Navigating diabetes can be intimidating and downright scary - but it doesn’t have to be! Take control and be your own best health advocate. Become acquainted with your treatment plan and ask questions. Electronic health records do not always connect as seamlessly as one may expect. As a dedicated patient advocate, it is a professional priority to ensure patients know what questions to ask. Here a few leads to guide your next healthcare appointment conversation to put you in the driver seat of your diabetes care.
- What is my A1c value and how is it trending?
Ask your healthcare practitioner what your A1c is today. In most patients with diabetes, an A1c goal is 7% or less. However, your practitioner may vary your personal A1c goal based on a personal health plan that best suits your needs. An elevated A1c value is correlated with diabetes complications, such as acute illness, circulatory problems, neuropathy, heart problems, and delayed healing.
In the individual with diabetes, A1c is used as a tool to determine how well the condition is being controlled. A1c measures an individual’s average blood sugar over the past 3 months. In contrast, the blood glucose (commonly tested before and/or after meals in patients with diabetes) measures the blood sugar at only one point in time.
Work with your healthcare professional to understand your A1c value. Is it high? What is your personal goal and why? Has your A1c been trending downward to goal? Can more be done to reach goal? Has the goal been reached and is it being maintained?
- Am I up to date on screenings?
Since diabetes can result in a myriad of health problems, it is important to maintain optimal health through routine preventive care measures. Review the following checklist with your healthcare professional:
- Hemoglobin A1c: Monitor 2-3x a year.
- Blood pressure: Check at each appointment. Two of 3 people with diabetes have hypertension (high blood pressure) or take a prescription medication to lower their blood pressure.
- Cholesterol: Review at least 1x per year. Studies show correlation between insulin resistance, lowering of good cholesterol, rising triglycerides and bad cholesterol. Be sure you are being evaluated for this silent but deadly diabetic dyslipidemia combo.
- Complete eye exam with dilation: Receive annually. Elevated blood sugars can cause damage to the retinal blood vessels that results in impaired vision overtime if not controlled.
- Foot exam: Daily at home and once a year, at minimum, by a professional. Due to nerve damage complications, neuropathy (nerve pain or numbness) of the hands and feet is a common complication. A small undetected injury to a toe of a person with diabetes can result in a long, complicated road to recovery and even amputation, if identification, treatment and/or monitoring is delayed. Difficulty with moving and bending? Routinely check your feet using a mirror or have a family member take a quick peek to ensure there are no cracks, cuts, or sores.
- Kidney function: Monitor through blood and urine test annually, at minimum. Checking kidneys for filtering ability is an important indicator of function. Diabetes increases the risk for kidney malfunction and failure. Treatment of diabetes aims to prevent damage to all organs, including the kidneys. As the diabetes progresses, treatment may require modification in order to protect kidney deterioration.
- Dental exam: Receive semi-annually. Diabetes increases the chance of dental problems, such as tooth decay, periodontal (gum) disease, and fungal infections. Good hygiene practices include brushing twice daily, flossing once daily, and keeping up with routine dental cleanings and treatments. Healthy oral hygiene habits have been shown to decrease A1c values.
- Vaccination status: Review annually, at minimum. Diabetes makes it more difficult for one’s immune system to fight off disease and infection. When other disease and infection set in, blood sugar can jump, creating a vicious spiral downward. Proactively seek vaccines to protect against preventable disease. Vaccines to discuss with your healthcare professional as a diabetic include: influenza, pneumococcal, Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), hepatitis B, and the zoster (shingles) vaccine.
- Smoking Status: Complete today! High nicotine exposure in persons with diabetes with impairs insulin, the hormone that helps regulate blood sugar levels. Smoking and diabetes individually can cause a host of health problems but when paired together, the risk is even higher for heart and kidney disease, circulatory issues, retinopathy (eye disease), and neuropathy (nerve pain and numbness). Ask your local pharmacist or clinic practitioner how they can help you quit today!
- Where can I learn more about diabetes and how to control it?
The American Diabetes Association and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are credible online resources to learn more about diabetes and management.
Would you like to talk to someone? Reading online content can be overwhelming and isn’t for everyone. Consult your local pharmacist or clinic practitioner to discuss diabetes, your personalized diabetes treatment plan, and how a healthcare team can assist you through a tailored health journey based on your lifestyle and needs.
Not sure what to eat? Nutrition is a crucial factor in the treatment and control of diabetes. Dietitians and nutrition technicians have the knowledge to guide you through and make eating fun again. Just because you have been diagnosed with diabetes doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste and convenient eating for a bland sea of green. Want to know more? Consider scheduling a virtual dietitian appointment today, the two-way video chat makes it super easy and convenient.
Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.