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Get the Most Value From Your Diabetes Medicines

Learn how to work with your medicines to get the best care.

Exercise + Diabetes Medicine = Better Control continued...

"The ultimate goal for everyone is to have a normal blood glucose concentration," Robert Rizza, MD, president-elect of the American Diabetes Association, tells WebMD. But in doing so, sometimes it's possible to go too low and develop hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

"As you come down to closer to what normal physiology is, maintaining that balance is more difficult and requires more attention," Rizza says.

"The more frequently you check your sugars, the better it is," Martin Abrahamson, MD, acting chief medical officer of the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard University, tells WebMD.

By testing often and at various times -- before and after meals, in the morning and before bed -- you can create a detailed picture of how your diabetes medicines are working in your body. But not only do you have to test, you also have to remember to record the results and share them with your doctor.

"When patients come and see me at the clinic and say, 'I left my logbook at home,' it's very difficult for me to make adjustments to treatment," Abrahamson says.

Controlling Diabetes: Lower Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

"You really need to start with controlling the blood sugar, because that's the environment in which everything else has to take place," Gavin says.

But that's not all there is to managing diabetes, he says. You must also pay careful attention to your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, both of which tend to be high in people with diabetes.

"Controlling the blood pressure in a person with diabetes is probably the only way that you can protect the kidneys," Gavin says. Keeping your blood pressure within the normal range also helps prevent stroke, and it and may slow the progression of vision loss in diabetic eye disease.

Keeping your cholesterol in check not only lowers your risk for heart disease, it also prevents peripheral vascular disease, commonly called poor circulation --a condition in which clogged blood vessels cause pain and numbness in the legs and feet.

Sometimes the right diet, weight loss, and exercise can get your blood pressure and cholesterol levels under control. But some people may have to take more medications to do so, like a cholesterol-lowering statin drug or one or more blood pressure drugs, such as:

  • ACE inhibitors
  • ARBs (angiotensin-receptor blockers)
  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Diuretics (water pills)

Taking a daily low-dose aspirin helps reduce the risk of heart disease and is also recommended for many people with diabetes, but ask your doctor first.

Diabetes: A Disease That Progresses

"Taking medication should be expected," Abrahamson says.

It's important to realize that diabetes is a disease that progresses. Everyone who has it loses some ability to produce insulin over time. Even if you're able to control your blood sugar now with lifestyle changes alone, you may need to take diabetes medicine at some point in the future.

What's more, if your diabetes medicine is keeping your blood sugar under control now, you may still have to take insulin shots in the future.

Abrahamson says that doctors sometimes use insulin as a threat: "If you don't behave yourself or you're not good, you're going to have to start insulin therapy." But he says that is the wrong approach. "In reality, for many patients, insulin therapy is almost a natural consequence of the disease," he says.

Think about what you have to do to avoid complications, not how you can avoid taking diabetes medicine. With strict control of blood sugar, you can slow the progression of the disease and delay complications for a long time.


Is This Normal? Get the Facts Fast!

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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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