MONDAY, Feb. 6 (HealthDay News) -- When it comes to the treatment of type 2 diabetes, the first line of defense is lifestyle changes such as losing weight and exercising more often.
But, if those lifestyle changes don't get blood sugar levels under control, the American College of Physicians (ACP) recommends the drug metformin as the first oral treatment that should be given.
If metformin alone can't control blood sugar levels, the ACP advises combining metformin with another blood-sugar lowering medication. But, the evidence isn't yet strong enough for the doctor's group to recommend one medication over another for combination therapy.
"Most diabetes medications do lower [blood sugar], but metformin is more effective with fewer side effects. And, the cost is less," said Dr. Amir Qaseem, director of clinical policy at the American College of Physicians, and the lead author of the new guidelines.
However, the ACP is recommending that metformin only be prescribed after someone has tried to change his or her lifestyle, he added.
"Diet, exercise and weight loss are so important in controlling type 2 diabetes. You can't just give pharmaceutical agents and not have lifestyle changes," Qaseem said.
The new guidelines are published in the Feb. 7 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Type 2 diabetes is a disease that causes high blood sugar levels. Over time, this can lead to blood-vessel damage in the eyes, kidneys, heart and nerves. Almost 26 million Americans have diabetes, and as many as 95 percent of those have type 2 diabetes, according to the new guidelines.
"Diabetes is a really important health-care issue in this country. It's a major cause of morbidity and mortality, and the prevalence of the disease is going up," Qaseem said.
Obesity and a sedentary lifestyle are significant risk factors for type 2 diabetes, although n
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