National Diabetes Month: Taking a Team Approach is Best for Managing Condition

A woman works on planning a healthy diet
Healthy meal planning is a helpful tool for managing diabetes.

November is National Diabetes Month, a good time to spread awareness about the condition that affects more than 37 million people in the U.S. 

The focus of this year's campaign, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is the importance of having a health care team to help manage diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic health condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough insulin or cannot use it properly. Insulin helps to regulate blood glucose/sugar levels by allowing the body’s cells to use it as energy. When there is insufficient insulin or the cells stop responding to it, too much blood sugar remains in the bloodstream.

High blood sugar levels can lead to high cholesterol, high triglycerides and high blood pressure, which over time can cause serious health problems, including heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.

Diabetes is also associated with an increased risk of certain kinds of cancers, including liver, pancreatic, uterine, colon, and breast cancer.

While there is currently no cure for diabetes, people can better manage the condition through lifestyle changes like losing weight, eating healthy and increasing physical activity. Working closely with your health care providers to create and maintain a self-care plan is key to diabetes management.

Your diabetes care team

In addition to a primary care physician, a diabetes patient’s health care team may include an endocrinologist, a registered dietitian, a certified diabetes care and education specialist, a counselor, an eye doctor, a dentist, a pharmacist, and a podiatrist.

The A-B-Cs of diabetes management

Diabetes is best managed through medications (insulin), eating healthy, getting regular exercise, checking and recording blood sugar levels at home, and managing stress.

Self testing blood sugar
Monitoring your blood sugar level at home is a key part of managing diabetes.

Part of diabetes management also includes tracking your “A-B-Cs,” which stands for A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol:

  • A1c: Routine blood work, called A1c, should be done several times a year. The A1c numbers help health care providers determine diabetes treatment. An A1c level of greater than 9.0 (an average blood sugar of 212) is considered uncontrolled diabetes. Maintaining an A1c of less than 7.0 (an average blood sugar of 150) is the goal for controlled diabetes.
  • Blood pressure: Control your blood pressure by keeping it below 140/90 mm HG (or a target your doctor sets).
  • Cholesterol: Keep your cholesterol in a healthy range by eating more unsaturated fats like fish, nuts, avocados and olive oil, eating fewer saturated fats found in fried and processed foods, and reducing your alcohol intake.

Additional steps to take

In addition to monitoring your A-B-Cs, regular diabetes management should include:

  • Annual eye exam: Because diabetes puts people at risk of sight-threatening eye disease, including diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts and glaucoma, individuals with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once per year.
  • Regular foot exams: Conduct weekly self-exams at home and schedule an annual visit with a podiatrist as well 
  • Two visits with your primary care physician
  • Keeping up with any recommended vaccinations
Eye test machine
Uncontrolled diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in adults which is why individuals with diabetes should have a comprehensive dilated eye exam at least once per year.

The benefits of diabetes management

Well-planned diabetes management pays off by helping reduce the risk of serious health complications from the disease.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), research shows that people with diabetes who:

  • Manage their blood sugar can reduce the risk of eye, kidney, and nerve disease by 40%.
  • Manage their blood pressure can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by 33-50% and decline in kidney function by 30-70%.
  • Manage their cholesterol can reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications by 20-50%.
  • Have regular eye exams and timely treatment can prevent up to 90% of diabetes-related blindness.
  • Have regular foot exams and patient education can prevent up to 85% of diabetes-related amputations.
A woman smiles as she holds a weight over her head during an outdoor exercise class.
Getting regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you manage your weight and diabetes.

Diabetes care at South Shore Medical Center

South Shore Medical Center’s diabetes specialists in endocrinology, diabetes education, nutrition, and podiatry, along with your primary care provider, work together to create a care plan and explain how medications, dietary guidelines, and self-management practices can help you manage the disease and stay in control of your health.  

Accredited by the American Association of Diabetes Educators for nearly a decade, South Shore Medical Center’s Diabetes Education Program offers classes focused on nutrition, medications, monitoring blood sugar, and reducing the risks of diabetes for all patients with new or existing Type 2 diabetes.

Prediabetes Group holds a monthly workshop monthly for patients with elevated blood sugar and at risk of developing diabetes.


Learn more about Diabetes Care at South Shore Health or register for South Shore Health’s Diabetes Education Classes.