Self-Management of Chronic Diseases: Diabetes

Richard A. Kimball, Jr.
Richard A. Kimball, Jr.

Based on the data from the National Diabetes Statistics Report 2014, diabetes is ranked as the 7th leading cause of death in the United States today. The incidence among Americans is also on the rise, from 25.8 million in 2010 to 29.1 million in 2012. Hopefully, the trend towards self-management of chronic diseases like diabetes will help bring down the numbers.

Diabetes mellitus, or diabetes, is a medical condition characterized by elevated blood sugar levels for a prolonged period. According to the American Diabetes Association, among its symptoms are frequent urination, extreme fatigue, insistent feeling of thirst and hunger, blurry vision, slow-healing wounds, weight loss even with increased food consumption (type 1 diabetes), and tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands/feet (type 2 diabetes).

In self-managing diabetes, what is very important is an acknowledgment that this condition is a lifelong disease that requires lifestyle changes. As such, much of the treatment involves changing one’s diet, sleeping, exercise and other everyday habits. Besides the regular, daily intake of medication and monitoring of one’s own blood glucose levels  with the more occasional supervision/assessment of a physician, the patients and their loved ones are encouraged to join hands in embracing a new lifestyle.

Self-management of diabetes particularly requires thoughtful preparation of diabetes-friendly meals and eating environment. It is not simply ridding the patient’s food of sweet items, but reducing the sugar temptation for everyone in the family, especially as this disease is observed to be inherited. It also means consciously planning travels, so that diabetes and its symptoms will be in control, even as one eats on the plane, or has to take insulin shots while on the go, for example.

As my more general article on self-management of chronic diseases indicates, self-management does not have to be in conflict with the existing diabetes treatment that one is undergoing. A daily and weekly plan detailing the steps to be taken may be drawn up, but these should still be approved by the patient’s physician. A doctor or nurse should also still be regularly consulted.

Key to the successful management of diabetes is motivating the patient to willfully take steps to be healed. For example, following a strict exercise regimen, along with a balanced diet, will greatly improve the body’s endurance and pain tolerance. Being active will also prevent the onset of depression and frustration that sometimes result from dealing with a chronic disease and which weaken the patient’s immune system.

By championing this new approach to managing diabetes, let’s hope that the next incidence report will be a better one.

5 Responses

  • Karin Hale

    As far I know, it depends on the type of diabetes that you have. One type of diabetes can be treated with medication, lifestyle change and proper diet and exercise. Another type is hereditary, meaning you inherited it from the genes of your forefather and you can’t do much about it but depend entirely on insulin and medication.

  • David

    Diabetes is considered a lifestyle ailment. I think, this can be prevented if the person is aware of the conditions that can lead to this ailment. For me, following the food pyramid or careful choice in a person’s food intake is a big factor in the prevention of diabetes.

  • Denice

    I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to live with Diabetes. Richard Kimball is right. Managing it and motivating those who suffer from it are so important.

  • Jack

    I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to live with Diabetes. Richard Kimball is right. Managing it and motivating those who suffer from are vital components.

  • Steven

    Prevention is always better than cure. Reading this made me realize that I need to treat myself better so I won’t have to endure this much hardship. I’ve seen my grandmother struggle with diabetes and it’s not something I look forward to ever having.

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