Blood Sugar Control Partially A Function Of Beliefs

Young adults who believe they can adhere to the regimen required to control their Type I diabetes have better blood sugar control than those who don�t, according to a study appearing in the January issue of Psychosomatic Medicine. The study also suggests that their �can do� beliefs achieve this effect by improving self-care practices, such as blood sugar testing and adherence to diet and exercise regimens.

Previous researchers have investigated the relationship between various psychosocial factors and diabetic control, or between self-care and diabetic control, among individuals with Type I (insulin-dependent) diabetes, notes lead author Catharine H. Johnston-Brooks, Ph.D. of the Denver Veterans Affairs Medical Center. This study, however, is the first to demonstrate the relationship between the belief in one�s capabilities of adhering to a diet and exercise regimen -- what psychologists and sociologists call self-efficacy -- and blood sugar control.

In addition, the present study lends credence to the commonly accepted hypothesis that the belief in one�s ability to adhere to a diabetes regimen improves self-care, which in turn is associated with better blood sugar control.

Johnston-Brooks and her colleagues followed 88 young adults at a diabetes treatment center in Denver for one year. All were 18 to 35 years old and under treatment for diabetes for at least one year. Self-efficacy and quality of self-care were measured at the study�s beginning with self-administered questionnaires. Blood sugar control was assessed by measuring blood levels of HbA1c, an indicator of blood sugar levels over the previous three months, at the study�s beginning and at three-month intervals during the following year.

The results reveal that young adults with high self-efficacy tend to have the best blood sugar control and the best adherence to their self-care regimens, both in the short and long term. Moreover, Johnston-Brooks notes, they are consistent with a growing body of evidence that �beliefs are strong predictors of behavior� and, therefore, clinical outcomes.

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The researchers� findings, Johnston-Brooks observes, give health care practitioners tools and insights that can be used to help young adults with Type I diabetes. They suggest that an easily administered assessment of self-efficacy -- in conjunction with more traditional tools -- can be used to help predict how well blood sugar will be managed over time. In addition, they indicate that �teaching self-care behaviors will have a greater positive impact on [blood sugar control] when combined with interventions aimed at improving self-efficacy,� Johnston-Brooks notes.

The study was funded by grants from the University of Colorado�s Council on Research and Creative Works.

Source: Center for the Advancement of Health