According to the American Diabetes Association, 5,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with diabetes each day. With numbers like that, each nurse is bound to care for many diabetes patients throughout his or her career. Because healthcare professionals strive to treat the whole patient, it’s important for nurses to understand the lifestyle changes their patients may need to make in order to manage this chronic condition.
Of course, nurses should always encourage patients to take all prescribed medications. What other lifestyle changes can nurses recommend to type 2 diabetes patients? Here are five things patients can do to help manage this disease:
1. Make Healthy Food Choices
Jenny De Jesus, RN, CDE, a diabetes educator told Everyday Health, “Staying healthy with diabetes is all about making choices.” One of the most important choices diabetes patients can make is to consume healthy foods. To start, patients should choose low-fat and low-sugar foods.
Furthermore, people with diabetes should make sure to get plenty of fiber and focus on consuming lots of vegetables. Once the right foods are chosen, the patient can then focus on portion control, making sure to eat in portions that facilitate a healthy weight. Eating smaller portions throughout the day, rather than a few large meals, can also help manage diabetes.
2. Stay Up-to-Date on Diabetes Information
New breakthroughs in treating diabetes are being made all the time. From medications to lifestyle changes, the range of treatment options available continues to grow rapidly. Patients can benefit from keeping an ear to the ground and reading up on new treatment options as they become available.
To help keep patients well informed, healthcare professionals should encourage patient engagement and questions. Make sure that your diabetes patients fully understand their treatment plans, feel comfortable making the necessary changes, and know that they can ask questions. Keeping the line of communication open between the patient and his or her healthcare team is an important step in chronic disease management.
3. Exercise Regularly
Getting regular physical exercise can help patients manage blood glucose levels, get to or maintain a healthy weight, and keep blood pressure in a healthy range. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times each week. If a patient has little or no exercise experience, nurses may suggest that the patient take brisk walks five times per week. Every bit of exercise can help the patient manage his or her condition.
4. Quit Smoking
If your diabetes patient smokes cigarettes, it is important that you recommend that the patient quit. Smoking is risky to all patients, but it is a particularly dangerous behavior for people living with diabetes. The CDC reports that smoking increases blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. Stopping the smoking habit can lower the patient’s chances of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
5. Have a Strong Support System
A competent and caring healthcare team is an important part of a patient’s support system. Additonally, having family and friends support the diabetes patient in their lifestyle changes can make all the difference. Nurses should emphasize the importance of an outside support system.
Remember that your newly diagnosed diabetes patient may be fearful or unhappy about making these changes. Having family and friends in his or her corner can help make these frightening changes easier, thus making the patient healthier.
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