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Managing Your Diabetes

If you or someone you love is living with diabetes, you already know its challenges. Living a full, healthy life with diabetes is within reach, but it takes commitment and the right team of health care professionals.

Living healthy with diabetes is possible if you know your numbers and take an interest in managing the condition.

If you are at risk for type 2 diabetes, you can prevent or delay this disease by making important lifestyle changes.

Hendricks Regional Health offers a comprehensive team of nurses, dietitians and certified diabetes educators. 

Carolyn Burdsall, RD is here to talk about managing your diabetes and to give you the tools you need to live a long and healthy life.
Managing Your Diabetes
Featured Speaker:
Carolyn Burdsall, RD
Carolyn Burdsall, RD is a Registered Dietitian nutritionist and certified diabetes educator at Hendricks Regional Health.

Melanie Cole (Host): If you or someone you love is living with diabetes, you already know its challenges. Living a full, healthy life with diabetes is within reach but it takes commitment and the right team of health care professionals. My guest today is Carolyn Burdsall. She’s a Registered Dietician/Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Educator at Hendricks Regional Health. Welcome to the show, Carolyn. Let’s just start with diabetes. What is the most important bit of information you tell everyone new that you meet that has just been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes?

Carolyn Burdsall (Guest): I think what’s most important with a new diagnosis is realizing it’s not your fault. It’s not something you’ve done or not done to deserve this in any way. That’s message number one. Message number two is we can control this. We have a lot of options for you to fit your lifestyle, your needs and we absolutely can give you a long, full life with diabetes and great guidance to do that.

Melanie: That’s great information. What’s the first thing that you want them to know about managing diabetes? Is it diet? Is it exercise? Is it knowing your numbers? What do you think is more important for them to really take charge of?

Ms. Burdsall: I think it’s all of the above and that’s where we shine as diabetes educators by promoting an individualized plan. For some folks, diet and exercise will be enough. We also know we have a vast number of folks that exercise is a little out of their grasp because of health conditions or such. We also know that sometimes life gets in the way of really doing what we want to do with our diet plans and so we have to look at what’s realistic for the person. Certainly, medication is an option--either orals or injectables. If that pieces becomes necessary again, that doesn’t represent failure on the part of the individual, it just means we’ve got a little different plan that we’re going to go with to better fit your needs.

Melanie: That’s great information. When we’re talking about monitoring blood sugar levels and what happens in the body with a diabetic. There are so many products on the market, Carolyn. How do you tell people to manage and watch what’s going on in their body at any given time?

Ms. Burdsall: The adage that we like to use is having diabetes and not testing your blood sugars at home is a lot like driving at night with the lights out. You may feel like you know where you are but you really don’t know for sure. We’re big, big fans of monitoring anywhere from early, very mildly elevated stages of diabetes to hard-to-control diabetes where the numbers are running much higher. It might be once a week, it might be four times a day. Again, that’s an individualized decision but it helps you know where that person is and then, what else might need to be done.

Melanie: Then diet – that seems to be one of the most confusing parts and you are a Registered Dietician/Nutritionist. Start with the diet. Start with breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks. How can they maintain this consistent blood sugar level throughout the day and how do they choose? There’s so many different choices out there.

Ms. Burdsall: I think there’s more misinformation relative to diet than anything else in the world of healthcare. Of course, everyone’s an expert and everyone’s willing to share their advice. There again, the first key point is that any diet plan also needs to be individualized. For the most part, in some way we’re addressing carbohydrate intake in the diet. That’s not to say we’re advising a low carb plan or a no carb plan. It’s also not to say that there’s this laundry list of bad foods that are no longer allowed. For most folks, we try to give them kind of a diet prescription expressed as amount of carb at any one time. We do like to see it spread out over the day – breakfast, lunch and dinner is a great plan. Some folks do better with 5, 6, and 8 times a day. Again, we can match that with what works best for the individual. Then, we teach them how to identify which foods they’re eating are carbs and what limits to set. That’s a very key part of it. The vast majority of folks that we’re dealing with will also have some degree of need for at least managing their calories to some extent. There, again, our goal is not to starve someone but to take a look at their usual routine and look for opportunities where we may save a few calories in the course of the day hopefully in a way that’s somewhat painless.

Melanie: People get confused when they hear the word carbohydrate. Some of the all protein diets out there and higher protein diets tell you that all carbohydrates and grains are bad but tomatoes and carrots--these things have carbohydrates in them. What do you tell people when they’re confused about what is and what isn’t acceptable?

Ms. Burdsall: From the body’s standpoint, if I had a slice a bread, which is 15 grams of carbs; a tennis ball piece of fruit, which is also 15 grams of carbs; 8 ounces of milk and a scoop of ice cream, the body views those all as essentially equal items. The carb value is the same. That’s not to say the nutritional value is the same or the calories are the same. Certainly, we’re going to promote whole grains. We’re going to promote whole fruit, plenty of veggies, lower fat dairy but that doesn’t mean foods that don’t neatly fit in that category must be excluded but they sure need to be managed.

Melanie: Certainly, they do. Where does exercise come in? It has such an insulin-like effect and can really make up a dramatic difference on the body. So, where does that fit into your program?

Ms. Burdsall: I think it’s important to help folks understand that exercise can be as effective as just about any medication on the market and we need to view it almost as a prescription. With that said, exercise doesn’t mean the same thing for every person. We certainly want to start where that person is. If someone is very, very sedentary we’re not going to have them train for a full marathon by next week but we might be able to begin with parking farther away, short walks here and there, being less efficient when you carry in your groceries so you make more trips. We’ll start small. You can always increase. Ideally, we get to a point where folks are moving in some capacity at least 30 minutes most days of the week. That’s a great goal to work towards. We’ll start where we can and we’ll build as we can.

Melanie: Tell us about the Center for Diabetes Excellence at Hendricks Regional Health.

Ms. Burdsall: We are a recognized program by American Diabetes Association which means we follow their standards, their recommendations. All of our work is evidence based. It’s not just an individual’s opinion. Its research based. We have three Registered Dieticians who are Certified Diabetes Educators and we have a Registered Nurse who’s a Certified Diabetes Educator. We also have a Nurse Practitioner here who specializes in diabetes management. We, again, really feel that we have a chance to use the art and science of diabetes management in terms of working with these folks. We don’t want this to be a scary thing and certainly a new diagnosis can be a life altering, life shaking thing. We want folks to know that there’s help available. We’re reasonable folks. It’s not all gloom and doom and food police but that we have some great common sense realistic suggestions that can help them learn to live with their diabetes.

Melanie: What great advice. Now, just tell us a little bit about your best advice and why they should come to Hendricks Regional Health for their care.

Ms. Burdsall: Because they deserve it. They deserve the very best. Again, we really are going to work to take away that guilt that might be associated with this diagnosis. We want them to know that those stories they’ve heard, those friends and family members and co-workers that have had struggles with diabetes, certainly, that can be a reality but they do not have to go down those paths if they get good, quality education. Particularly, education that’s centered around their individual needs.

Melanie: Thank you so much for being with us today, Carolyn. It really is great information. You’re listening to Health Talks with HRH. For more information on the Center for Diabetes Excellence you can go to That’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.