Managing Diabetes Always Matters

Pandemic or no pandemic, you need to take care of your health.

Statistics have shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to otherwise preventable deaths—not only from coronavirus, but also from chronic diseases when people didn’t get the care they needed. Diabetes is one of those conditions.

“Since the pandemic started, I have seen a trend of worsening glycemic control,” says Carly Overgard, MSN, FNP-C, APNP, Diabetes Nurse Practitioner at OakLeaf Clinics. “Patients have not been as active as they were and some have been afraid to come into the clinic for blood sugar evaluation. Eating habits have also worsened for many.”

Proper glycemic control is incredibly important for managing diabetes. When too much sugar stays in the bloodstream, the body cannot fight infection. It can also lead to eye, kidney, or vascular damage.

“The pandemic has raised concerns about patients being able to fight infection,” Overgard says.

How We’re Staying Safe

Since March, HSHS Sacred Heart Hospital, HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital, and their affiliated clinics have pivoted to ensure patients can continue to receive diabetes care.

“We have great ways to stay connected,” Overgard says. “Clinics have many options for a patient to be evaluated, including in person, over the phone, and with telehealth visits. Even older patients are FaceTiming me.”

The clinics have CDC protocols in place for social distancing, wearing masks, and cleaning surfaces.

“We are doing our best to ensure patient safety,” Overgard says.

If you haven’t seen your provider since the start of the pandemic, it’s even more important to make an appointment immediately.

“Diabetes doesn’t follow a textbook case study pattern—it requires individualized care and goal-setting,” Overgard says. “This will not wait for the pandemic to be over. You need constant evaluation and treatment if you have diabetes.”

Trying to change your diet after a diabetes diagnosis can be hard.

“I often tell my patients to focus on fresh foods whenever possible,” says Carly Overgard, Diabetes Nurse Practitioner. “But often cost can be a barrier.”

Overgard recommends buying frozen vegetables instead of canned, due to the high sodium levels in many canned goods. She also tells patients to include lean proteins and whole grains and avoid processed foods.

“However, portion control is really the biggest issue,” Overgard says. “Reading food labels is important, as serving sizes determine the amount a person should eat.”

For patients who don’t know where to start, Overgard suggests the “plate method.” Load half the plate with non-starchy vegetables, one quarter with starchy foods like bread, pasta, or potatoes, and the final fourth with a lean protein.

Do you need help managing your diabetes? To find a primary care provider near you, visit sacredhearteauclaire.org or stjoeschipfalls.org.

You may also be interested in “Don’t Let Coronavirus Stop You From Getting Emergency Care.”