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Glucose Control Pays Long-Term Benefits for Diabetics

Analysis shows even small improvements may prevent eye, kidney and nerve damage

WEDNESDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- For diabetics, the key to managing their disease is keeping their blood glucose levels at a normal, low level.

But new studies show just how important this is when it comes to avoiding the complications of the disease, which can include eye, kidney and nerve damage.

Diabetes is a disease in which the body does not produce or properly use insulin, a hormone needed to convert sugar, starches and other food into energy. The studies are based on the analysis of patient records at diabetes clinics in Sweden and also include a large American study.

New statistical methods and the large amount of data made it possible to study the treatments' effectiveness over long periods of time.

"Our results show that the risk of complications 10 to 15 years after the start of treatment probably decreases significantly following even small improvements in blood glucose control," said physician Marcus Lind, who authored the thesis, recently presented at the Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Sweden. "If the treatment of all Swedish diabetes patients could be even slightly improved, we believe that tens of thousands of cases of injuries to the eyes, kidneys, heart, nerves and brain could be prevented."

The American Diabetes Association says that in order to gain tight control over your blood glucose, you must pay more attention to your diet and exercise, and you need to check your blood glucose levels more often.

While you might want to get your blood glucose in line, the real goal is to prevent complications later, but you will also see benefits right away, the association states. You will probably feel better and have more energy, and you can vary your activities more and won't be locked into having your meals at the same time each day.

Diabetic patients shouldn't try this kind of tight control on their own, however, the association suggests. A good health care team is a must. Choose a doctor who understands diabetes and who has ties with other health professionals, such as dietitians.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more about diabetes.

-- Dennis Thompson

SOURCE: University of Gothenburg, news release, May 11, 2009

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