November kicks off National Diabetes Month, a time dedicated to spreading awareness about the impact of diabetes across the country and what we can do to support those with diabetes. National Diabetes Day, also known as World Diabetes Day, is on Nov. 14.
Diabetes is one of the most common health conditions in the United States—it affects more than 30 million Americans, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Many more are at an increased risk of diabetes, especially if they’ve been diagnosed with prediabetes.
Fortunately, pharmacists are in a great position to spread awareness about diabetes in both hospital and community settings. They can act as diabetes educators for their patients and those who may be at risk of developing the disease.
Why diabetes awareness matters
Those with diabetes are typically affected by either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. Beyond Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and gestational diabetes (diabetes during pregnancy) are not uncommon either. Still, many people are unaware of the risks and health complications associated with diabetes. After all, along with high blood pressure, it is sometimes deemed a silent killer.
Defined by dangerously high blood sugar levels, diabetes can sometimes go unnoticed for long periods of time until it’s already done some damage. There’s no real way for undiagnosed patients to “feel” if they have high glucose levels. Given the chance to progress unnoticed, diabetes can lead to severe complications such as heart disease, kidney disease, and nerve damage, among others.
Because of these complications, it’s important to continue going to annual checkups with your doctor. They will typically check your blood pressure, your blood glucose levels, and other risk factors to determine whether you may be at risk. Of course, your family history and other health conditions will also be taken into account when assessing your risk of diabetes.
How pharmacists can help spread diabetes awareness
If you or your loved ones are facing difficulties with insurance or getting the right diabetes care, you should feel comfortable visiting your neighborhood pharmacist for guidance.
Screenings and education
Pharmacies often hold health screenings with a focus on diabetes education. These screenings are usually open to the public, pharmacy patients, and their loved ones. At these screenings, pharmacy staff, pharmacy students, or medical volunteers are available to perform glucose monitoring tests. Those with diabetes or prediabetes will also have the opportunity to discuss their treatment goals and be educated on any concerns they may have.
Pharmacists might also recommend diet and lifestyle changes to help lower the risk of complications. These recommendations may be based on the American Diabetes Association (ADA) guidelines for low-carbohydrate eating patterns.
Many people with diabetes often go to the pharmacy to not only receive their medications but also to find other products like blood glucose monitors or compression stockings. Pharmacists can help teach patients how to use certain devices that their doctors may have recommended. Plus, the pharmacist can also help educate on how to save on supplies and medications.
Medication is key in treating those with diabetes. Diabetes research has found that not taking the right diabetes medication consistently can have serious health consequences.
Since patients get their medications at the same place, the pharmacist can act as a notification alert if they spot anything odd in the patient’s health and medication history. For example, say Mary comes to the pharmacy and the pharmacist realizes she’s late picking up her metformin. This is the perfect opportunity for the pharmacist to ask her about how she’s managing her diabetes. The pharmacist might use active listening skills to determine that Mary is concerned about metformin’s side effects or forgetting to take it altogether. The pharmacist can then suggest talking to her doctor for possible changes in medication or dose, depending on the problem.
Other times, a patient may schedule a medication therapy management (MTM) review to go over their medications. At these reviews, the pharmacist can spend more time with the patient to discuss the right way to take certain medications, possible side effects, drug interactions, and other important things to know about the medication. The pharmacist can also educate on how the medication works and how it will help prevent complications, like kidney failure, nerve damage, and heart disease, in the long run.
Savings on diabetes medication
If you’re taking one of these popular diabetes medications, your pharmacist can also help you save. If you’re unable to afford an essential medication, pharmacists can help you work with your healthcare provider to transition to a less expensive medication—or help you use a prescription savings card like SingleCare to reduce the price.
|Name||Classification||Dosage form||Typical dosage||SingleCare price||SingleCare savings|
|Riomet (metformin)||Biguanide||Oral tablet||500 mg twice daily||$4.00||Get coupon|
|Glynase (glyburide)||Sulfonylurea||Oral tablet||2.5 to 5 mg once daily with the first meal of the day||$11.66||Get coupon|
|Prandin (repaglinide)||Meglitinide||Oral tablet||When HbA1c is < 8%, 0.5 mg with each meal.
When HbA1c is ≥ 8%, 1 or 2 mg with each meal
|Januvia (sitagliptin)||DPP-4 inhibitor||Oral tablet||100 mg once daily with or without food||$392.75||Get coupon|
|Victoza (liraglutide)||GLP-1 receptor agonist||Subcutaneous injection||0.6 mg once daily for the first week, and then 1.2 mg once daily||$876.93||Get coupon|
|Jardiance (empagliflozin)||SGLT2 inhibitor||Oral tablet||10 mg once daily in the morning||$432.94||Get coupon|
|Lantus (insulin glargine)||Insulin||Subcutaneous injection||Initially, up to 10 units per day. Dosage adjusted based on glucose levels and treatment goals||$70.20||Get coupon|
What can you do to prevent diabetes?
Diabetes is a serious condition, but in some cases it’s preventable. At the very least, you can help your loved ones avoid the complications of living undiagnosed with these steps.
Schedule regular checkups
Make sure to schedule your annual doctor visits. Encourage your family and friends to do the same, especially those who have diabetes. You can talk to your loved ones about their blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which can play a role in the risk of diabetes complications.
Make healthy lifestyle choices
You might also try and encourage healthier eating and lifestyle changes among your family and friends. Try engaging in physical activities when you spend time with your loved ones, even if it’s as small as going for a walk around the park. Talk to them about dietary changes that can help improve diabetes and promote healthier habits.
Wear blue for national diabetes awareness month
People around the world can identify the blue circle as the universal symbol of diabetes. Introduced by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF), the blue circle represents unity in the global diabetes community. You can show your support for national diabetes awareness month by wearing blue or the official blue circle logo. This could help strike up a conversation with someone who’s not aware of what it represents.
Attend a screening
You can learn your risk by attending a screening and bringing a friend or family member with you. If your pharmacy is not doing so already, you can encourage your pharmacist to hold diabetes health screening days. Being an active part of the community can ultimately help increase awareness of diabetes.
Stay up to date with organizations
There are many organizations and resources that help support people with diabetes. You can donate to organizations such as JDRF, a nonprofit organization that is leading the global type 1 diabetes research effort to help find new, effective treatments. Other organizations include the Diabetes Advocacy Alliance, the National Kidney Foundation, and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Other useful resources can be found at diabetes.org, the site of the American Diabetes Association (ADA).
Pharmacists and patients alike can help promote National Diabetes Month through a number of ways. By spreading awareness about the risks and complications associated with diabetes, we can help those affected get the treatment they need to improve their overall quality of life. That way, more and more people can live longer, healthier lives.