Diabetic Apathy?

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When people find out they have Type 2 diabetes, they are likely to be asked by health professionals to make certain lifestyle changes as part of their treatment. Whether losing weight, making dietary improvements, or exercising more, these changes can lead to improved blood glucose control and a reduced risk of diabetic complications. Depending on a person’s situation, they can also be difficult to accomplish.

So it should come as no surprise that a recent survey finds a huge gap between what people with diabetes know they should do to improve their health, and what they actually manage to achieve. More troubling, however, is that many people say they have not even tried to follow lifestyle recommendations.

The survey, part of what is known as the SHIELD (Study to Help Improve Early Evaluation and Management of Risk Factors Leading to Diabetes) study, asked questions of 3,867 people with Type 2 diabetes. According to a WebMD article on the study — which was presented last week at the 71st Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association — 87% of respondents said they knew that obesity could worsen their diabetes. Only 70%, however, had tried to lose weight in the previous year, and only a third had achieved their weight goals and maintained the weight loss for at least six months. When it came to exercise, 63% of respondents said their doctor had recommended an increased level of physical activity within the past year. Only 13%, however, had been physically active in the last week. A full 5% of respondents said they didn’t even try to stay healthy, and 17% said they preferred taking a pill to improving their diet and getting exercise.

According to Andrew Green, MD, who presented the study, the results show that lack of access to health care is not the cause of the respondents’ situation; more than 80% had gone to the doctor at least three times in the past year. Instead, he says, the survey simply reflects a lack of motivation. This could be changed through a tax on sugary beverages, insurance discounts for people who improve their health, and other targeted efforts.

What do you think — are the results of this survey as disappointing as the authors make them out to be? Have you tried to make lifestyle changes recommended to you by a health professional? How well have you succeeded in making those changes? What incentives do you think would make you, or other people, more likely to follow healthier habits? Leave a comment below!

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