Karen, a 53-year-old Hastings resident, started thinking about the impact diabetes could have on her life more than 20 years ago, after her two children were born.
“I had gestational diabetes twice, even though I didn’t really gain weight during my pregnancies,” she said. “I was good about monitoring my blood sugar, and I went in for checks every three months.”
Five years later, her condition resurfaced, and she started taking oral medicine to keep her type 2 diabetes under control. Karen was on that medicine for a long time and continued to keep close tabs on her blood sugar levels.
Three years ago, she realized the pills were no longer enough. Karen discussed the situation with Sarah Markert, MD, a family medicine doctor at Allina Medical Clinic – Hastings (First Street), and made the decision to start taking insulin.
“Then I decided to lose weight,” Karen said. “Because I had always monitored myself so closely, I knew that my food intake really mattered. I reached a certain age and was thinking more about my health. Diabetes runs in my family, and my dad and grandfather both died at age 61.”
She joined Weight Watchers and lost 30 pounds during the first half of 2013, with a goal of losing 30 more. “I like to know insulin is there if I need it, but I feel ahead of the disease if I don’t have to take it,” she said.
Markert, who has been Karen’s doctor for six years, said patients with diabetes face a lifelong process of dealing with their disease and the external factors that affect how they eat, exercise and deal with stress. “Our diabetes educators can be very helpful and supportive,” Markert said. “I think the patients who manage their diabetes best are those who feel they have support from the people in their lives.”
Each patient has different capabilities and coping skills, Markert said, adding that a trusting relationship with a doctor is important. Karen appreciates that Markert is straightforward with her, without being pushy.
“You have to be honest with yourself and invest in your own health,” Karen said. “You have to expect highs and lows and frustrations, and do what works for you personally. My advice to people with diabetes is to talk often with someone you feel comfortable with who is in the same situation.”
The role of diabetes educators
Allina Health diabetes educators are valuable resources for both patients and doctors. They educate patients and support many different aspects of diabetes management.
A diabetes educator:
- teaches patients how to self-manage diabetes with diet, exercise and medicines
- teaches patients how to identify blood glucose patterns
- adjusts insulin and other medicines to manage diabetes
- works with the provider and care team to identify ongoing learning needs.