Nutrition Articles

Why Do I Need to See a Diabetes Educator?

Get the Facts You Need to Manage Your Diabetes

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Diabetes is a chronic disease that affects more than 23 million people in the United States. If managed well, people with diabetes can live normal, healthy lives. However, the many devastating effects of uncontrolled or poorly controlled diabetes are fairly well known: Diabetes, which increases a person's chances of heart attack or stroke by 200% to 400%, respectively, is the seventh leading cause of death and the leading cause of adult blindness, kidney failure and lower-limb amputation. But with proper management and control through daily food, fitness, medication and lifestyle choices, people with diabetes can reduce their risk of diabetes related complications.

That said, diabetes is largely a "self-care" disease, which means that most of the time, you are in charge of many day-to-day decisions that affect your condition. This responsibility puts an individual with diabetes in the driver’s seat of their personal care team—and that's a lot of pressure!

So what's the most important tool you need to successfully manage diabetes? Knowledge.

There is a lot of information available about diabetes. In the information age, there is certainly no shortage of diabetes related books, cookbooks, websites, and magazines. Unfortunately, information about diabetes is not always credible and some of the information out there is just flat-out incorrect or bad advice. How do you decide whether the information you read or hear about diabetes is safe and reliable? Fortunately, you don’t have to do this on your own. A diabetes educator can help!

A Certified Diabetes Educator is a qualified professional—typically, a registered nurse, registered dietitian, or a pharmacist— that provides diabetes self-management education (DSME) or diabetes self-management training (DSMT). The American Association of Diabetes Educators defines DSMT as a collaborative process through which people with or at risk for diabetes gain the knowledge and skills needed to change behavior and successfully self-manage diabetes and its related conditions. DSMT typically focuses on the following seven behaviors—sometimes referred to as the AADE7 TM Self-Care Behaviors:
  1. Healthy eating
  2. Being active
  3. Monitoring
  4. Taking medication
  5. Problem solving
  6. Healthy coping
  7. Reducing risks
Your diabetes educator will help you understand what is going on inside your body. You'll learn the best methods of daily self-care and how everyday decisions regarding physical activity, meal planning, testing your blood sugar, taking your medication, and checking your feet all impact your condition—and your risk for the complications. Finally, a diabetes educator can explain the basic diabetes care you should be receiving from their doctor such as A1C testing, foot exams, blood pressure, and cholesterol checks.
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About The Author

Amy L. Poetker Amy L. Poetker
Amy Poetker is a licensed and registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with a master's degree in dietetics. Amy, who has spent most of her career working in diabetes education, is dedicated to the treatment of that disease and the prevention of related complications. See all of Amy's articles.

Member Comments

  • I love my diabetes educator but I refuse to go back to the nutritionist they sent me to. I am a little less then 100 lbs over weight and she tried to tell me that I can eat 60 carbs per meal. That is nuts. - 4/26/2016 12:45:21 PM
  • Meeting with a good Educator can make all the difference. A good Educator will be your coach and cheerleader. I was able to manage my diabetes in just a few months with only diet and exercise by following her advise. My A1c was 9.9 when diagnosed 51/2 years ago. My latest A1c 5.3! It can be done but it takes work and commitment. - 4/22/2016 9:53:49 AM
  • I would love to learn about carbs and counting them.
    - 4/11/2016 2:35:05 PM
  • I drastically cut the number of carbs I've been eating and upped my protein intake. It has helped bring my blood sugars back to nearly normal. - 3/21/2016 2:10:39 PM
  • I was referred to a diabetes ed class which was for several weeks...I learned a only concern was that the dietitician put me on a diet that included more carbs than I would ever eat on a daily basis pre diagnosis...I cut the recommendation to less than half which is a better fit for me...the class was well worth the invested time - 1/31/2016 8:56:42 AM
  • insurance - medicaid / medicare did not cover her ... and the reg diatisions ( spell ?) promote carbs .. they do make my BS too high - 12/4/2015 10:18:58 AM
    I too thought sugar was the enemy. Now that I know it is counting carbs that somehow makes it easier. Plus I don't have to give up my major vice, diet coke! I can do this! - 9/8/2015 11:25:29 AM
  • So far, this diabetes challenge has already taught me something. I thought that eating a lot of sugar contributed to diabetes. LOL An eye opener that eating excessive sugar does not contribute to diabetes. LOL

