Did you know approximately one in eight Louisianians is living with diabetes? The state has one of the highest rates of diabetes nationwide, and this long-term condition is among the leading causes of death in Louisiana.
In recognition of Diabetes Awareness Month, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Louisiana encourages Louisianians to talk with their healthcare providers and be aware of their risks. Learn more about diabetes and preventive steps you can take in this animated video (1:07).
Diabetes is a condition where someone’s body either cannot make enough or cannot properly use a hormone called insulin that regulates blood sugar. This causes blood sugar levels to increase in the body, which can lead to serious health issues if not addressed. People living with diabetes are at a higher risk for health issues affecting their eyes and vision, feet or limbs, kidneys and nerves. They are also at higher risk for strokes and cardiovascular disease.
“Diabetes is very common, and there are many other people who are pre-diabetic and don’t know it – that can silently cause damage to eyes and kidneys before you’ve even been diagnosed,” said Dr. Dee Barfield, Blue Cross senior medical director and vice president of medical management. “That’s why it’s so important to have at least one checkup a year with your primary care provider. You can go over your health and family history, check on your blood sugar levels and be aware of any risk factors for diabetes you have.”
The good news is that lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, limiting sugary or processed foods, quitting or avoiding smoking and regularly doing light exercises like walking for 20 minutes a day are very effective at keeping blood sugar levels in check, Dr. Barfield added. “Adopting these habits can help you stay on top of diabetes and manage your blood sugar,” she said. “And, for people who are pre-diabetic, making these changes can often prevent developing full diabetes.”
Louisianians can see their health care providers to have their blood sugar levels checked and get a treatment plan for lifestyle changes and medication, if needed. “If your provider prescribes medication for diabetes, it’s very important that you take it exactly as directed,” Dr. Barfield said. “This helps you maintain healthy blood sugar levels and prevent further issues. If you have trouble taking a medication because of side effects, costs or any other reasons, let your health care provider or pharmacist know and ask them about other options.”
Blue Cross members who have diabetes can get health coaching – at no cost! – from the insurer’s clinical team of nurses, dietitians and social workers. Health coaches offer personalized tips, educational materials and support for sticking to treatment plans. Visit www.bcbsla.com/Stronger to connect with a Blue Cross health coach or learn more about Care Management programs and services.
People with diabetes have a higher risk for gum disease (gingivitis) that can advance to more serious dental conditions, such as periodontitis, if not treated. Oral infections can contribute to multiple health problems, so it’s good for diabetic patients to have regular checkups with a dentist, Dr. Barfield said.
“We’ve also seen COVID-19 infections having a greater impact in people with diabetes,” Dr. Barfield said. “If you are diabetic or pre-diabetic, it’s very important that you get the COVID-19 vaccine if you have not already. The vaccines are safe and very effective at preventing death, hospitalization and severe illness from COVID-19.”
COVID-19 vaccines are available to Louisianians ages 5 and older. Blue Cross covers the COVID-19 vaccine at $0 out of pocket for all eligible members of individual and employer health plans. Eligible members of Medicare and Medicaid plans or uninsured patients also can get a COVID-19 booster vaccine at no cost. This no-cost coverage is required by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. If you have questions about vaccine coverage on your health plan, contact Customer Service at the number on your member ID card.