Individuals with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes make up about 9% of the U.S. population. This is up from 8% in 2010. Seniors make up the largest group, with diabetes rates currently reaching about 11 million adults over the age of 65. In 2014, diabetes is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States.
Type 1 diabetes is commonly called juvenile diabetes and is characterized by the body’s inability to produce insulin. Patients with this form of diabetes are reliant on insulin injections and some even use implantable pumps to help regulate insulin in the body.
Type 2 diabetes is typically caused by poor health and weight management, as well as the body’s increasing inability to process sugar. It can often be controlled with diet and exercise but some patients may need to add medication to their routine.
Technology such as implantable pumps can be very useful for diabetes management, but they don’t come without risks. In 2008, cybersecurity specialist and Type 1 diabetes patient Jay Radcliff hacked into his own device on stage at the Black Hat conference. He wanted to show how vulnerable these devices could be so these companies could see how to create better security for technology that can save lives. His research has implications beyond diabetes and can help medical device manufacturers create better, more secure technology tools to help with a variety of conditions. In 2013, Radcliff spoke with QMed about his experience and what it could mean to the future of diabetes management.
Implantable pumps aren’t the only forms of technology that can help patients better manage their diabetes. A variety of products and apps can help someone maintain a healthy balance in their lives. Smartphones are opening up an entirely new avenue for individuals to use technology to control their own condition and make smarter, better choices for day-to-day activities and their overall treatment.
Products and apps for diabetes management
Check out these products and apps for diabetes management:
- Wireless blood glucometers: Hand-held devices that measure blood sugar levels are not new for diabetes management. However, some manufacturers are taking these tools to the next level by allowing them to wirelessly connect to a smartphone and track information. This can be helpful for maintaining a daily balance as well as working with your doctor to create the best treatment plan. Manufacturer iHealth has recently released two devices that connect blood sugar level information to an app on your smartphone or tablet.
- Medication management apps: iHealth has also created a wireless, cloud-based medication management app that can help track a variety of health information. The app is available for both iTunes and Android platforms and can help people avoid missed doses or overdosing on medications. These apps can communicate with family member’s apps so families can help with diabetes management too.
- Medical diary tracking apps: There are dozens of applications available for all mobile platforms that can help patients, especially those with Type 2 diabetes, track their health. They can keep tabs on nutrition, exercise, stress levels, and blood sugar test results. Some apps allow for this information to be shared with your medical specialists to help create the best diabetic management programs.
- Reminder apps: Other reminder apps are available including Telemedicine where patients can receive reminders directly from their doctor’s offices. These are reminders that are typically made at appointments but, since appointments can take place with several months between, having regular prompts texted through the app can be helpful.
The future of diabetes management
There are so many possible advancements in diabetes management and treatments that it can sometimes seem like science fiction. Could an artificial pancreas be an option for some diabetes patients in the near future? According to Healthline, it may.
“In an artificial pancreas system, the glucose monitor will send information to an external controller embedded with an algorithm. Using the algorithm, the device will calculate the dosage needed and command the pump to deliver the proper insulin dose. The transfer of information between devices will, in effect, perform the insulin-regulating job of a healthy pancreas. The margin for error will be decreased, and the patient will be freed of the decision-making burden.”
While technical advancements in diabetes management do seem to be improving people’s lives overall, research has shown that it doesn’t always result in better blood sugar level control. U.S. News and World Report published an article to showcase how these new innovations don’t necessarily provide any more advanced blood sugar control than previous methods.
While many patients who use implanted pumps to control their insulin levels report that they have a better overall quality of life, studies are showing that they do not seem to have a better handle on their glucose levels than patients using injections.
However, the continuous glucose monitoring may be beneficial. The researchers believe that whatever type of technology is used by for diabetes management, strict adherence is the most important factor. While technology can make it easier to process this information, human error and resistance to change can still cause a major problem with the disease and treatments.
Whatever form of technology is used, from implanted pumps to smart phone apps, patients still need to be in complete control of their diabetes management processes.
Managing your diabetes
Here are a few steps you can take to ensure that you are meeting your body’s needs when it comes to insulin and blood sugar:
- Continuously learn: Diabetes may not change much, but the technologies and treatments do. Patients should stay up-to-date with the latest diabetes news in order to better understand their own condition and how to manage it long-term.
- Establish the right team: Certainly you will want to work with a specialist to help manage your diabetes, but there could be other healthcare professionals who can work with you to make sure you maintain a healthy balance. You may wish to talk to a holistic provider in conjunction with your regular doctor.
- Blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol: While most people know that healthy blood sugar levels are extremely important for diabetes management, other factors also come into play. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure as well as cholesterol levels can also keep a diabetes patient from experiencing adverse effects of the disease.
- Eat well and exercise: These are two of the most important aspects of living well with a diabetes diagnosis. The right diet and amount of activity can help keep your health balanced. With Type 2 diabetes these things can even eliminate symptoms if done in a healthy way.
What technological tools have you used to help with your diabetes management?
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