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March 22, 2011 > Learn How to Stay on Top of Your Diabetes

Learn How to Stay on Top of Your Diabetes

Washington Hospital Seminar Offers Tips for Monitoring Glucose and Insulin Use

Diabetes can cause serious health problems. If you have the chronic disease, you know how important it is to keep it under control to avoid serious complications like heart and kidney disease, stroke, and blindness. A big part of managing the disease is through daily monitoring and for many, the use of insulin to keep blood glucose levels under control.

"Monitoring your blood glucose is required to assess the effectiveness of your treatment plan," said Vida Reed, RN, a certified diabetes educator at Washington Hospital. "It offers immediate feedback so you know how your body is responding."

She will present "The Ins and Outs of Glucose Monitoring and Insulin Use," on Thursday, April 7, from 7 to 8 p.m. Part of Washington Hospital's free Diabetes Matters education series, the seminar will be held at the Conrad E. Anderson, M.D. Auditoriums located at 2500 Mowry Avenue (Washington West) in Fremont. You can register online at or call (510) 745-6556 for more information.

Diabetes is a life-altering disease that affects nearly 26 million adults and children in the United States, according to the American Diabetes Association. It occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin or is not able to use it properly. Insulin helps the body process glucose, which fuels the body. When this process doesn't work properly, glucose levels can get abnormally high, which can harm the body.

Reed will discuss the benefits of monitoring blood glucose and offer tips. She will also talk about some of the meters on the market today and their features. Often an important factor is which meter your insurance company covers, she added.

"Blood glucose fluctuates depending on what food you eat, your level of activity, medications you may or may not be taking, and stress," Reed said. "Everyone reacts differently, so it's important to know how your body responds to these external factors."

The number of times you need to test your glucose each day depends on what diabetes medications you are taking and your overall blood sugar control; it can be as low as once or as high as eight times, according to Reed. She will explain the important times to test and the recommended blood sugar targets.

Insulin Regulates Blood Glucose

She will also talk about the role of insulin and explain how the body uses the hormone to regulate blood glucose. The body naturally produces insulin in the pancreas. When you eat, the pancreas releases insulin to help the body use or store the glucose it gets from food.

People with type 1 diabetes do not produce their own insulin and must inject insulin into their bodies, Reed explained. Those with type 2 diabetes produce insulin, but it may not be enough or their bodies don't use it properly. They may need to take insulin.

"Insulin can't be taken as a pill because it would be broken down during digestion," she said. "It must be injected into the fat under your skin."

Reed will briefly discuss the history of insulin, which was first available in 1922. For many years, it was extracted from the pancreas of cows and pigs. Then in the 1980s, synthetic human insulin became available, she said.

She will explain the different types of insulin that are available and how they work to control diabetes. In addition, she will review techniques for injecting insulin, storage, and other key factors that people who require insulin should know.

Even if you are properly managing your diabetes, it is possible for your blood glucose to get too low, which is also dangerous, Reed said. She will also talk about ways to avoid hypoglycemia.

"It's a delicate balance because everything you do affects your blood glucose," she added. "That's why monitoring is so critical."

Diabetes Support Group

Success in managing diabetes has a lot to do with receiving and giving social support. For people who suffer from diabetes, The Washington Outpatient Diabetes Center offers a support group that allows people to have in-depth conversations about what's happening in their lives and share information about dealing with diabetes in a positive and caring environment. The support group meetings are held at 8 p.m. every month immediately following the hour-long Diabetes Matters lecture. Family members and friends are also welcome. For more information about the support group or other classes and programs, call the Washington Outpatient Diabetes Center at (510) 745-6556 or visit

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