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Many who live with diabetes are ignoring basic health recommendations

An estimated 387,000 adults in upstate New York are living with diabetes But tens of thousands of them fail to take charge of their chronic illness; significantly risking their health in the process.

Diabetes is a serious health condition where the body does not produce enough insulin or properly use insulin to digest glucose (sugar). Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage many parts of the body, including blood vessels, which can lead to harmful conditions. Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness, kidney disease, and non-traumatic lower extremity amputation. It’s also a major contributor to the nation’s leading killer, cardiovascular disease including heart disease and stroke.

While there is no cure for diabetes, it can be managed by keeping blood sugar under control and as close to normal as possible. This is done with proper meal planning, exercise, and in some cases, medicines. If you’re a diabetic, much of the day-to-day treatment is in your hands, which means it’s vital that you learn as much about diabetes as you can and follow through with routine check-ups and tests.

Research conducted by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield focused on the care recommendations necessary for diabetics to keep their condition in control and whether patients, by their own admission, are following them:

  • Have an A1C blood test at least twice per year. This is the best test for you and your doctor or healthcare provider to know how well your treatment plan is working—it shows if your blood glucose levels have been close to normal or are too high. Sixty seven percent of diabetics in upstate New York had their A1C measured at least two times within the last year.
  • See an eye doctor for a complete eye exam once a year. Diabetes can affect the blood vessels in the eye and lead to diabetic eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy—the most common cause of vision impairment and blindness among working-age adults—diabetic macular edema, cataracts, and glaucoma. Of those upstate New Yorkers with diabetes 73 percent had a dilated eye exam in the last year.
  • Have a health provider examine feet for sores or irritations annually. Foot care is essential for all diabetics as one in four people with diabetes will develop foot complications like neuropathy, vascular disease, and injury. Check your feet daily for areas of redness, blisters, or cuts. Protect your feet by washing them every day with mild soap in warm water and wearing comfortable socks and footwear. Seventy three percent of diabetics in upstate New York had a professional foot exam within the last year.
  • Visit a dentist at least yearly. High blood sugar increases your risk for tooth and gum problems. To prevent this, brush and floss every day, see your dentist every six months, and make sure they are aware you have diabetes. Fifty five percent of diabetic upstate New Yorkers saw a dentist within the last year.
  • Stay physically active. As long as your doctor allows it, exercising for at least 30 minutes a day can help manage diabetes symptoms. Keep in mind that a diabetic must be prepared for all types of exercise and bring their glucose meter and fast-acting snacks for emergencies. Fifty three percent of people with diabetes in upstate New York engaged in physical activity within the previous 30 days.
  • See a health professional for diabetes at least once a year. It’s extremely important for diabetics to have regular checkups. Those with diabetes have a weaker immune system, which means they’re more vulnerable to illnesses. So don’t forget about your flu shot! While 83 percent of upstate New Yorkers with diabetes saw their health professional within the last year, only 57 percent of them got a flu shot last year.

It’s important to keep in mind that while physicians can help manage diabetes, patients must be active partners in taking charge of their health.

A great way to start is by participating in the American Diabetes Association’s Tour de Cure cycling event to raise awareness and funds for diabetes research, advocacy programs and education. This year’s event takes place on Saturday, June 9 at the Xerox Complex in Webster. Choose to ride, walk, run—or just show up. For more information or to register for the Tour de Cure please click here.

To learn more about taking charge of your diabetes, talk to your doctor or visit Excellus BlueCross BlueShield online at www.excellusbcbs.com.

Diabetes Infographic link: Take Charge of your Diabetes

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