Amy Tenderich was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in May of 2003. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Diabetes Mine and co-authored the book Know Your Numbers, Outlive Your Diabetes. You will frequently find her speaking at diabetes, health, and social media events across the country.
For many of us with diabetes, prescription medications are already a fact of life—while some of you may be fighting to stay off them.
What you should know is that physical activity and food choices are pillars of diabetes management, to be sure. But medications provide another powerful tool for lowering your blood glucose.
There are many safe and effective meds available these days to help you keep your A1c in range (around 7.0 percent or less), thereby avoiding long-term complications of diabetes and extending your life span. And who doesn’t want that?
The lingering perception for many people is that going on insulin means you have “really bad” diabetes, or that you are about to go into the hospital or even kick the bucket. There’s a reason for this: doctors indeed used to consider insulin for type 2 diabetes to be a “last resort” therapy. Not anymore.
Actually, medical professionals in Europe and more and more in the US are starting to treat type 2 diabetes with insulin sooner because it is simply the best available medicine.
Insulin more aggressively brings your glucose levels down, thus helping you more efficiently avoid the long-term damage diabetes can do. Studies also show that people taking insulin, versus pills or other treatments, actually feel better. In a large-scale study of people with type 2 diabetes in Europe called UKPDS—United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study, nearly 70 percent of participants reported an “increase in well-being” following the change to insulin therapy. An average of one percent reduction in A1c levels was also associated with a nearly 30 percent drop in the risk of microvascular complications (small-vessel damage to eyes, nerves, etc.)
Also: You might be surprised to learn that taking insulin may give you more freedom in your diet rather than less, because you can pretty much eat whatever you like (within reason) as long as you count the carbohydrates and dose accurately for the foods you choose.
Plus, the fear of needles is quite unnecessary, I’ve found, since today’s injection pens take tiny 30-gauge wisps that you can barely feel. Even the syringes for the night-time long-acting insulin sport minuscule needles.
So do not be afraid!
(Remember, we’ve already noted that most type 2s eventually need to take insulin, as the oral medications tend to lose the ability to stimulate your insulin absorption after a decade or so.)