November is National Diabetes Awareness Month, and this represents the perfect time to use your nursing skills to promote prevention and understanding. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 28 percent of people living with diabetes are undiagnosed. Importantly, the majority of the 29.1 million Americans living with the disease have Type II diabetes, which usually develops as a result of lifestyle choices and environmental factors.
Many instances of diabetes, therefore, are largely preventable. This underscores the importance of working with patients to build education and awareness about the risks surrounding the disease. This November, share these helpful diabetes prevention tips with your patients.
Diabetes prevention tip 1: Find ways to get active
Regular exercise is one of the most important factors in mitigating the risk of diabetes. Physical activity promotes a stable blood glucose level. Not only does insulin work more efficiently, but separate processes remove glucose during physical activity. At the same time, muscle is more efficient than body fat when it comes to processing glucose, so the weight management aspect of exercise is also beneficial.
Talk with your patients about their current levels of physical activity. Some may simply benefit from gentle reminders and support. For those living with an existing condition or other issue that can make exercise more difficult, discuss ways to stay active and offer suggestions for maximizing a workout. Fitness trackers, for example, can be used to monitor progress and give patients the tools to build a more successful exercise regimen.
Diabetes prevention tip 2: Consider a change in diet
Your patients need to fuel their bodies with the right foods to ensure the benefits of physical activity are maximized. Regular exercise can easily be undermined by snack foods and processed items that contribute to body fat, increased blood pressure and unsafe cholesterol.
“Encourage your patients to eat healthier foods.”
Use your nursing skills to encourage your patients to eat healthier foods and simultaneously eliminate deleterious ones. In addition to a constructive conversation during a visit about the importance of leafy greens, fresh fruits and whole grains, you can use patient portals and email correspondence to share interesting recipes and other resources.
For even the most motivated patients, changing and maintaining a new diet can be a difficult task. Touching base between appointments reminds them they’re not alone and that they have others supporting them.
Diabetes prevention tip 3: Monitor heart health
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reported that heart health is a critical, but often overlooked consideration when assessing someone’s risk of developing diabetes. The disease can compromise cardiovascular health and contribute to problems such as heart attack or stroke.
Highlight the risks of diabetes to your patients. Aside from diet and exercise, some patients may benefit from more frequent blood testing of cholesterol or blood pressure. Individuals with a family history of heart attacks, smoking or chronic stress may also need extra support. Identify goals with your patients and share tools and tips for staying on track.