4 tips that may help your employees prevent or better manage type 2 diabetes

Living with type 2 diabetes may feel overwhelming at times, especially for employees trying to achieve a healthy work-life balance.

“For people with type 2 diabetes, the disease can dramatically affect how people feel each day and how they show up for their family and employer,” said Dr. Donna O’Shea, chief medical officer of population health for UnitedHealthcare. “Not only that, type 2 diabetes is associated with a higher risk of various health issues, including blindness, stroke or heart attack.”

Indeed, type 2 diabetes can diminish quality of life and contribute to health care costs, both for individuals and employers. One claims analysis showed up to 18% of a self-insured employer’s health care costs are spent on employees with type 2 diabetes, which is one reason why effective management of the condition is so important.

More than 38 million Americans already have diabetes and millions more have prediabetes, putting them at risk of developing this condition.

“Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable,” Dr. O’Shea said. “It can also be more effectively managed through a combination of consistent lifestyle changes, helping achieve better health and avoiding costly complications. That can be good news for workers and their employers.”

Here are four tips to help your team members prevent or more effectively manage type 2 diabetes

1. Learn about the disease.

Look for publicly available resources like the American Diabetes Association’s online program called Living with Type 2 Diabetes, designed to help understand the condition and discover techniques for improving it. Another program called Better Choices for Life brings guidelines into grocery stores, which may help employees make informed choices about what to buy to keep their glucose in a healthy range.

2. Take advantage of technology.

Type 2 diabetes is a condition of too much glucose (or sugar) in the body. To help people monitor their glucose levels, new wearable technologies like continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) can give people real-time insight into how diet, movement, stress and other factors may elevate their glucose levels. This real-time information can help individuals with type 2 diabetes, and their health care team, better track glucose levels and help prevent spikes.

3. Pay attention to plates.

The plate method, a guide from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, may be helpful. This approach recommends people fill half a plate with non-starchy vegetables (broccoli, green beans or brussels sprouts), a quarter of the plate with lean protein (chicken, turkey or fish), and another quarter with healthy carbohydrates (which may include whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans or dairy products). In addition to limiting carbohydrates, first eating the foods on the plate with fat or protein will keep glucose levels from spiking.

4. Go on walks, especially after meals.

Physical activity is very important for people with type 2 diabetes. For example, a 15-minute walk after a meal may help lower blood glucose spikes as the glucose moves from the blood to muscle cells to burn as energy. Consider promoting a daily goal for employees to do multiple short walks of at least 300 steps and one brisk, 30-minute walk of at least 3,000 steps. A fitness tracker is a great way to help monitor health measures like daily steps and sleep patterns.

Worth noting

To help employers with workers dealing with type 2 diabetes, UnitedHealthcare offers Level2®. Grounded in metabolic and behavioral science, Level2 equips eligible participants with empowering tools that include a CGM and activity monitor, plus clinical care and support to help encourage healthier lifestyle decisions, such as food choices, exercise and sleep patterns.

Eligible employers can tap into the Level2 Assured Value Program, which enables them to keep their existing health plan while still taking advantage of the Level2 resources and a potential for financial savings. For employers with eligible self-funded health plans, they can add the Level2 Health Plan. This offers guaranteed total cost of care savings (compared to that year’s projected claims), while employees may qualify for $0 cost share for their diabetes care by engaging with the solution. 

For more information, visit mylevel2.com.

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