Mindfulness Training Lifts Veterans With Diabetes

August 6, 2014
Leo Robert

Early research shows that this kind of program decreases distress and lowers blood sugar levels.

Mindfulness training helped US veterans who had diabetes mellitus (DM) significantly lower their DM-related distress and blood sugar levels and improve their DM self-management, according to early research. The intervention included focused breathing and awareness training.

The research was to be presented today at AADE14, the American Association of Diabetes Educators Annual Meeting & Exhibition, being held August 6-9 in Orlando.

The researchers analyzed whether including mindfulness training as part of veterans’ DM self-management education helps them cope with DM-related distress. Their study included 28 veterans with types 1 and 2 DM who participated in the Mind-STRIDE (Mindful Stress Reduction In Diabetes Education) program at VA Pittsburgh. The program presented information on what stress does to the body and how mindfulness training can help reduce stress and provided practical training in mindful stress-reduction techniques. The participants learned how to do the following:

• Be “more present.”

• Improve their body awareness.

• Separate thoughts, emotions, and body sensations.

• Develop focused attention.

The participants were directed to practice the techniques of focused breathing and mindful movement for 15 minutes every day for 3 months. They were given a CD to guide them through the exercises at home.

Monica M. DiNardo, PhD and colleagues used scientifically validated questionnaires to measure DM-related distress and DM self-management behaviors; the veterans completed them before the class, 1 month after the class, and 3 months later. During those times, researchers also conducted A1C tests before the class and then at 3 months to measure the 3-month average concentration of glucose.

After 3 months, on average, the veterans’ DM-related distress decreased by 41%. Their A1C levels dropped significantly, from 8.3 to 7.3. Their DM management improved-they were meeting more AADE-7™ self-care behavioral goals: (1) healthy eating, (2) being active, (3) monitoring, (4) taking medication, (5) problem solving, (6) healthy coping, and (7) reducing risks.

“We were surprised at the dramatic decrease in diabetes-related stress,” said Dr DiNardo, who is the principal investigator, diabetes educator, nurse practitioner, and health scientist at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. “The veterans said the more mindful they were, the better they were able to manage their diabetes.”

More than 25% of the 1 million US veterans who have received care through the Veterans Administration have DM, it was noted, and many patients with DM experience DM-related distress, resulting in poorer self-management and adverse effects of the disease.

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