Just decades ago, there were no proven ways to prevent diabetes and its complications. In 2013, this disease can be delayed or prevented with more advances being discovered to control diabetes. Because of ongoing progressive research, people with diabetes today have a lot to be thankful for.
- Once upon a time it was inevitable for people to suffer complications from diabetes. Insulin from cows and pigs was administered along with drugs that caused low blood sugar and weight gain. Many people were allergic to animal insulin. Urine testing was done rather than blood testing, which was far less accurate. Culprit genes were not yet identified. There were no national efforts to combat obesity and encourage physical activity.
- Today there are simple ways to help prevent or delay diabetes. For example, losing 5 to 7 percent of your body weight and exercising 5 days a week for 30 minutes can make a big difference. The Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) funded by NIH offers educational campaigns to help people at risk take steps to prevent diabetes through lifestyle changes. People learn being overweight or obese can lead to diabetes and other complications such as heart disease. Patients also have improved tests to monitor their blood glucose levels throughout the day to achieve better levels. Blood glucose testing takes just a few seconds with less blood required than 10 years ago. The process is faster, simpler and almost painless.
- Recognition of the importance of A1C levels led to better forms of insulin and improved diabetes medications. Many times blood glucose can be lowered without weight gain. Some medicines target the metabolic abnormalities of type 2 diabetes to help prevent or delay the need for insulin. Patients who need insulin get a healthier synthetic version and also have access to rapid-acting insulin. Administration methods are simple to use at work, home or anywhere the patient goes. Innovative insulin pumps are easy to use and ensure the patient receives the right dosage of insulin throughout the day.
- Progressive drugs have been developed to prevent and control diabetes. For example, studies revealed the medication Metformin helped reduce the development of diabetes by over 30 percent. People with diabetes also know maintaining tight blood sugar control matters. Keeping A1C levels below 7% can prevent or delay diabetes nerve complications.
- Physicians and patients are now aware of lipid control and blood pressure reduction to minimize diabetes large vessel complications. People with diabetes use blood pressure monitors at home to report any abnormalities to their health care providers. Advanced technology makes it simple to monitor blood pressure and blood glucose levels anytime of the day.
- People eat a healthier diet including vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy, whole grains and protein. They know to steer clear of saturated fats, sugar and processed foods. They realize the importance of daily exercise and maintaining a healthy weight. Self-management is an essential way to help prevent and treat diabetes.
- Since 1992, improvements in risk control have added at least one year to the lifespan of people with diabetes. Better treatment has also helped to improve the quality of life by reducing complications such as lower limb amputations, blindness, coronary heart disease and kidney failure. Urine tests are done to detect kidney disease with less than 10 percent of patients developing kidney failure. Additionally, Medicare now covers diabetes education and blood glucose monitoring materials. People can now get the knowledge and help they need to control the disease. Patients are advised to schedule regular appointments with health care providers such as ophthalmologists, podiatrists, dentists and dietitians to prevent related health issues.
- The future is also bright because research has identified almost 40 gene regions associated with the increased risk of type 2 diabetes. This can help researchers and physicians develop new ways to prevent and treat diabetes. More money is being devoted to diabetes research to improve treatment methods and lower the cost for patients.
Just a few decades ago, people with diabetes felt little hope after hearing the diagnosis. Today innovative methods help to prevent diabetes and related complications as well as treat it more effectively. Knowledge is power and ongoing research continues to improve the quality of life for people with diabetes.