difference in one’s efforts.
“Diabetes does not cause complications when it’s managed appropriately,” reaffirms Dr. Adubofour. “But, 99.99% of this fight rests on you as a patient, and this is the reason you really need to understand what you and your doctor are trying to achieve. If you know your numbers, you can complain if those numbers are not reaching the targets you’ve set.”
To contact the Diabetes Navigator at St. Joseph’s, call 209-944-8355.
**To listen to an interview with Dr. Kwabena Adubofour of St. Joseph’s Medical Center, follow this link: https://radiomd.com/dignity/item/40119