Woman in lab coat teaches a class

The Importance of Being Educated About Diabetes

Skipping diabetes education classes could be hazardous to your health.

Patients with a new diabetes diagnosis are often referred to education classes to ease the transition into their new lifestyle. However many do not attend. Angela Bunyard, R.N., C.D.E., coordinator of the Center for Diabetes Education and Self-Management at Texas Health Arlington Memorial Hospital, shares her thoughts about why people recently diagnosed with diabetes should take advantage of any educational opportunities recommended by their health care provider.

Texas Health: Why is it important for patients who have been recently diagnosed with diabetes to attend diabetes education classes?

Bunyard: Education classes give people with diabetes reliable information about their diet, exercise and medication. Classes also provide a supportive environment as people learn to deal with their diagnosis, as they can share with others who have the same condition. Patients can support one another and share information, and that can make their diagnosis feel less stressful.

Texas Health: What types of diabetes education classes are offered through Texas Health?

Bunyard: We offer individual initial appointments and work with patients to develop an individualized plan to meet their needs. We do offer a comprehensive program that takes a patient from diagnosis to their three-month follow-up appointment. The comprehensive program consists of three classes. In the first class, patients learn how to deal with high and low blood sugars, what diabetes is, how to deal with medications and basic nutrition information. The second class deals with in-depth nutrition information and exercise, going into detail about counting carbohydrates. The third class covers eating out, how to prevent complications, and managing stress.

Our registered dietitian also provides both individual and group medical nutrition therapy. We have diabetes support groups that meet once a month. We have guest speakers about diabetes topics or food demonstrations with healthy recipes people can make on their own.

Texas Health: How have you seen diabetes education benefit patients?

Bunyard: Our comprehensive program is three months long. At the follow-up appointment, patients typically see a significant drop in their A1C level, which is their average blood glucose over those three months. Decreasing the A1C helps lower the patient’s risk of complications. I find patients are more confident about managing their diabetes — they feel more in control of what they can eat and what they can do. They also feel supported because they’re in a classroom environment with other people who are also learning to manage their diabetes. Ongoing yearly appointments for patients with diabetes are also encouraged because their diabetes will change over time. Ongoing education helps patients with diabetes maintain good control of their diabetes throughout their lifetime.

To learn more about your risk for developing diabetes or a diabetes education class, visit TexasHealth.org/Diabetes.

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