A diabetes diagnosis can be hard news for a patient to hear, but a new study shows it can be a teachable moment for doctors to improve the health of the patient’s entire family.
Diabetes is a chronic health condition affecting more than 29 million people in the United States. Often, a diagnosis brings lifestyle changes because most of the care for the illness takes place outside of a medical setting.
This makes family members a big part of a patient’s treatment, from providing moral support to helping the person stick with healthy behaviors, like monitoring blood glucose levels, taking medication and committing to changes in diet and physical activity.
Researchers from Kaiser Permanente Northern California conducted a study on whether the spouses and partners of patients diagnosed with diabetes also changed their health behaviors based on their new familiarity with the disease.
Over 180-thousand couples were chosen to participate in the health survey from 2007 to 2011. More than 80 percent of the couples had one partner who was recently diagnosed with diabetes, while 20 percent of the group had no diabetes present in either partner.
Researchers found partners and spouses of patients with diabetes were more likely to participate in healthy activities, such as weight management and blood pressure screening.
The researchers suggested that when doctors are delivering a diabetes diagnosis, they should use the opportunity to improve lifestyle behaviors of the patient and their family. With the rising numbers of people being diagnosed with diabetes, this is one way to intervene — before the disease gains a foothold.