22 August 2014

Healthy living saves diabetics a fortune

Diabetics who stick with a fitness and nutrition plan can save a lot of money in health-care costs.


Not only is eating better and exercising healthy for people with diabetes, it can save them hundreds of health-care dollars a year, a new study finds.

Better diabetes control

The study, led by Mark Espeland, a professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, included more than 5,100 overweight and obese type 2 diabetes patients.

Participants ranged in age from 45 to 76, and were randomly assigned to either an intensive "lifestyle change programme" focused on diet and exercise, or to a standard diabetes support and education programme.

Read: Canola oil-enriched diet may benefit diabetics

The patients in the lifestyle group had higher levels of physical activity and maintained a lower body weight, resulting in better diabetes control, blood pressure, sleep, physical function and fewer symptoms of depression, the team reported.

Considerable savings

There were financial savings, too. Over 10 years of follow-up, the patients in the lifestyle intervention group had 11 percent fewer hospitalisations and 15 percent shorter hospital stays. They also used fewer prescription medications than those in the diabetes support and education programs.

Those benefits led to an average savings of $5,280 in health-care costs per person over 10 years, or about $528 a year, according to the study published online in the journal Diabetes Care.

Read: Diabetes and other health problems

The cost savings for people in the lifestyle intervention group were similar regardless of age, initial weight, gender or race, Espeland said.

"Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that is affecting more and more adults, increasing their health-care needs and costs," he added in a Wake Forest news release. "This study shows that by losing weight and being physically active, individuals can reduce these costs."

Unsurprising findings

Two experts weren't surprised by the cost savings.

"It makes perfect sense that an intensive lifestyle intervention, focusing on weight loss and physical activity, would help control diabetes and reduce the cost of medications and complications related to type 2 diabetes," said Nina Eng, chief clinical dietician at Plainview Hospital in Plainview, New York.

Dr. Gerald Bernstein is director of the diabetes management programme at Mount Sinai Beth Israel in New York City. He said that once diabetes develops, costs soar. Patients must obtain medications plus blood sugar testing equipment and strips, and they often have diabetes-linked complications that involve hospitalisations and/or surgery.

Therefore, "it is not surprising that reducing weight will lower the cost of medical care for an individual if they have diabetes," Bernstein said.

Read more:
High-salt diets can cause heart woes in diabetics
Diabetes management in the elderly
Diabetes and the heart

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