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Diabetes Medications and Diet: Synergistic Success

Help diabetes drugs do their job. A high-fiber diabetes diet and regular exercise are key.

Weight Gain vs. Diabetes Drugs continued...

Drugs like Byetta, Metformin, Symlin, and Victoza have made weight control a bit easier. These drugs stimulate the body's natural insulin-producing capability, plus patients may experience a decrease in appetite leading to weight loss.

Diabetes specialists typically prescribe these diabetes medications in combination with older diabetes drugs to get optimal blood sugar control. "It helps minimize the difficulties of dieting. ... People can restrict calories, exercise more, have more positive results in losing weight," says Anne Peters, MD, director of the clinical diabetes programs at the University of Southern California and author of the book Conquering Diabetes.

Lose the Weight, Take Less Diabetes Medication

Lifestyle is key to keeping weight off -- and to controlling diabetes in the long run. "There's no way around it, and it's hard work, but you have to address it. You don't have to get skinny, but you do have to lose weight," says Anding.

In fact, research shows that losing just 10% to 15% of body weight -- dropping 20 or 30 pounds, if you weigh 200 -- can have a marked improvement on diabetes control.

These lifestyle changes help preserve the body's insulin-producing function, explains Hermes Florez, MD, director of the Diabetes Prevention Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "With weight loss, patients are able to nearly get off insulin. Some patients are able to come off insulin completely."

An NIH-funded clinical trial, the Diabetes Prevention Program, helped show the positive effects of healthy lifestyle changes. A significant number of patients in the study were able to reduce their diabetes risk with a healthy diet and regular exercise like brisk walking -- about 150 minutes a week.

In the early stages of diabetes, weight loss can also help reduce the dosage of diabetes medications you're taking, Peters tells WebMD. "I can't guarantee you will get completely off pills if you lose weight. But it's likely you will need less medicine. It depends on where you are in the disease process, because diabetes gets worse over the years."

Diabetes Diet and Insulin: Better Mealtime Control

Sticking with your diabetes diet makes it easier to calculate mealtime insulin. With new forms of insulin -- including small "pens" to give injections -- even taking your insulin is hassle-free. If you're out with friends, no one needs to know you're doing it.

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If the level is below 70 or you are experiencing symptoms such as shaking, sweating or difficulty thinking, you will need to raise the number immediately. A quick solution is to eat a few pieces of hard candy or 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey. Recheck your numbers again in 15 minutes to see if the number has gone up. If not, repeat the steps above or call your doctor.

People who experience hypoglycemia several times in a week should call their health care provider. It's important to monitor your levels each day so you can make sure your numbers are within the range. If you are pregnant always consult with your health care provider.

Congratulations on taking steps to manage your health.

However, it's important to continue to track your numbers so that you can make lifestyle changes if needed. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

Your level is high if this reading was taken before eating. Aim for 70-130 before meals and less than 180 two hours after meals.

Even if your number is high, it's not too late for you to take control of your health and lower your blood sugar.

One of the first steps is to monitor your levels each day. If you are pregnant always consult with your physician.

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