Many who live with diabetes are ignoring basic health recommendations

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Tens of thousands of upstate New York adults who have diabetes jeopardize their health status by failing to take basic steps to keep their chronic illness in check, according to data gathered for an infographic issued today by Excellus BlueCross BlueShield.

An estimated 387,000 adults in upstate New York live with diabetes, a serious health condition where the body does not produce or properly use insulin to digest sugar (glucose). Over time, high blood sugar levels can damage many parts of the body, including blood vessels. Diabetes is the leading cause of new blindness, kidney disease and non-traumatic lower extremity amputation. It also is a major contributor to the nation’s leading killer, cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke).

“Physicians can help patients manage diabetes, but patients must be active partners who take charge of their own health in order to maintain or improve overall health status,” said Richard Lockwood, M.D., vice president and chief medical officer of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield’s Central New York region. “Our latest research focuses on whether patients are, by their own admission, adhering to the care recommendations necessary to keep their diabetes in control.”

Using self-reported survey data collected locally and nationally by government health agencies, Excellus BlueCross BlueShield found that 64 percent of adults who have diabetes check their blood sugar at least once a day, as recommended by many health experts, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.excellus-logo3

“That percentage means that nearly 140,000 upstate New York adults with diabetes are not taking just one of several very important steps for their own health,” Lockwood said. Patients who manage type 2 diabetes with noninsulin medications or with diet and exercise alone may not need to test their blood sugar daily. Many people with diabetes test their glucose levels two to four times a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One of the most important steps that a patient can take to improve his or her health is to receive formal diabetes self-management education. According to Excellus BlueCross BlueShield survey data, only 45 percent of patients do that.

The Excellus BlueCross BlueShield analysis, summarized in the form of an infographic, highlights the self-reported rate at which upstate New York patients comply with recommendations made by the HHS, CDC and American Diabetes Association. Click on link for TAKE CHARGE Diabetes info TAKE CHARGE Diabtes smallChart

RECOMMENDATION: Have an A1C blood test (a blood test that shows average blood sugar level over the previous two to three months) at least twice per year
Compliance rate:  67 percent


RECOMMENDATION: Have a complete eye exam, including eye dilation, each year
Compliance rate:  73 percent


RECOMMENDATION: Have a health provider examine feet for sores or irritations at least annually
Compliance rate:  73 percent


RECOMMENDATION: Visit a dentist or dental clinic at least yearly
Compliance rate:  55 percent


RECOMMENDATION: Stay physically active as approved by your doctor
Compliance rate:  53 percent


RECOMMENDATION: Visit a health professional at least yearly for diabetes
Compliance rate:  83 percent


RECOMMENDATION: Get a flu vaccine every year
Compliance rate:  57 percent

“Individuals who live with diabetes can help themselves in very significant ways,” said Lockwood. “But they must take charge of their health by working closely with their physicians to act on these basic recommendations.”

Learn more about living with diabetes, additional information is available from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at