Over the past several decades, the prevalence of diabetes in the US has continued to rise alongside the increase in the prevalence of obesity. A clear relationship exists between body mass index (BMI) and risk for diabetes—in fact, the prevalence of type 2 diabetes is between 3 and 7 times higher in obese people as compared with normal-weight adults.1 Obesity also complicates the management of type 2 diabetes by increasing insulin resistance and blood glucose concentrations. Further, obesity is an independent risk factor for dyslipidemia, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease and increases the risk of cardiovascular complications and cardiovascular mortality in patients with type 2 diabetes.
It is well understood that certain foods have a greater effect on glycemic control, and that nutrition—along with achieving and maintaining a healthy weight—is an integral part of the diabetes management paradigm; however, initiating healthy changes in diet often proves to be one of the highest hurdles to overcome for both new and established patients with diabetes. Eating well is one of life’s great pleasures, and there is no reason why diabetes should stop patients from enjoying what they eat. Yet, patients need to understand basic concepts about nutrition, and why what they eat—and when they eat—are so critical for optimal diabetes management. Nurse Practitioners can play an important role in dietary counseling for patients with diabetes, helping them recognize healthy food choices, teaching them portion control and how to count carbs, and even reviewing fundamentals such as how to read nutrition facts. Together, this information can be used by the patient to create acceptable diabetes meal plans.
Maintaining a healthy diet is critical for patients with diabetes, and medical nutrition therapy is complementary and integral to complete diabetes self-management education (DSME). Nurse Practitioners can help patients achieve and maintain a healthy diet through appropriate initial instructions and continuous reinforcement of the benefits of healthy eating and maintaining a healthy weight, and the basics of how to achieve a healthy diet.
In this section, you will find tools you can download that discuss a range of topics including nutrition basics, healthy eating, the importance of managing weight, as well as considerations for seniors. All of these tools can be shared with your patients, and are available in both English and Spanish.