Mercy Regional Health Center


What is diabetes?
Is sugar bad for me?
What can I eat?
How does exercise benefit people with diabetes?
What is home glucose monitoring?
Why do I need to see a nurse or a dietitian individually?
What do I receive by participating in the Diabetes Program?
What long-term problems are associated with diabetes?
How can I avoid complications?

What is diabetes?
Diabetes is a lifelong disease in which your body has trouble converting the food you eat into the energy you need. In simple terms, diabetes means that your body is having trouble handling sugar. As a result, the levels of sugar in your blood become higher than normal.

You may already be aware of some of the common signs of diabetes, such as:

  • Drowsiness
  • Blurred vision
  • Increased thirst
  • Sudden weight loss

In time, diabetes can affect your:

  • Blood flow
  • Nerves
  • Eyes
  • Kidneys
  • Teeth
  • Gums

Is sugar bad for me?
No. Your body needs sugar for energy. When you eat, your body breaks down sugars, starches and other foods into a fuel called glucose, or blood sugar. Sugar then enters the bloodstream where it travels to tissue cells in all parts of the body. Here it is metabolized or burned for immediate energy, or stored in the liver, muscle or fat for use later on. 

What can I eat?
In any diabetes treatment program, the most important element is proper nutrition. It's best to eat a variety of foods, but you should try to limit fat, sugar and salt. Try to eat more fish, poultry and complex carbohydrates rather than red meats and dairy foods. The American Diabetes Association recommends that 50% to 60% of daily calories come from carbohydrates, 12% to 20% from protein, and no more than 30% from fat.

How does exercise benefit people with diabetes?
Anyone can benefit from exercise, but it's especially important for someone with diabetes. Combined with a good diet, exercise can help you stay in control of diabetes. Not only does an active body burn sugar faster; exercise also makes the body more sensitive to insulin — which helps you reduce the amount of sugar in your blood.

What is home glucose monitoring?
One of the most important things to do as a person living with diabetes is to regularly check your own blood sugar. By measuring your blood sugar with a glucose monitor and recording the results in a diary at regular intervals, you and your diabetes treatment team will get a clearer picture of how you're doing so that you can take appropriate action when necessary.
Do-it-yourself glucose monitoring tests enable you to check your blood sugar at home every day. Armed with this information, you and your diabetes team can see how your body responds to meals, exercise, stress and diabetes treatment. You can then make day-to-day choices about diet, exercise and medication to get in better control of your diabetes. By knowing how your blood sugar levels fluctuate and what you can do to normalize them, you will be able to better plan your activities.

Why do I need to see a nurse or a dietitian individually?
While you can learn valuable general information in diabetes education classes, diabetes involves behavioral changes that are unique for each person. Discussing your individual goals with your nurses and dietitians helps you apply general knowledge to your daily life.

What do I receive by participating in the Diabetes Education Class?
In addition to gaining knowledge that will help you better manage your diabetes and achieve a healthier lifestyle, you may also receive the following items:

  •  A glucose monitor to check blood glucose (sugar) levels.
  •  A notebook for reference on a variety of diabetes-related topics. 

What long-term problems are associated with diabetes?
Diabetes can cause a number of serious, long-term health problems that may develop without producing symptoms. Often, the damage is done before you even realize it has begun. In some cases, people don't find out they have diabetes until the appearance of a complication.
Complications are most likely to occur after many years with diabetes. Some people develop only one long-term problem, while others have several. Still others never develop any.
Potential complications include:

  •  Heart disease
  •  Kidney disease
  •  Eye problems
  •  Leg and foot problems
  •  Nervous system problems
  •  Oral and dental problems

    How can I avoid complications?
    One of the major goals of diabetes treatment is the prevention of complications. The main way to achieve prevention is through good blood sugar control. When good blood sugar control is maintained over the years, your risk for long-term problems decreases significantly.
    Another way to greatly reduce your risk of complications is to take steps to eliminate other risk factors, such as:

     High blood pressure
     High blood fats, including cholesterol and triglycerides
     Cigarette smoking