Cut Your Annual Health Care Costs By $500

According to research published online in the journal Diabetes Care, people with type 2 diabetes who are overweight can slash their annual health care bill by $500 or more by losing weight through dieting and an increase in physical activity.

"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, professor of public health sciences at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and the study's lead author. "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."

For the study, Espeland and colleagues evaluated 5,121 obese and overweight people between 45 and 76 who were diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and who took part in the National Institute of Health-sponsored Action for Health in Diabetes study that began in 2001. Those participants were randomized to intensive lifestyle intervention (ILI) or diabetes support and education (DSE).

Researchers found that the ILI group had 11 percent fewer hospitalizations and 15 percent shorter hospital stays. They also used fewer prescription medications. Collectively, the ILI group had an average savings per person in health care costs of $5,280, or $528 per year over a time frame of 10 years.

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

Photo: Think Progress, Karma Jello

The study found that exercising and eating healthier led to health care cost savings in obese diabetics.