Weight Loss Cuts Care Costs for Diabetes Patients

Overweight individuals with diabetes who lose weight by dieting and increasing their physical activity can reduce their health carecosts by an average of more than $500 per year, according to a new study published in the online issue of Diabetes Care.

“Lifestyle interventions promoting weight loss and physical activity are recommended for overweight and obese people with type 2 diabetes to improve their health,” says Mark A. Espeland, PhD, a professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and lead studyauthor. “This is the first study to show that weight loss can also save money for these individuals by reducing their health care needs and costs.”

The study evaluated 5,121 obese and overweight people between the ages of 45 and 76 with type 2 diabetes who participated in the National Institutes of Health–sponsored Action for Health in Diabetes (Look AHEAD) study beginning in 2001. One-half of the participants at each of thestudy’s 16 sites across the country were randomly assigned to intensive lifestyle intervention or diabetes support and education programs, and their medical histories were tracked through 2012.

Those in the intensive lifestyle intervention group had 11% fewer hospitalizations and 15% shorter hospital stays. They also used fewer prescription medications. Both of these benefits contributed to an average savings of $5,280 per person in health care costs over 10 years (or $528 per year).

Espeland says the people in the intensive lifestyle intervention program maintained lower weights and higher levels of physicalactivity throughout the study than those in the diabetes support and education programs group, resulting in better control of their diabetes, blood pressure, sleep quality, physical function, and symptoms of depression. He adds that the cost savings for those in the lifestyle intervention group were relatively consistent regardless of age, initial weight, sex, or ethnicity.

“Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that is affecting more and more adults, increasing their health care needs and costs,” Espeland says. “This study shows that by losing weight and being physically active, individuals can reduce these costs.”

Source: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

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