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You Are the Captain of Your Diabetes Care Team!

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

02G48773 - smManaging diabetes and preventing diabetes complications requires a team effort – and YOU are the captain of your diabetes care team. Meet the other important diabetes team members that will assist you with your diabetes care.

Primary Care Provider

Your primary care provider is usually a family physician, internist, nurse practitioner, or physician’s assistant who provides preventive care and regular diabetes check-ups, and helps coordinate your care with the rest of your team. You’ll see your primary care provider annually for a complete physical, every three months for a diabetes checkup, and as needed for questions, concerns, new symptoms, and illnesses. Your provider will order the appropriate tests, write your prescriptions, administer immunizations, and refer you to specialists when needed.

Diabetes Educator

Learning more about diabetes care can reduce confusion and ease fear. Ideally, you’ll meet with a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) when you are initially diagnosed with diabetes and yearly thereafter. Talk with your health care provider about attending diabetes classes in your area and meeting with a Diabetes Educator. If you don’t have diabetes education in your area, check out Am I Hungry? Mindful Eating for Diabetes Online.

Registered Dietitian or a Nutritionist

You will typically see a Registered Dietitian (R.D) or a nutritionist when you are initially diagnosed with either prediabetes or diabetes, and two or more times each year, as needed, for medical nutrition therapy. This person will help you learn more about your diet and how to eat healthier, learn about carbohydrate counting and meal planning, and understand your blood glucose and how the foods you eat affects it. In addition to meeting one-on-one with a dietitian or nutritionist, many grocery stores offer supermarket tours to help answer specific food-related questions.

Endocrinologist

You may be referred to an endocrinologist, a physician who specializes in diabetes, if you have unexplained hyperglycemia or hypoglycemia, poorly controlled diabetes, or other chronic medical conditions (such as heart disease or kidney disease), or if you need information on how to use an insulin pump or other special diabetes-related technology.

Ophthalmologist (eye doctor)

See things clearly! Meeting with an Ophthalmologist or eye doctor annually. At this appointment, be sure your eye doctor knows you have diabetes so he/she can perform additional tests. Have a copy of your report sent to your health care provider.

Podiatrist (foot doctor)

Put your best foot forward! See a podiatrist if you have existing or new foot conditions such as injury, peripheral vascular disease, or neuropathy. A foot doctor can also assist with routine foot care if you have difficulty safely cutting your toenails due to hand strength, vision, mobility or other problems.

Dentist

Smile! You’re doing great! Keeping that smile healthy includes seeing your dentist every six months to examine your teeth and gums for dental and periodontal disease and for cleaning.

Pharmacist

Your pharmacist will explain how to take your medications correctly and safely, and look for drug interactions with your other medications, and will answer any questions you may have. Additionally, your pharmacist can advise you about over-the-counter medications and supplements.

Exercise Specialist

Exercise is an important part of staying healthy! A personal trainer or exercise physiologist can help you set up an individualized exercise program, learn how to use the gym or a specific piece of equipment, and provide motivation.

Other Specialists

Other team members may include a cardiologist to screen for and treat heart disease; a nephrologist for kidney problems; a smoking cessation counselor; a mental health counselor (social worker, psychologist, or therapist) to help with the emotional challenges of having a chronic disease; and other specialists as needed.

As the captain of your health care, carefully select the members of your team based on their skill, knowledge, and ability to communicate regularly and clearly with you for optimal diabetes care.

Based on chapter 14 of Eat What You Love, Love What You Eat with Diabetes: A Mindful Eating Program for Thriving with Prediabetes and 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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