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Diabetes – when your get up and go, got up and left

Sue Sobolewski, R.N., Certified Diabetes Educator

Diabetes affects 25.8 million people in the U.S. Among adults, it is the leading cause of kidney failure, non-traumatic lower-limb amputations and new cases of blindness. Fortunately, major complications can be prevented with proper medical treatment and good self-management of blood sugars.

However, depression is not generally listed as a complication, yet it can be one of the most common and dangerous complications. Those with Type II diabetes are almost twice as likely to have depression as the general population. And, depression immobilizes an individual’s ability to self-manage diabetes.

Mild depression is certainly understandable in the face of a diagnosis that is a significant life-changing event. Such an event may trigger perceived loss of health and perhaps, more importantly, the loss of a spontaneous lifestyle. Misguided attempts to help from family and friends only further undermine a sense of self-control and competence. Serious or prolonged depression requires medical intervention and needs to be discussed with your healthcare provider. 
Here are some tips to ward off depression while managing diabetes:

Keep Moving
Relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation and prayer may help cope with stress. Most importantly, regular exercise helps an individual to deal with physical stress caused by the disease and provides a feeling of wellbeing. Most individuals, regardless of physical condition, can do some form of physical activity to achieve this outcome – even a short walk around the block or down the driveway is beneficial.

Stay Informed 
Fear is fought with knowledge. Taking diabetes education classes, reading publications from recognized organizations such as the American Diabetes Association, attending a diabetes support group and discussing concerns with your healthcare provider or a diabetes educator can alleviate many anxieties.

Be Involved
Preventing depression requires being active in other ways in addition to exercise – stay in daily contact with friends, volunteer, take interesting classes, and remember to get a good night’s sleep.

Be Reasonable
Working to perfectly manage diabetes is another quagmire to avoid, since this promotes failure and depression. Reasonable behavior is all that is required. A person is not “bad” because he didn’t exercise today or the blood glucose number is out of range. There can certainly be many factors responsible for high- or low- blood sugars that may not be within an individual’s control. Finding the answer to better control can be challenging but can be done with education.

No Nagging
Well-meaning friends, family and co-workers sometimes try to manage the diabetes of another person, frequently without being asked. Too much support is nagging. There is a diabetes etiquette code for people who don’t have diabetes. It includes not giving unsolicited advice; refrain from stories about other friends with diabetes; don’t offer thoughtless reassurances; don’t comment on blood-glucose numbers; be a friend and offer encouragement and support.

Diabetes Education
Flagstaff Medical Center’s Diabetes Education and Management Program is designed to help people manage their diabetes, whether they have been newly diagnosed or living with diabetes for many years. We assist those with Type I, Type II or gestational diabetes, and those who are interested in diabetes prevention. For more information call 928 773-2249 or visit

Sue Sobolewski, R.N., M.P.H., C.D.E., is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator in FMC’s Diabetes Education and Management Program. Is there a health topic you’d like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o FMC Public Relations, 1200 N. Beaver St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit