Diabetes education center helps patients understand, manage the condition

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Some people call it a health crisis; others, an epidemic. And thousands of people are walking around not even knowing they are affected. But there is a growing move to get people educated about diabetes.

29 million Americans have diabetes, and eight million don't even know it. And even for those who do, learning how to manage it can be a major challenge.

Registered nurse Mary Lee Lehrich is a certified diabetes educator at Scottsdale Healthcare's Diabetes Education Center. She says one of the biggest obstacles in fighting diabetes is that people don't want to accept that they are truly affected.

"I think one of the things we do here at the center is try to help people accept the fact that they do have diabetes. and work through  the feelings about diabetes," she says.

That is something Margaret Shadowens can relate to. She was diagnosed as pre-diabetic six years ago, and it has since progressed to diabetes.

"Just because a physician hands you a piece of paper that says you have pre-diabetes, you don't go home and make drastic changes in most cases," Lehrich says. 

That's where the education center comes in. "What we do here at the  diabetes education center is to cut to the chase on the most important things to help you manage this condition," says Lehrich.

Lehrich says because diabetes is a self-managed condition, patients need to know what they can and should do for themselves.

"I think the biggest misconception is that people will look for foods containing less sugar, but it is really less carbohydrates," she says.

From menu planning to exercise planning, Shadowens says a little education goes a long way in making a difference. "My numbers have dropped somewhat," she says, "And I'm continuing to work on getting them even lower."

Most insurance plans do have some coverage for education, but Lehrich says many people do not take advantage of that. She says education can save trouble and money down the road, by heading off potential complications from diabetes.