Diabetes can be kept at bay

Diabetes prevention costs a lot less than treatment, and much of the savings expected from health reform is based on studies like this which prove that prevention works.

Want to save billions of dollars on America's health bill?

Cut the rate at which people come down with diabetes.

(The site from which this illustration was taken, at Doctorsecrets.com, has a great page on diabetes, explaining the cause, the symptoms, effects and treatment in plain English.)

Right now 24 million Americans have diabetes and another 57 million are in a "pre-diabetic" stage. The latter group's risk can be cut in half, over 10 years, with self-discipline on diet and exercise, along with a generic drug called metformin.

The latest study, published in The Lancet's Online First journal, was a follow-up to the Diabetes Prevention Program, an earlier study which showed diet and exercise reduced onset of the disease 34% over four years, and metformin cut it by 18%, compared with rates using a sugar pill.

In the follow-up people who had been on the placebo or metformin were offered the lifestyle program, since it was proven to have benefits.

While some media reports pushed the lifestyle angle exclusively, the study made clear that those who exercised and ate right but also took the drug maintained their weight loss, while those who made the changes without it gained some weight back.

On average, losing weight alone delayed the onset of diabetes by four years, drug therapy alone reduced it by two years. Those over 60 did even better with lifestyle changes than younger patients.

The American Diabetes Association maintains an online test to assess your risks of Type II diabetes.

While it is fun to say "it's their fault," meaning the patients (and it is to an extent), the refusal by society to treat a chronic condition like diabetes runs against medical ethics. It's not going to happen.

Preventable deaths in the tens of millions to suit your ideology are not in the cards.

Prevention costs a lot less than treatment, and much of the savings expected from health reform is based on studies like this which prove that prevention works.

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