According to the National Diabetes Education Program, nearly 26 million Americans suffer from diabetes. North Carolina Medicaid claims from 2013 indicate that more than 2,100 Johnston County residents – 22 percent of the adult Medicaid population – live with the condition.
In 2012, the estimated cost of diabetes in the United States was $245 billion, and research indicates diabetics have medical costs 2.3 times higher than non-diabetics.
More than 90 percent of diabetics have Type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body does not produce or use insulin correctly. Older or overweight individuals are more susceptible to the disease. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, people with Type 2 diabetes can improve their condition through dietary changes and weight loss.
So what steps can be taken to improve Type 2 diabetes? Community Care of North Carolina, or CCNC, the physician-led nonprofit helping to cut costs and improve quality in the state’s Medicaid program, offers ways to help manage your diabetes.
With Type 2 diabetes, the body’s lack of production, recognition or use of insulin is problematic because the body needs insulin to turn glucose into energy. Type 2 diabetes produces chronically high glucose levels that lead to problems with the eyes, kidneys, nerves and heart. If lifestyle changes are not made, these problems can be irreversible.
“Type 2 diabetes is a very costly but potentially controllable illness,” said Dr. Tom Wroth, a family practitioner with Community Care of North Carolina. “With Type 2 diabetes, there are ways to prevent complications, improve quality of life and keep medical costs down. Knowing what to look for and what lifestyle changes to make are important for improving your health.”
• Maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. For individuals with Type 2 diabetes, it is important to exercise regularly to control weight, improve the body’s response to insulin and control blood-sugar levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults exercise at least 5 times per week for 30 minutes a day. You can even break up exercise into three sets of 10-minute intervals throughout the day. Consult your doctor to see what exercise is best suited for your health.
• Eat a well-balanced diet. It is critical for individuals with Type 2 diabetes to strike a healthy balance between consuming enough calories for optimal energy without exceeding recommended caloric intake that can lead to weight gain. A diet containing more proteins and healthy fats than carbohydrates is preferred for diabetics. Ask your doctor for additional nutritional recommendations.
• Keep good oral health and hygiene habits. Diabetics are at a higher risk for gum problems, and poor oral health can lead to conditions such as gum disease. The three basic steps to avoiding gum disease are brushing at least 3 times daily or after every meal, flossing twice daily and scheduling cleanings with your dentist at least once per year. Up to 80 percent of Americans will get gum disease at least once. Knowing the signs of gingivitis and gum disease and maintaining good oral health can help you avoid it.
• Take medications as prescribed and check blood sugar levels regularly. The easiest way to obtain and maintain healthy blood-sugar levels is to monitor your blood sugar regularly. If you take medication to control your Type 2 diabetes and its symptoms, it is important to take your medication as prescribed. Missing doses of your medication could lead to symptoms of elevated blood sugar, including fatigue, increased thirst and frequent urination.
• Know your numbers: You should generally see your doctor every three months when you have diabetes. Your doctor may check hemoglobin A1c, which tells you the average blood sugar for the last three months, a cholesterol level and your blood pressure. Ask your doctor what your personal goals should be for A1c, cholesterol and blood pressure.
• Screening tests: As diabetics are more susceptible to other medical complications, you should have an eye exam, foot exam and kidney test at least once per year. Most insurance plans cover diabetic exams and other preventative exams.