Diabetes | It takes a team to manage diabetes

March 8, 2014 

You, the one living with diabetes, are in charge, and you are also the one ultimately responsible for what happens to you. But, as complicated as taking care of diabetes has become, you need someone on your team to be right there next to you — your primary care provider.

Take a quick look at the number of other players you might have on your team as a person living with diabetes: endocrinologist (diabetes specialist), nutritionist/dietitian, diabetes educator, optometrist or ophthalmologist, retina specialist, podiatrist, gastroenterologist (stomach specialist) for dealing with stuff like gastroparesis — nerve damage to the muscles in the stomach resulting in problems moving food out of the stomach — nephrologist (kidney specialist), cardiologist (heart specialist), and maybe a personal trainer to help with best exercise practices for your particular stage in health.

Do you need more?

Because medicine has become very specialized, different specialists may inadvertently give you a prescription for medications that don’t work well together. A trusted pharmacist can help prevent these kinds of problems. Always try to chat with your pharmacist about how your medications work and if there may be problems, for instance if you take medications at the same time.

More still?

Trying to keep up with all that is involved in taking care of diabetes is challenging and stressful, so yes, I think that you do need more people on your team. I have found that consultation with a behavioral specialist, a mental health counselor or a spiritual counselor to help develop good habits and manage stress can be tremendously helpful. Support groups are an excellent resource for help, as well.

That’s quite a large team, no? Yet one more person is needed.

I like using this analogy: I am the athletic director and my primary care doctor is the quarterback of the team. I am not the coach, because the coach doesn’t do any hiring and firing. I do. I have.

Each specialist focuses on what he or she knows best and gives his or her best advice regarding an area of expertise, but at times, there can be contradictions. And even if there aren’t any “problems,” per se, it is helpful to have someone knowledgeable helping you streamline the various recommendations, resolve contradictions and eliminate duplications — making it easier to follow the medical advice you have been given so you can attain and maintain the best health possible.

Who is that person? Your primary care provider — your quarterback. Having a set of educated eyes looking at your situation as a whole is a really great service.

And my role as the athletic director? This is my team and my health. I am the one who has to live with it. That means I need to be asking questions, checking things out on the Internet (getting ideas, not self-diagnosis!), bouncing those ideas off my team of specialists and, most of all, off my quarterback. No one cares or should care about my health as much as I do.

You are your own best health advocate. Do the homework. Take it one step at a time. The whole point of living a healthy lifestyle to manage diabetes is not simply to live longer, but to enjoy the trip.

Jeff Stormer is a long-time resident of Happy Valley. Learn more at jeffreymdstormer.com or email jeffreymdstormer @gmail.com.

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