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Managing and treating diabetes: what you need to know

Posted at 3:28 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 17:28:06-05

November is National Diabetes Month, a time to raise awareness of the chronic disease that is affecting more people than ever before.

Dr. Drew Oliveira, Senior Executive Medical Director with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah says, “Over the last 20 years, the number of Americans with Type 2 diabetes has doubled. A lot of this has been due to the epidemic of obesity in this country, as well as inactivity.”

Oliveira says approximately 34 million Americans have diabetes, while a whopping 90 million have pre-diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic condition where your body doesn’t process food, primarily sugars, as it should. The disease has two types:

Type 1 – Considered an autoimmune disorder, this type of diabetes is where the pancreas no longer produces insulin.

Type 2 – This is the most common type of diabetes where your body can’t process sugars well, and your blood sugar rises even though you have plenty of insulin.

“Type 2 diabetes certainly can be managed and prevented, in a lot of different ways,” says Oliveira. “Simple changes such as eating appropriately, being active, not eating as many carbohydrates, and of course, taking medications as prescribed can make a world of difference.”

When diabetes is unmanaged, serious health problems can develop over time, such as heart disease, vision loss and kidney failure.

“It's a great time to talk to your healthcare provider about getting screened for possible diabetes,” says Oliveira.

Now the seventh leading cause of death in the United States, people with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke, and more likely to have serious complications from COVID-19.

Oliveira says, “If you're overweight, losing 5 percent of your body weight can make a huge difference. That's not that much. If you weigh 200 pounds, lose 10 pounds. Getting down to 190 and that can really improve things. You can also improve things through regular aerobic exercise. A brief walk, a swim, some short bike ride, 30 minutes a day, five days a week."

If you are diagnosed with diabetes, Oliveira advises that you get educated about the condition and set goals that are SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time specific. You should also learn to monitor your blood and the effect of food and exercise on those results.

And always turn to your healthcare professional for more tips and ways to manage it. Proper management and treatment of diabetes is crucial to help you live a long and healthy life.