Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) “2011 National Diabetes Fact Sheet” puts
the number of adults and children with diabetes in the U.S. at an astounding 25.8 million, with another 79 million teetering on the edge of the disease having a precursor condition called
“prediabetes”. That is one of every three Americans. Diabetes and prediabetes are defined by a flaw in the body’s natural capacity to utilize its primary source of fuel-- the sugar, glucose--
resulting in excessive levels circulating in the bloodstream. High blood glucose levels contribute to serious “complications” of diabetes including heart attack and stroke, kidney failure, severe
infections and limb amputation, vision loss and blindness, digestive and sexual dysfunction, and premature death.
“Diabetes doesn’t have to equal poor health though”, says Toby Smithson, Registered Dietitian (RD), Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), and founder of DiabetesEveryDay.com. “Diabetes can be a manageable condition, but challenging responsibilities fall squarely on the patient. It’s called self-management.” Smithson would certainly know the challenges intimately, having managed her own diabetes successfully for more than 40 years with no hint yet of those insidious “complications”.
Self-management means acting personally to keep blood sugar levels as close to normal as possible with a combination of regular medical care, medication (sometimes insulin injections), frequent monitoring of blood sugar levels, eating a healthy diet with particular attention to carbohydrates, and getting regular physical activity. Following through with these personal responsibilities consistently clearly works to preserve health, but it’s estimated less than 10% of people with diabetes meet recommended goals for their ABC’s…A1C (effective blood sugar control), Blood pressure and Cholesterol.
So how can people successfully manage their diabetes? “Controlled studies almost always show that ‘intensive lifestyle intervention’ brings marked improvements in these key health indicators, greatly reducing the risks of diabetes complications”, says Smithson. “But in our real world a person with diabetes may go for months between visits with physicians or dietitians or educators. The lifestyle can be complicated, time consuming, frustrating, and lacking in short term positive feedback, so many simply lose their daily connection with diabetes management against life’s other demands.”
She explains, “I founded DiabetesEveryDay.com to provide accurate information about diabetes and diabetes management, of course. But more importantly, I want to keep people with diabetes interested in, and connected to, this crucial part of their life. It’s easy for them to lose focus, so we were determined to create something interesting and always changing that will keep people who are self-managing diabetes engaged with us, and therefore engaged with improving their own self-care.”
Smithson explains that DiabetesEveryDay has taken her own patients’ pleas to heart – “don’t give me more stuff to read”, “just tell me what to eat” – by providing unique resources such as original and practical “how to” video clips, weekly menu recommendations (complete with shopping lists), and practical lifestyle tips that Smithson herself uses every day to maintain her own health. “We are dedicated to providing something completely different that encourages and motivates people with diabetes to take control- other resources just aren’t working for too many.”
“Our subscribers can develop a personal connection with me through the video medium, and we can relate ‘face-to-face’. Only someone else doing this daily can really know the struggles, and I never promise I can make it easy. But, I’m absolutely convinced that DiabetesEveryDay can help people managing this disease become comfortable and confident with this overwhelming personal responsibility. A consistent focus is necessary, and the stakes are so high.”
Toby Smithson is a Registered Dietitian and spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, a Certified Diabetes Educator, and a “diabetes lifestyle expert”.