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Authors interviewed: Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes

by Jenni Prokopy, the Editrix

We've followed Amy Tenderich's project, Diabetes Mine, for the past couple years, watching it grow and gain a strong reputation in the diabetes community. So we weren't surprised to hear she had come out with a valuable new book on diabetes, co-written with Richard Jackson, MD, called Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes.

Today, we talk with Amy (a Type 1 diabetic) and Dr. Jackson about their work together on the book. Tomorrow, we offer up a review by Michelle Haus, a DiabetesBabe.

The background

know your numbers, outlive your diabetesAmy had been blogging for a while, a process she found very "cathartic and a great way to create a community," but was looking for something more concrete - a more substantial way to really help other diabetes patients. 

"One thing that frustrated me from day one was, there wasn't a practical guidebook that tells me what to do," she explains. "Lots of books give you scientific background but don't offer the basics of what to do day-to-day." She wanted a handbook that tells people "in very plain language what they need to do to get a handle on their own health."

At an American Diabetes Association conference, Amy was introduced to Dr. Jackson, architect of the Joslin Diabetes Center's "DO IT": Diabetes Outpatient Intensive Treatment Program, and they hit it off. "Dr. Jackson has seen thousands of people struggling with diabetes," says Amy. "By the time they've made it to Joslin, they've already had damage. In many cases, they're focusing on the wrong things."

The 5 tests

The pair cooked up a plan for a book that helps patients take a step-by-step approach, using five tests, to identify their biggest health risks and narrow things down to a few action items over the course of a few months. (The approach focuses on people with Type 2 diabetes.)

dr richard jackson of the joslin diabetes centerThe five tests (A1C, blood pressure, microalbumin, lipids, and eye exam) are commonly available at all health clinics, and typically covered by insurance, so there's no drama involved in trying out the book's premise.

An endocrinologist at Joslin for more than 25 years, Jackson had focused first on clinical research and trials, then moved more toward clinical work, like the DO IT program, a submersion approach in which patients work with a counselor, nurse, dietician, exercise consultant and endocrinologist.

His work with the program has taught him a very valuable lesson, he says: "How you feel is really important, but these five tests really affect you - and tell you if you're in a slightly different place than you thought."

"There's a big gap between what people worry about, and what they actually should do," explains Jackson. With patients, he always starts with their numbers: "Instead of just telling people, 'do these things every day for the rest of your life and you'll be healthier,' you can tell folks specific things and see results quickly." The big picture: "It makes it easier for them to see utility in what they did, but it's more physiologically accurate."

The doctor visits

amy tenderich of www.diabetesmine.comKnow Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes emphasizes a more proactive approach on the part of the patient. "We're not telling you not to see your doctor, but on the other hand, it's the ultimate self-managed disease," says Amy. "You have to know yourself, how you eat every day, how does it affect you? We're trying to give people an overview of where they stand with their own health and what to do about it."

Latter chapters in the book also examine tips for getting the most out of doctor visits. "Think of yourself and your diabetes as a small business, and your health care providers are consultants," suggests Amy. By knowing your numbers - and your priorities - you can enter the office way ahead of the game and squeeze the most out of every minute with your physician.

Learn more

If you have diabetes and are curious about Amy and Dr. Jackson's book, you'll want to stay tuned on Monday, March 12, when we offer up Michelle Haus's (a ChronicBabe with Type 2 diabetes) review. Also, check out the authors' blog and Diabetes Mine.

Posted: 3/8/2007 in Cool Tools

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