Maria Ibarra thought that she was well prepared to deal with type 2 diabetes when she was diagnosed at age 35. Her mother and brothers had the disease, she had already known for a year that she had prediabetes, and her career in medical records gave her some knowledge of health issues.
But two years after her diagnosis, Ibarra saw no improvement in her condition. She felt frustrated and talked to her doctor about it. Her doctor referred her to a diabetes educator.
That’s when things started to change for the better.
Ibarra, now 40, says small group diabetes education classes helped bring everything she knew about diabetes together. The program provided helpful tips and reminders – like healthy food substitutes and ideas for staying active – as well as showing her how to put them into practice.
She credits her participation in a diabetes education study for helping bring it all together for her. Using a tablet at home to record information such as testing times, sugar levels and meal sizes, Ibarra was able to share real-time data with her diabetes educator to help determine changes she needed to make in her daily activities, from when she should be testing to what she should have for dinner. It worked. Ibarra lost 35 pounds, bringing her sugar levels down and making diabetes more manageable. In addition to classes, she participated in a study on how the time of day affects glucose levels.
Ibarra called her experience with diabetes education “eye-opening,” adding that it was the little things she learned (such as that she should walk for 10 minutes after a meal) that helped her make progress. The Sacramento, Calif., resident now regularly participates in 5K run/walks and has a personal goal to reach 10,000 steps a day on her pedometer. And she continues working with a diabetes educator.
She’s also joined a patient advocacy and advisory committee with UC Davis, helping others manage their diabetes while she manages her own.
“I felt like I had added years to my life,” said Ibarra. When asked what she would say to someone considering diabetes education, she said, “It can really save your life.”