Durham diabetics get tips to manage disease

Apr. 21, 2014 @ 05:36 PM

More than 2,500 Durham residents on Medicaid have diabetes, and their medical costs are more than twice that of non-diabetics, according to research from a nonprofit.

Nineteen percent of the adult Medicaid population in Durham County suffers from diabetes, according to Community Care of North Carolina, a doctor-led organization that helps manage use of the state’s Medicaid program.

More than 90 percent of diabetics have Type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body doesn’t make or use insulin correctly. Unlike Type 1 diabetes, those with Type 2 can improve their condition by losing weight and eating healthy.

“Type 2 diabetes is a very costly but potentially controllable illness,” Tom Wroth, a family medicine physician with Community Care, said. “With Type 2 diabetes, there are ways to prevent complications, improve quality of life and keep medical costs down.”

The organization offers these tips:

-- Maintain a healthy, active lifestyle. It’s important to exercise regularly to control weight, improve the body’s response to insulin and control blood sugar levels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults exercise at least five times a week for 30 minutes a day.

--- Eat a well-balanced diet. A diet containing more proteins and healthy fats than carbohydrates is preferred for diabetics.

-- Maintain good oral health and hygiene habits. Diabetics are at higher risk for gum problems and poor oral health, which can led to gum disease. Three steps to avoid gum disease are brushing at least three times a day or after every meal, flossing twice daily and scheduling cleanings with a dentist at least once a year.

-- Take medications as prescribed and check blood sugar levels regularly. Missing doses of your medication can lead to symptoms of high blood sugar, including fatigue, increased thirst and frequent urination.

-- Know your numbers. Diabetics should see their healthcare provider every three months. Your doctor may check hemoglobin A1c, which tells you the average blood sugar for the past three months, cholesterol level and blood pressure.

-- Screening tests. Diabetics are more susceptible to other medical complications, and should have an eye exam, foot exam and kidney test at least once a year.

“The key to diabetes is staying on top of it,” Paul Mahoney, vice president of communications for Community Care, said. “The chance of having bad complications like blindness or loss of limbs and other crises that land you in the emergency room are then much reduced.”

Mahoney said the rise in diabetes is tied to the increase in obesity.

“If we don’t manage this effectively, the effect on taxpayers could be very high,” he said.