Arthritis drug helps diabetes

Doctors have turned back the clock more than 100 years to rediscover a drug that can help the more than 15 million Americans with Type 2 diabetes.

BACKGROUND: As of 2007, 23.6 million American have diabetes, diagnosed or undiagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There are two types of diabetes, type 1 and type 2. Type 2, the most common form of diabetes, takes place when someone doesn't produce enough insulin or the cells ignore insulin. Insulin takes glucose from the blood and transports it into cells, providing necessary energy. When insulin doesn't do its job, glucose builds up in the blood causing many problems including energy-starved cells, blindness, heart attacks and stroke.

CAUSES: Developing type 2 diabetes is a gradual process, but most people with the disease are overweight at the point of diagnosis. Family history and genetics also influence your risk for developing this type of diabetes. Low activity level, poor diet and excess body weight, especially around the waist, significantly increase your risk for type 2 diabetes, according to the National Institutes of Health. Other risk factors for the disease include race/ethnicity, age of over 45 years, previously identified impaired glucose tolerance, HDL cholesterol of less than 35 mg/dL or triglyceride level of greater than 250 mg/dL, a history of gestational diabetes and high blood pressure. Type 2 diabetes is more common in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders, as well as the elderly population.

PREVENTIONThis disease can usually be prevented by lifestyle modifications. The Harvard School of Public Health recommends five ways to prevent Type 2 diabetes. They say exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight, choosing healthy fats like olive oil and avocados, eating a lot of whole grains and cutting back on refined carbohydrates and sugary drinks can prevent most cases of the disease. Another way to prevent diabetes is by watching for symptoms. Having your blood glucose checked every three years after turning 45 is a good was to do this.

TREATMENT: Stabilizing your blood glucose levels helps prevent symptoms, complications and further damage to your body. The first way to do this is by exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet to maintain a healthy weight. If you have diabetes and are taking insulin or diabetes pills, on intensive insulin therapy, pregnant, having a hard time controlling your blood glucose levels, having severe low blood glucose levels or ketones from high blood glucose levels, or having low blood glucose levels without the usual warning signs, the American Diabetes Association recommends you regularly check your blood glucose. Tests are usually done before meals and at bedtime and with a blood glucose meter.

A DRUG THAT REDUCES BLOOD SUGAR: Salsalate is a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication currently prescribed to relieve pain, tenderness, swelling and stiffness caused by rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and other conditions that cause swelling. The drug works by stopping the body's production of a substance that causes pain, fever and swelling.

A study published in Diabetes Care in February 2008 showed salsalate lowered blood sugar and reduced inflammation in obese young adults. Researchers concluded this shows promise for preventing diabetes with the medication in the future. Researchers returned to the topic of salsalate and diabetes in a paper published a few months later in which they proposed salsalate may be used to treat diabetes for the same reasons.


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