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Real Men Wear Gowns: Managing Diabetes

Dr. Richard Bergenstal talks about managing diabetes and how checking blood sugar levels has evolved.

ST. LOUIS PARK, Minn. — Roughly 10% of Americans are living with diabetes. Once diagnosed, it's critical to develop a good action plan.

"All people with Type 1 diabetes need to take insulin from the time they are diagnosed for the rest of their life, so we have to figure out the best way to deliver that insulin," says Dr. Richard Bergenstal, Executive Director of the International Diabetes Center. 

For Type 2 diabetes, your primary care physician will prescribe any medication and help with a diet and exercise plan to get blood sugar to an acceptable range. If symptoms aren't looked after, there's a long list of complications - some of which can be deadly.

"It's the leading cause of blindness, the leading cause of kidney disease, the leading cause of amputations and it puts you at twice the risk of having heart disease," says Dr. Bergenstal. 

It's critical to stay on top of treatment. People with Type 1 diabetes need insulin. That means checking blood sugar levels throughout the day, which is something Dr. Bergenstal says has greatly improved over the years.

"In the old days, we use to take a lancet, poke our fingers, get a drop of blood, put it on a big machine you had to carry with us," Dr. Bergenstal says. "Today, we have a little patch you can put on your arm or on your abdomen that monitors your blood sugar continually."

Not all people with Type 2 diabetes need insulin. Usually a healthy diet, exercise and occasional medication are enough.

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"Those medications can not only lower the glucose but some of those medications today specifically prevent heart disease or kidney disease which is so prevalent in Type 2 diabetes," Dr. Bergenstal says.

Since Type 2 occurs most often in people over 45, if caught in the early stages and the proper changes are made to diet and exercise, there's a 40% - 60% chance of preventing the disease from developing at all.

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