The benefits of attending a Certified Diabetes Education Center goes beyond diet education. It can help the patient living with diabetes lose weight, (if they are overweight or obese), and it can prevent long term complications from diabetes. Better yet, if the person has associated risk factors to develop diabetes, those factors can be reduced in order to prevent or delay the disease altogether.
From my personal experience as a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) and Dietitian, I have seen people’s quality of life completely changed and improved when they seek help. The benefits go from preventing diabetes in childhood to improving diabetes control in adults. As a result of receiving diabetes education, one of my patients has already lost 185 lbs., reduced 28% of body fat, 26 inches from his waistline, and has gone from extreme obesity and diabetes out of control, to having normal body fat percentage and having blood sugar levels within the normal parameters of a non-diabetic state.
Another one of my patients, an elementary school-age girl, was sent from the pediatrician’s office for the evaluation and treatment of obesity. When I assessed her family history, she was at high risk of developing diabetes. She had some family members living already with diabetes, and her weight and ethnic background (Hispanic), increased the risk for her to develop diabetes two-fold. In less than a year, we worked together with her and her family to lose the excess weight, and change her lifestyle by incorporating healthy behaviors and regular exercise. The good news is, losing only 5-7% of weight, the risk is cut in half (Diabetes Care 2016;39, Suppl. 1).
The Diabetes & Nutrition Center at Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood has been available for over 25 years, and it is one of the few centers in South Florida certified by the ADA (American Diabetes Association). Recently, we expanded operations.
Our Center offers comprehensive diabetes education and nutrition counseling for kids, adolescents, and adults, who either want to prevent diabetes, want to lose weight, or need help in learning to control and live with diabetes. Our center has a multidisciplinary group of staff, including nurses and dietitians, who are all CDEs and have extensive experience in diabetes education and nutrition counseling. The most common feedback from patients who have received counseling is how they wished they would have come sooner. There is a great myth in the community, that if they follow a “proper diet” then they will “cure” diabetes. People read and hear a lot of information from others and social media, and often view it as a desperate way to control diabetes or even cure it.
Even though diabetes is a lifelong condition, for many people, a simple change in their lifestyle can help reduce or delay the complications, which include heart disease, strokes, kidney failure, blindness, amputations, and poor quality of life in general.
I always tell my patients in their first appointment, ‘controlling diabetes is not a diet, it is a change in your lifestyle’. We don’t just focus on our patients following a “diabetic diet”, but rather address many aspects of their life that ultimately affect their optimum diabetes control. Our center follows the guidelines from the American Association of Diabetes Educators who labelled them as the 7 Self Care Behaviors® for Managing Diabetes. These Self Care behaviors are: Healthy Eating, Being Active, Monitoring, Taking Medications, Problem Solving, Healthy Coping, and Reducing Risks.
Research shows that attending Self-Management Diabetes Classes reduces the risks of long term complications and improves the quality of lives of people living with diabetes. In our center, we have seen an improvement of over 15.7%, in their HbA1C levels (which is the measurement of the average blood sugar over a period of 3 months). In other words, if the average HbA1C at their first visit is in average 8%, after a period of 3 months it has gone down to 6.7% (the ADA recommends an HbA1C less than 7% to be optimal).