Knowledge is good medicine

Knowledge is good medicine
Diabetes management depends on understanding your medications

by Morna Cook BScPh

We know that more than two million Canadians have diabetes. We also know that about half of these individuals already had the disease for several years before they were diagnosed, and 20 to 30 percent already have complications affecting their eyes, kidneys, feet, or heart. Studies show that even modest reductions in blood glucose levels can help delay or even prevent these complications.

When you learn that you have diabetes, you need to make immediate changes. Choose healthier foods and increase your activity level. Work toward long-term targets for your weight and physical activity level. You’ll not only improve your heart and lung fitness, you’ll reduce your blood glucose levels and insulin resistance, maintain a healthy weight, and improve your emotional and physical well-being.

Experts agree that reducing your A1C to 7% (6%, if safely achievable) or lower in six to 12 months and keeping it at that level will give you the best chance for a healthy future. The A1C (or glycosylated hemoglobin) test gives you an average of your overall blood glucose levels over the past three months. It’s useful because it gives a picture of your overall diabetes control.

To achieve the goal of an A1C 7% or lower, your doctor may want you to start using prescription medications because they’re good tools to help you manage your blood glucose, blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Use the targets that your diabetes care team determines are right for you as your signposts to continued good health.

Unfortunately, studies show that diabetes is a progressive disease that, with time, usually requires more intervention to maintain glucose control. Over time, your body and your blood glucose targets may change and so may your medications.

Don’t feel that you have somehow failed when you need to change your medications; you’re merely responding to your body’s evolving needs. Also, as researchers learn more about the disease, new medications will be developed, offering more options to people who have the disease. It is important to be an informed consumer of your diabetes medications.

This guide will answer some of your questions and may even help you formulate other questions you may want to ask your healthcare team. Knowledge is powerful medicine, indeed! Other places to look for more information include the Canadian Diabetes Association’s 2003 Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of Diabetes in Canada (found at; which the healthcare professionals on your diabetes management team follow. Other websites worth checking include Canada’s Physical Activity Guide to Healthy Active Living at and Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating at



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