It’s certainly possible to have too much of a good thing. This is especially true in medicine. Particularly for diabetic patients getting treatment for high blood sugar.
I’ve been advocating against diabetes overtreatment — among colleagues and patients alike — for as long as I can remember. And I’m really hoping that a new analysis featured in the journal Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism will put this debate to rest, once and for all.
But even if physicians aren’t paying attention, I want you to keep this study in mind the next time you’re discussing diabetes treatment goals with your doctor. Because given the findings, it’s clear that you’re going to have to be proactive if you want to dodge this bullet.
This research studied diabetics in The Netherlands, so the assessments were based on targets set forth by the 2013 Dutch College of General Practitioners guidelines. The recommended guidelines we’re going to discuss today are for glycated hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels, which measure a patient’s average blood sugar level over a two- to three-month span. For patients 70 and older, these guidelines recommended the following:
- an HbA1c of 7 or lower for patients relying on lifestyle and metformin only
- an HbA1c of 7.5 or lower for more recently diagnosed patients being treated with other blood sugar drugs in addition to metformin
- an HbA1c of 8 or lower for long-term patients, who have been diagnosed with diabetes for a decade or longer
According to the researchers, roughly half of the over-70 subjects in this study — 165 of them, to be exact — should have a target HbA1c above 7 percent. (Which is exactly how I treat my diabetic patients. Pushing numbers lower than this causes more problems than it solves — not least of all, a higher risk of death.)
But their observations told a different story: Of these 165 patients, 40 percent had levels below 7, thanks to overly aggressive intervention. In other words, according to this study, one out of every five diabetics over the age of 70 are being overtreated.
What’s worse, these aggressive treatment protocols continued, even after reports of hypoglycemia or falls (which flooded in at a rate of 20 percent and 30 percent, respectively).
I wish I could say I was surprised. But honestly, this is just so typical. Many doctors will prescribe additional drugs to counteract troublesome side effects, rather than using a commonsense approach and just taking the patient off of the medication — or at the very least, adjusting the dose.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This “one-size-fits-all” approach to healthcare simply doesn’t work. As doctors, we should be treating individuals, not numbers. And it doesn’t take a medical genius to recognize when a patient is having a hard time tolerating treatment.
The fact is, the benefits of strict blood sugar control have never been proven in older diabetics with a long history of health problems. And in these cases, aggressive treatment could shorten lives — not save them.
I’ve discussed this problem before, both here and in my monthly newsletter Logical Health Alternatives. (For a rundown of the risks of hypoglycemia, check out my August 2013 issue. And the details of my all-natural, crash-free blood sugar support protocol are in the April 2015 issue. To access the archives, log in to the Subscribers section via www.DrPescatore.com. Not a subscriber? Simply click here to sign up!)
Sadly, however, it seems that I’ve been the only one paying attention to this problem. Until now, at least. What a refreshing change to see the traditional medical community actively considering the plausibility of using too many drugs. So maybe things will finally start to change — much to the chagrin of Big Pharma, I’m sure.
I certainly hope so. Because while overmedication is the status quo for just about any American health problem you can imagine, for older diabetics in particular, these dizzying treatment regimens deliver potentially lethal returns.
P.S. I’d like to invite readers of my Reality Health Check to a FREE webinar I’m hosting tomorrow, Tuesday, March 13th at 3 PM EST. This will help people who have trouble getting quality sleep on a regular basis. I’ll be discussing strategies and drug-free options for getting the best rest of your life. You can sign up for my Perfect Sleep Summit by clicking here or visiting www.PerfectSleepSummit.com. I hope you’ll join me!