I love November for so many reasons….the fall season…my little guy’s birthday…Thanksgiving…but I especially love it because it means it is Diabetes Awareness Month and it calls attention to fighting a disease I am so passionate about preventing and managing.
This November, I couldn’t be more excited to partner with Med-IQ for their ‘Injecting Hope Into Type 2 Diabetes’ campaign to bring awareness to this disease and highlight how forming a winning diabetes care team is essential for all people with type 2 diabetes.
This post was developed in partnership with Med-IQ through an educational grant from Sanofi to write about the realities of diabetes as a chronic disease. All opinions are my own.
Could you have diabetes and not know it?
Did you know that more than 34 million people in the United States have diabetes yet 1 in 5 of them don’t know they have it? That’s a staggering statistic. And what is even scarier is that more than 88 million US adults—over a third—have prediabetes, and more than 84% of them don’t know they have it. When you are unaware you have a problem, you cannot act on it. And delayed treatment for type 2 diabetes can lead to a greater risk of future complications. This is why regular screening for type 2 diabetes should be something all of us do every year.
How to best manage type 2 diabetes
This past summer, Med-IQ conducted a national survey of people with type 2 diabetes and found that only 31% of the people with diabetes or caregivers of someone with diabetes said they had a diabetes care team. I was shocked to learn this and also concerned. Managing a chronic health condition like diabetes takes a lot of time, energy, and knowledge. It is not something you have to do alone – and you shouldn’t go at it alone.
When it comes to managing diabetes, I want you to think of your body like it’s a major corporation and you are the CEO. Would you, as a CEO, run an entire company alone? Of course not! You’d hire the best employees to manage a variety of different departments. And the same strategy should be taken when it comes to diabetes management. You are the CEO of your own body. And you need to create a winning team of ‘managers’ for every aspect of your diabetes care.
Who should be on your diabetes care team?
Think about everything that goes into managing type 2 diabetes. You have to consider your meal plan, your fitness, your blood glucose levels, your medication, your stress levels, your mental health….and the list goes on. It can feel stressful to even think about. And since stress can raise blood glucose levels…I don’t want to stress you out! My goal with listing all of these aspects of managing diabetes is to point out how you can’t really go at it alone and expect to be successful without getting overwhelmed. Keeping blood glucose at target levels can help people with diabetes live long and healthy lives and you can manage blood glucose levels with healthy lifestyle changes and medicines. But a team effort will give you the best shot at doing so. Here’s the team members I think are the most critical to have on hand:
- A primary care physician to help manage your overall health
- An endocrinologist specialized in diabetes management to focus on your diabetes management and medications
- Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist (formerly called a Certified Diabetes Educator) to help with education on all aspects of the self management of diabetes
- A registered dietitian to help with meal planning and the impact of diet on glucose levels
- A therapist specialized in diabetes to help manage stress and the mental aspects of living with a chronic health condition
- A podiatrist to ensure foot health and prevent and treat foot ulcers and neuropathy
- An ophthalmologist to ensure eye health
In addition, you may choose to enlist additional specialists depending on your individual needs. How many of these individuals are on your current team?
What questions should you discuss with your diabetes care team?
Once you have your diabetes care team set up, it’s important to understand how to work with them. How often will you meet with each member? What questions will you ask? The answers to these questions will depend on your individual needs and management goals. To help you, it is important to understand what types of diabetes management options are available, so you have the knowledge needed to discuss all of the options available to you with your diabetes care team.
As a healthcare professional who specializes in diabetes, I often hear clients ask why they are bothering with medications. They want to know what the benefits are as well as the potential side effects so they can weigh the risks and rewards.
What treatments are available for type 2 diabetes?
The treatment goal for type 2 diabetes is to keep blood glucose levels in a healthy range to prevent damage to organs such as the kidneys, eyes, and heart to reduce the risk of future complications. How you will achieve optimal blood glucose levels is very individualized. Lifestyle management, including dietary adjustments, regular physical activity, weight loss if indicated, smoking cessation, and even stress management all play a key role. It is possible for some people to manage type 2 diabetes entirely through lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise. However, for others lifestyle changes in addition to medication are needed to achieve glucose targets. If you do need medication to manage diabetes, understanding your options can help guide your discussions with your diabetes care team.
Type 2 diabetes medication management can include oral medications and/or injectable medications. Most people are familiar with oral medications, but the idea of an injectable can seem a little intimidating at first. I think it’s very important to understand that if you have type 2 diabetes, injectable therapy isn’t a ‘last resort’ or being recommended to you because ‘you failed at other attempts’ which is what I often hear my clients say. Injectable therapies are just another medication strategy that can often have promising results for people with type 2 diabetes. So, if your doctor discusses them with you, don’t panic.
What are fixed-ratio combination injectable therapy?
If your doctor has mentioned fixed-ratio combination injectable therapy, you may be wondering what that is and how it works. Here’s the deal:
Fixed-ratio combination injectable therapy includes 2 different treatments for diabetes: insulin and the medicine called glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) receptor agonist. These 2 types of medicine work together to lower glucose levels in your blood:
- Insulin allows glucose to leave your blood and enter your cells (especially between meals and overnight)
- GLP-1 receptor agonists help lower blood glucose levels after a meal; they also slow the movement of food from your stomach (gastric emptying) and can help prevent weight gain
The reasoning for combining insulin and GLP-1 receptor agonists is that the fixed-ratio combination injectables offers more benefits than either one alone. The combination may help you reach your blood glucose goals because it:
- Makes treatment easier—only one daily injection with a pen device is needed
- Targets many different pathways involved in diabetes
- Needs less frequent blood glucose monitoring than some other medicines
- Lowers the risk of weight gain and low blood glucose levels (hypoglycemia)
- Lessens unwanted side effects of each treatment—the risks of weight gain (with insulin) and gastrointestinal symptoms, mainly nausea (with GLP-1 receptor agonists), are lowered.
A fixed-ratio combination injectable therapy isn’t for everyone with type 2 diabetes, but if your blood glucose levels are not well managed with your current medicines, or you are already taking both medicines separately, your physician may discuss this option with you.
Remember, if your doctor discusses injectables with you, this isn’t a punishment or a sign that you are ‘failing’ at managing diabetes. Not at all! Every person with type 2 diabetes is different. Every individual responds to treatment differently. Your diabetes care team will work with you to find the best plan of action to help you meet your glucose goals. And if injectables may be beneficial to you, it’s important to understand how they work so you can ask questions and make the best decision for your own body’s needs.
Want to win $100? Take this survey on diabetes management and you just might!
Med-IQ is conducting an anonymous survey and would love your input on your own diabetes management. The responses you provide (which are anonymous) will provide Med-IQ with important information about your experiences with diabetes and your care team, which will help them to develop future educational initiatives. Once you’ve completed the survey, you will have the option of providing your email address to be entered into a drawing administered by SOMA Strategies to win 1 of 10 $100 VISA gift cards. If you choose to enter, your email address will be used only to randomly draw the winners and notify them of their prize and to send a follow-up survey as part of this same initiative.
Ready to take the survey & get your chance to win? CLICK HERE
The survey contains links to external sites. Any such links are provided as a convenience and for educational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or legal advice, nor are they endorsements of any organization.