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Diabetes cannot be cured, but it can be managed!

By Megrette Fletcher, M.Ed., R.D., C.D.E

03B62517 - Older woman hikingCan diabetes be cured?

Diabetes is a chronic disease, and despite what you may have read on the Internet, there is no cure.* It may be hard to hear that diabetes can’t be cured, that a person doesn’t beat diabetes, and that diabetes never “goes away.” Although that sounds scary, this fact isn’t meant to be discouraging! It simply means that instead of hoping it will go away, diabetes must be managed by you, the person with diabetes.

In the June 2015 issue of Diabetes Care, three of the leading diabetes organizations—the American Diabetes Association, the American Association of Diabetes Educators, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—released a joint position statement outlining why Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSME/S) is so important for managing type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support emphasizes the word “self” because you, the person with diabetes, are in charge of your diabetes care. It’s you—not your doctor, your dietitian, or your partner—who lives with diabetes every day. Again, this truth can feel a bit daunting, triggering fear and doubt about your ability to manage this disease and prevent complications.

Are you vulnerable to wishful thinking?

Once a lack of self-confidence is triggered, people become vulnerable to wishful thinking. Instead of engaging in scientifically proven programs to learn what can be done, Americans invest millions of dollars in unproven programs and strict diets that promote short-term, unrealistic lifestyle changes. And just like other restrictive diets, these “cures” often lead to a phenomenon we refer to as the “eat-repent-repeat” cycle, rather than sustainable changes which are essential for optimal health and diabetes management.

Another reason that Americans are literally “buying” into these unproven remedies and restrictive eating programs is they don’t realize that most insurance companies cover DSME/S programs. For example, Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reimburses for 10 program hours of initial diabetes education and 2 hours in each subsequent year. To qualify for reimbursement, the patient must be referred by a health care provider to a program that has been recognized or accredited by a National Accrediting Organization which assesses the quality of programs using criteria established by the National Standards for Diabetes Self-Management Education (NSDSME).

Benefits of Diabetes Education

Why would insurance pay for diabetes education? Because it works! Studies have found that when people complete a DSME program, their hemoglobin A1c (which reflects three-month average of your blood sugar levels), is reduced by as much as 1 point. DSME reduces the onset and/or advancement of diabetes complications and hospital admissions and readmissions. Additionally, diabetes education has other positive effects, including improved quality of life, reduced stress, and greater ability to change eating and activity patterns. In short, DSME/S programs empower individuals to effectively manage this chronic disease and decrease the fear and worry about living with diabetes.

Unfortunately, another problem is lack of referrals for DSME/S. In a press release, Joan Bardsley, MBA, RN, CDE, FAADE, Immediate Past President of the American Association of Diabetes Educators said, “We know that diabetes education works but one of the major gaps we have seen is that there aren’t a lot of providers who will routinely refer patients to diabetes educators. Either they don’t know how to make these referrals, can’t find an educator or don’t understand how valuable diabetes education can be for people living with diabetes.” Again, this is where you need to take charge! Ask your provider for a referral for DSME/S.

Take charge of your diabetes by learning how to manage it! The most researched and effective way to do this is to attend a Diabetes Self-Management Education program which will provide you with the knowledge and support that are required for implementing and sustaining behaviors and coping skills to self-manage your diabetes.

Put Your “Self” in Self-Management

The Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Diabetes Program  is one such educational program. We offer comprehensive Facilitator Training and materials based on current evidence and practice guidelines that are designed to meet the National Standards for Diabetes Self-Management Education (NSDSME) Standard 6: Curriculum for diabetes program accreditation.

If you do not have a program near you, or you are in need of a “tune-up” of your diabetes self-management skills, we also offer a comprehensive, self-paced, online Mindful Eating for Diabetes Program.

Although diabetes cannot be cured, with appropriate education and self-management skills, you can prevent complications and thrive with diabetes!

*While diabetes cannot be cured, if you have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, lifestyle intervention may prevent the progression to diabetes.

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About the author

Megrette Fletcher is a registered dietitian, certified diabetes educator, author, and co-founder of The Center for Mindful Eating. Megrette is the 2013-2014 president of The Center for Mindful Eating, a non-profit, organization to assist health professionals to explore the concepts of mindful eating. She has written articles for and has been quoted about mindful eating in Diabetes Self Management, Today’s Dietitian, Today’s Social Worker, Bariatric Times, Glamour, Family Circle, The Wall Street Journal, US News and World Report, Women’s Day, and Oxygen Magazine. Megrette currently works as a diabetes educator in Dover, New Hampshire.

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