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It Takes a Team to Manage Diabetes: Here’s How to Build Yours

Exercise and Nutrition
Author name: Lee Health

Diabetes awareness graphic

Teamwork. It’s the watchword of every successful collaborative enterprise, from the corporate boardroom to the athletic field to your health care team.

Teamwork especially matters when it comes to managing your health, whether you’re healthy or dealing with a chronic illness like diabetes, according to registered nurse Annette McClenahan, a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist with Lee Health’s Diabetes Outpatient and Diabetes Prevention Program.

In observance of Diabetes Awareness Month, Annette discusses how to build your health care team and manage your diabetes.

Research shows that a healthcare team can help patients with diabetes more effectively manage their diabetes,” Annette says. “The collaborative team approach to care for their diabetes including their primary care provider, nutritionists, and a certified diabetes care and education specialist is the best way manage their diabetes and obtain the necessary self-management tools empowering them to live well with diabetes.”

Annette adds, “The key to remember is that you are the most important participant in your diabetes care. You are the coach, referee and decision-maker in your health care journey.”

What is diabetes?

Diabetes occurs when your blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is too high. It affects about 37 million Americans, including adults and youth. Diabetes can damage the eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart, and is linked to some types of cancer.

The three main types of diabetes are: 

  • Type 1 Diabetes: The body is insulin-dependent and this type of diabetes is an autoimmune disease
  • Type 2 Diabetes: The body doesn’t make enough insulin or the body’s cells don’t respond normally to the insulin. 
  • Gestational Diabetes: This type develops in some women during their pregnancy and usually goes away after pregnancy.

Prediabetes: Understand your risk

Prediabetes means your blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, Annette says. 

One in three Americans has prediabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association (ADA). More concerning, Annette notes, is that 9 in 10 people with prediabetes don’t know they have it.

“Because people often don’t have symptoms, prediabetes goes undetected until they develop serious health problems, such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke,” she says. “That’s why it’s important to talk with your doctor about getting your blood sugar tested if you have genetic or lifestyle risk factors that can lead to insulin resistance or prediabetes.”

The risk factors for prediabetes include:

  • Being overweight
  • Being 45 years or older
  • Having a parent, brother, or sister with type 2 diabetes
  • Being physically active fewer than three times a week
  • Ever having gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) or giving birth to a baby who weighed more than 9 pounds

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Also, race and ethnicity are factors. Blacks, Hispanic/Latino Americans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, and some Asian Americans are at higher risk, according to the CDC.

What screening is right?

Because people with prediabetes and diabetes have no symptoms in the early stages, screening can play an important role in identifying them. For some people with prediabetes, early treatment and lifestyle changes can prevent or delay type 2 diabetes.

According to the newest recommendations of the ADA, prediabetes and diabetes testing should begin at age 35 for all adults and sooner for those with risk factors. Screening should be performed at least once every 3 years, unless a diagnosis of prediabetes is made, in which case yearly testing is recommended.

“The earlier you can identify prediabetes, the sooner you can do what’s necessary to ensure a healthy future,” Annette says. “We know we can reverse prediabetes or at least prevent it from progressing to type 2 diabetes.”

Prevent or reverse insulin resistance and prediabetes: Read here

Finding hope and solutions

Without weight loss and physical activity, approximately 15 percent to 30 percent of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years. Type 2 diabetes is one of the fastest-growing diseases in the United States and can lead to other health issues such as kidney failure, heart attack, blindness, or loss of toes, feet, or legs.

You are the captain of your care team.

Learn as much as you can about your disease and talk with your primary care provider about how you can get the support you need to meet your goals.

Build your diabetes health care team.

A team of health care professionals can tailor your care for your specific needs. Besides a primary care provider, your health care team may include a nutritionist and a certified diabetes educator. Ask your primary care provider.

Work with your health care team.

Most people with diabetes get health care from a primary care professional. Primary care professionals include internists, family physicians, and pediatricians. Sometimes physician assistants and nurses with extra training, called nurse practitioners, provide primary care. You also will need to see other care professionals from time to time. A team of health care professionals can help you improve your diabetes self-care. Remember, you are the most important member of your health care team.

Besides a primary care professional, your health care team may include:

  • an endocrinologist for more specialized diabetes care
  • a registered dietitian, also called a nutritionist
  • a nurse
  • a certified diabetes educator
  • a pharmacist
  • a dentist
  • an eye doctor
  • a podiatrist, or foot doctor, for foot care
  • a social worker, who can help you find financial aid for treatment and community resources
  • a counselor or other mental health care professional

Source: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

When consulting with members of your health care team, ask questions, Annette advises.

“Write a list of questions you have before your visit so you don’t forget what you want to ask ” Annette says. “Diabetes is a self-managed disease, so you need to learn the self-management tools. And you can do that through your diabetes self-management team. This is what empowers people with diabetes to live well. That’s our goal.”

Take control: Lee Health diabetes self-management program

Ready to take charge of your prediabetes and prevent diabetes?

Get in touch with a program navigator to find the right program for you.


Join our experts to learn more about living well with diabetes this month!

Healthy Life Center – Coconut Point

For National Diabetes Month, Lee Health Healthy Life Centers are bringing awareness to diabetes in our community at Healthy Life Center – Coconut Point.

The following programs will help you incorporate healthy and delicious carbs into your diet, understand more about diabetes medications, and take care of your feet.

Healthy Life Center - Coconut Point
23450 Via Coconut Pt.
Estero, FL 33928

Get directions

Incorporating Nutritious & Delicious Carbohydrates for Diabetes

Monday, Nov. 14, 2022
10-11 a.m.

Let's learn about carbs! In this lecture we will learn from registered dietitian Lisa Roth how eating healthy carbs can benefit your blood sugar.

Sign up here.

Diabetes & Your Feet
Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022
Noon-1 p.m.

Over time, diabetes may cause nerve damage that affects the feet. Join podiatrist Dr. Lori DeBlasi to learn steps you can take to care for your feet.

Sign up here.

Demystifying Diabetes Drug Selection

Friday, Nov. 18, 2022
10- 11 a.m.

There are dozens of medications used for the treatment of diabetes and endless combinations of those agents. We'll review the common classes of diabetes drugs, and discuss many of the factors that go into finding the right therapy for individual diabetic patients.

Sign up here.

Lee Health Diabetes Educational Resources

Diabetes Awareness

Diabetes Education & Support

Diabetes Prevention

Diabetes Myths and Fact Quiz

Endocrinology: Diabetes Care

Diabetes and Pregnancy