Fighting Diabetes through Patient Education

Dee Aldahl was shocked when her doctor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Group told her she had “prediabetes.”

"I thought of diabetes as a disease that affects only elderly, sedentary people, and it doesn't run in my family. I would never have guessed it would be in my vocabulary," said the 58-year-old Los Angeles resident.

At the time of that visit with Alice Cruz, M.D., two years ago, Aldahl’s fasting blood glucose was 125 mg/dl. She was told this put her at risk for developing type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90 to 95 percent of all cases of adult diabetes.

Cruz referred her to Diane McWhorter, M.S.N., a nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator who offers classes and one-on-one counseling for patients of Cedars-Sinai Medical Group and Cedars-Sinai Health Associates.  

Making Lifestyle Changes
Working closely with dietician Rachele Dependahl, R.D., McWhorter helps patients manage all types of diabetes. She trains people with type 1 diabetes to use insulin pumps and also offers individual counseling for those newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. She also teaches a class on prediabetes for patients like Aldahl.

"Our doctors are very aggressive about educating patients who are at risk for type 2 diabetes because if you make life style changes soon enough, you may be able to stop it before it starts," McWhorter said.

Aldahl took McWhorter’s prediabetes class at the end of 2008. "I learned so much about how to eat right and the importance of exercise," she said. She started eating smaller portions, making dinner her lightest meal of the day, eating more fruits and vegetables and taking regular walks.

She also acquired an easy-to-use blood-glucose monitor. Checking her own blood-sugar level a few times a week helped her maintain a healthy diet because she could see the impact of poor food choices.

Getting Back on Track
Although she is still working toward her weight-loss goal, Aldahl said: "I feel so much better now than I did two years ago. I don't have that sluggish feeling, and I’ve been able to reduce my glucose level and keep it under 100."

She is encouraged by these results, but acknowledged that it hasn’t been easy to maintain her diet and exercise regimen. She went through a few stressful months during which she put on weight and decided to take McWhorter's class again last November.

"It got me back on track," Aldahl said. "I sensed that some people in the class were skeptical, and it felt great to be able to tell them what a difference the class has made in my life. It’s been a very positive and motivating experience for me."