Dana Stainbrook is used to meeting people who feel overwhelmed.
"There's a lot of denial with diabetes … minimize it and think it's not really a problem," said Stainbrook, a diabetes nurse and educator with the Washington Health System.
But Stainbrook's work with patients through the Diabetes Education & Management Program helps people who are both newly diagnosed and have been living with diabetes for decades.
Most cases of diabetes in the United States are type 2, which means patients have insulin resistance, but their bodies can still produce insulin. The first goal of Stainbrook is to focus on a healthy lifestyle and let them know that they are in the driving seat when it comes to managing diabetes.
"Lifestyle, healthy nutrition and exercise will always help the management of blood sugar," he said. "I always try to tell them I'm in the driver's seat, because that's what they do every day that makes a difference in the world with their results."
The problem, he said, is that type 2 diabetes is a progressive disease. When someone is diagnosed, he has lost about 50% of his beta cells, which are the cells of the pancreas that produce insulin.
"They will continue to lose about five percent more each year, so it's a gradual loss of the body's ability to produce insulin," said Stainbrook. "So what works today will not work in five years, and it's not unusual for them to request additional oral medications over time and eventually request insulin."
The first information Stainbrook gives to new diabetic patients is the importance of healthy eating and increasing physical activity.
"It can be a 10 minute walk after a meal or a thirty minute walk every day," he said. "They do not have to spend any money on a gym membership." The best exercise to do is the one you like, and if you hate all the exercises, then I tell them to find the one that's least questionable for them. 39, exercise as a drug. "
Something as simple as parking at the end of the parking lot or walking to the store, taking the steps instead of the elevator and increasing the number of total steps during the day can make a noticeable difference in reducing insulin resistance. and increase blood glucose control, said Stainbrook.
Once patients move, they must focus on their diet. However, what Stainbrook recommends for a food plan should not be considered a "diet".
"I tell everyone that the family should eat like I'm saying to eat," said Stainbrook. "It's not a diet, it's the way everyone in America should eat in. Fresh whole foods, fresh and frozen fruit, vegetables and meats – try to stay away from bags, boxes and cans and keep it simple with regards to the number of ingredients in the product, this is just eating healthy for everyone. "
Regarding the management of sugars and carbohydrates, Stainbrook has some simple rules. It tells patients that when they look at labels, they look at total carbohydrates and not just grams of sugar.
"If you're avoiding all carbohydrates, all that's left is protein and fat, it's not always good," he said. "Remember that fruits and vegetables are good carbohydrates because they have lots of fiber and nutrients, carbohydrates turn into sugars, so if they eat too much carbohydrates, their sugar will work high despite drugs or insulin."
Likewise, eating too few carbohydrates can lower your blood sugar too much, so consistency is the key to carbohydrate intake.
Stainbrook said we tend to eat what is fast and convenient. If you have a bag of cookies on the counter, you will eat them rather than take time to cut vegetables or peel carrots. His advice includes keeping fresh and healthy snacks in abundance and ready to eat. You tell patients that no food is forbidden, but it's all based on moderation.
"Obviously, the cake and the ice cream are not good, but it depends on the size of the portion," he said.
Another tip: she warns you not to drink your carbohydrates in soda and sweetened drinks, which can quickly shoot blood sugar and do not add any nourishment. Artificial sweeteners are better than normal sugar for diabetics, but having sweet drinks can also make you crave more.
Stainbrook said the diabetes education program offers individual and group education and includes a diabetes prevention lesson.
"The program is designed for people who have a close relative and who increases the risk," he adds. "It's a weight loss program, but also for people who have a family history of illness or other indicators for diabetes."
The WHS prevention class meets weekly for 16 weeks, then moves to monthly meetings and is designed to help prevent diabetes.
"If you can prevent an illness instead of treating it, it saves all your money and health," said Stainbrook.
His best advice for patients is not to feel helpless or desperate. There are many resources available to help you manage diabetes and there are many people who are willing and able to help you with medical advice and to address the emotional aspect of the disease.
Stainbrook said, "Last week a lady told me she had diabetes for 30 years and said," You're the first person who gave me the hope of being able to do it alone and I can make things better. & # 39; "