    So, hate to say it but I binged on a package of cookies to celebrate. Today I am back on the low-carb path and glad to be. - 9/5/2015 10:52:55 PM
  • I agree with JMCKAYS. Although I don't live in the US and medical referral etc. is covered here in Canada, I also know that help from dietitians is available at many of our larger grocery stores and drugstores. Many of these are specifically trained in managing diabetes and if not they are more than happy to refer you to one in your area who is. Never just give up; call every resource or agency listed in the phone book or on gov't web-sites. As citizens of any forward country we have a right to appropriate medical assistance regardless of our personal situation; BUT we have to be the squeaky wheel sometimes.
    - 11/15/2014 6:24:10 AM
    @Annavanz ... seriously? Give me a break... you obviously didnt look very hard before you declared that there were no resources for those unemployed... did you bother contacting your local hospitals, rite aid, CVS, walgreens, ...your grocery store? (The major grocery chainn in my area has certified dieticians and at least one diabetic educator on staff for customers to access free of charge!) - 11/13/2014 9:48:54 AM
  • Well, that's a great idea - unfortunately, those of us without insurance or jobs are out of luck. Just like the rest of the for-profit medical industry in this country, it's only for those with resources. No one has anything to offer the unemployed, and I'm unemployed through no fault of my own (because of Congress). This article assumes that everyone has those resources. How about some info on how diabetics with no insurance can get some help?!! - 11/14/2013 10:25:56 AM
  • I was diagnosed with Type 2 two years ago and was so blessed to be immediately connected to a knowledgeable diabetes educator, as well as to be able to maintain non-diabetic numbers through diet and exercise. I humbly offer two things that are important for us to know. (1) It's not just about sugar, it's about ALL carbs (bread, potatoes, pasta, even whole-grain food items). Digestion of carbs begins the moment they enter our mouth, when saliva starts breaking them down into sugar. Many people do not understand that a plate of mashed potatoes has about the same effect on our blood glucose as a serving of table sugar. So please do not be mislead into believing that "sugar-free" means "diabetic-friendl
    y." Sometimes the "sugar-free" has more carbs than the original, making it decidedly diabetes un-friendly! (2) Many dieticians (including DEs) believe that taking in of a consistent number of carbs throughout the day (e.g., 30 at lunch every day, a certain number at breakfast every day, etc.) is the best way to control blood sugar, and many believe that 120 carbs per day is a "low carb" solution. This may work for some people. But I have found that for me, the best way to maintain control is through a much lower carb diet, fewer than 50 carbs per day. I know from reading the Living With Type 2 message boards on the American Diabetes Association that many others have found success this way. In short, with all due respect to USDA and ADA, the number of carbs recommended by USDA and ADA diets is way to high for a lot of us. Regardless of what works for each one of us, best wishes for success to all!!! - 11/14/2013 7:13:33 AM
  • You have to be careful. They sent me to the diabetic doctor and they told me I was going to be a diabetic the rest of my life. Not true. My heavenly father prove them wrong. I been free for 11 years. - 7/29/2013 7:04:00 AM
  • FATBOY1999
    be aware of any diabetic center that you go to. My husband was told he is diabetic so we went to a diabetic center--weight loss center... they just about have him in the grave. put him on a diet that will kill you...10 one ounce servings of lean meat a day for a week. then the next week you can add a little fat to your meat..week 3 add one cup of veggys a day... \week 4 now add a cup of fruit... He did not make it past day 3. this working man needs food, just the right kind of food. Then the Dr. sent him for diabetic shoes(he does not need) sent him for a back brace (he does not need) tried to get him to take shots to get the pancreas to work right and so on and so on.. It is all about the kick backs from the places the Dr. sent him and more spending for my insh. co. His blood sugar is under control now from watching what he eats and low GI. diet. go figure.. so search for the right Dr. your life depend on it. - 9/20/2012 8:40:19 AM
  • my endo has a certified diabetic fact several..and although they know their stuff and know it well..that does not mean it works for all diabetics and they say is a self taught disease and they present ideas that may be used or may not as we are all in a different state..i talk with mine every six months and not only do i learn new things but she does also and yes she wears a white coat..there is nothing that speaks professional like someone who knows their stuff in a white coat..and especially a clean one with the name embrodiered on it..this is serios business for sure
    the lady mary - 5/24/2012 3:46:30 PM

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