How is diabetes treated?

Boston Women's Health Book Collective
Administration Specialist

If you have prediabetes, it is advisable to eat healthy, nutritious foods and participate in modest physical activity regularly. A loss of just ten to fifteen pounds can delay the onset of diabetes or reduce the amount of medication you may need.

If you have type 2 diabetes, its progression can often be controlled by diet and exercise. Maintaining fitness and a healthy weight will improve your chances of controlling diabetes. Eat properly before working out, because exercise will lower your blood sugar level.

If diet and exercise alone do not control the disease, oral medication is usually prescribed. People with type 2 diabetes sometimes need insulin. It is especially important for people with diabetes to reduce other risk factors for a heart attack or stroke, such as high cholesterol and hypertension.

Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

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Our Bodies, Ourselves: Menopause

William Lee Dubois

Diabetes isn’t the problem; it's high blood sugar that's the killer. High sugar turns your blood into battery acid that can rob you of sight, kidneys, limbs and ultimately of life itself. So all treatments have the goal of reducing blood sugar so that it won’t harm you.

There are three categories of treatment:

  • Lifestyle
  • Oral meds.
  • Injectable meds

In times past doctors focused on lifestyle first, trying to get newly diagnosed diabetics to eat better and exercise more. While lifestyle change works, I’m actually not a fan of the approach, at least not as frontline therapy.

Frankly put, it’s easier to change your gender than your diet. And that’s if you live in a vacuum. But diabetics have families too, and often families create barriers to significant change.

I don’t like letting diabetes win. Period. So I prefer to break out the big guns from the get-go. I believe in medicating diabetes into submission first, and then looking at lifestyle changes. Once diabetes is controlled, people generally feel better. That’s a good time to talk about how you could feel even better. Lifestyle changes are best taken on in small bites (pardon the pun). Dramatic, radical changes are hard to maintain. Small, incremental changes are more likely to last for the long haul. Maybe that’s why I feel the need to dip into the medicine cabinet first thing, slow and steady change will take too long if someone’s blood sugar is dangerously high. But we can always back-off of the meds as time goes by and lifestyle improves.

Oral meds are pills to help reduce blood sugar. There are a wide variety to choose from and they go about lowering blood sugar in different ways. Some increase insulin production. Some reduce insulin resistance. Some affect hormones that control digestion. Many of the pills can be used together to attack the blood sugar from several sides at once.

Injectable meds include insulin and an array of newer high-tech hormone therapies that are pretty marvelous. Now, I know everyone freaks out at the thought of using a needle. Yikes! But, I gotta tell you from experience, it isn’t as bad as you think it. Really, these new needles we have don’t hurt a bit.

The last thing I want to cover is the fact that diabetes is progressive. It marches forward all the time. Over time, you move from lifestyle, to pills, to shots.  I just want you to know that it’s normal. No fear. Shots are an evolution, not a failure.

The goals for diabetes treatment are reducing vascular complications and preventing hyperglycemia.

There are, however, important differences in treatment for older people. Strict blood-sugar control can reduce complications from diabetes. However, the elderly are at increased risk for hypoglycemia, which can lead to falls and brain injury. Thus, the goals for glucose lowering in the elderly are less stringent than in younger people.

Older people also are more likely to be on multiple medications for other conditions, and greater care must be taken when selecting and using medications to treat their diabetes. Heart failure and renal disease are also more common among older people, and these conditions limit the safety and usefulness of certain diabetes medications. It is important for older people with diabetes to work closely with health professionals to choose the right treatments and to monitor the effects.

Dr. Bernadette Anderson
Family Practitioner

Most people believe, “you get what you pay for.” During these difficult economic times, it brings a sigh of relief to know that some quality things are still free. The best diabetes medicines don’t cost one dime!

Diabetes simply means that there is too much sugar in the blood. If the blood sugar is too high, you may experience increased urination, increased thirst, unexplained weight loss, blurred vision, frequent infections, fatigue or irritability. The body is either not producing enough insulin or the cells are not responding to the insulin that is being produced. In type 2 diabetes, it is the latter. 

Would you like to reduce your prescription drug cost while controlling your blood sugar? There are therapies guaranteed to be effective in diabetes management that do not require a trip to the pharmacy. 

Work it out! Movement is the medication of choice to lower blood sugar. Being active improves the body’s use of insulin and sheds excess fat. Both of which help to achieve a fasting blood sugar of less than 100 mg/dl and a hemoglobinA1c of 6.5 which are indicators that the blood sugar is controlled. Commit to thirty minutes of activity at least five days a week. Also, adding thirty minutes of strength training twice weekly does the body good!

A regular exercise plan along with a balance diet is the ingredients to maintain an ideal body weight which is necessary for optimal blood sugar control. Food choice is the most important medicine in the arsenal to fight against diabetes. Follow the guidelines prescribed by MyPlate, eat plenty of vegetables, fruit (fruit contains sugar so be careful not to overindulge), lean protein, “whole” grains and dairy. In the case of diabetes, you really are what you eat! 

Relax and breathe. Do not stress out. Stress increases the production of cortisol which causes an increase in the blood sugar. Diabetics do not have enough insulin available to combat this rise in glucose. Be aware of your stressors and identify outlets to relieve them. Personal daily retreats, yoga, meditation, journaling and knowing when to say “no” are just a few tools to reduce stress.

Speak with your doctor about lifestyle modifications that can help lower your blood sugar. Until the two of you decide to make changes, continue your medications as prescribed. 

Exercise, eat and exhale your way to good blood sugar control. Who said the best medicines aren’t free?

Diabetes treatment includes more than the supplies from your pharmacist. In this video, Michelle Lalick, RN, BSN, CDE, of Mercy Health, explains that treatment can also include a specific diet and exercise plan.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified healthcare provider.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.