For those with (or those supporting loved ones) with diabetes, it’s important to be on the lookout for changes in health status. You don’t have to manage risks and treatment plan alone. Working with your diabetes care team can help you build (and stick with) the best plan for your whole body. And even if the coronavirus is keeping you at home, a “check in” visit with your care team visit might be enough to keep you on track.
Who’s Who in a Diabetes Care Team?
Ready to build your well-rounded care team? Start by knowing that you’re the most important member of your diabetes care team. Take a role in decision making and be sure to let your team know what’s your goals are.
Next, think about each doctor and specialist you currently see. Is there anyone missing who you need to see so you can best manage your symptoms and risks?
- Primary Care Provider (PCP): Who you typically see for routine medical care, including preventative care for blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes management, and acute illness.
- Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (CDCES): Trained to empower diabetes patients to care for their body with effective and proven techniques. Typically provide diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES).
- Registered Dietitian: A nutrition expert who can help you develop an eating pattern that will support healthy blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
Additional Specialist Support:
- Endocrinologist: Treats conditions of the endocrine system. Endocrinologists specialize in helping patients gain control of diabetes and other hormone-related diseases.
- Cardiologist: Treats cardiovascular conditions, including those related to or caused by diabetes. They may adjust your medications and plan based on your heart and stroke risk.
- Registered Dietician: Helps you develop an eating pattern that will support healthy blood glucose, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
- Optometrist: Can find and treat certain eye conditions and diseases. They can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses.
- Ophthalmologist: Finds, diagnoses and treats all eye diseases, including severe eye problems. They can also prescribe glasses and contact lenses.
- Podiatrist: Helps you keep your feet and legs healthy by assessing nerve damage and detecting problems caused by diabetes, such as poor circulation.
- Pharmacist: Fills your prescriptions, but can also help you with your blood glucose monitoring, offer education, identify drug-related problems, and more.
- Dentist: Takes care of your teeth with routine care like cleanings which can lower your A1C and reduce your risk of periodontal disease (which is higher for diabetes patients).
- Mental Health Professional: Can help you deal with the daily challenges and emotional weight of living with diabetes. This could be a psychiatrist, social worker, or therapist.
- Fitness Professional: Helps you build an exercise routine that is safe for you. This can be an exercise physiologist, personal trainer, or physical therapist. Work with someone who understands diabetes so you can be sure your blood glucose is taken into consideration.
Why a Cardiologist is Important
A cardiologist can assess your cardiovascular risks and help you develop a plan to protect your heart from the long-term effects of diabetes. If you have heart disease and you haven’t looped in a cardiologist yet, ask your PCP for a referral – they probably have someone they work with regularly.
Here are some starter questions to take to your appointment:
- What are my personal risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as heart disease or stroke?
- Which risk factors can I control?
- What foods should I eat? What should I avoid?
- Can you review my list of current medications?
- How often should I have my blood pressure and lipid levels checked?
- What other levels should I monitor?
If You Need Help: Getting Started
A diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) services can help you learn how to manage diabetes and address your personal needs if you need help getting started. A certified diabetes care and education specialist (CDCES) can coach you and give you tools to navigate it all and support your treatment plan. Ask your primary care physician for a referral at your next appointment. Many DSMES services now offer telehealth options. To find a DSMES service near you, check out the DSMES locator.
When it comes to diabetes, your care team can go a long way toward helping you keep your whole body, including your heart, as healthy as can be. Keep regular appointments with all of your specialists to lower your overall risks of diabetes-related complications.
Learn more and join the Know Diabetes by Heart initiative at knowdiabetesbyheart.org.
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