Weekly health rail, with items on diabetes treatment, tips for exercising during pregnancy, how to recognize allergies in children, and more.

Nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes, and as most people with diabetes know, fluctuating levels of sugar in the bloodstream can be dangerous. Because many people with diabetes also have other conditions, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, they often need to manage multiple medications.

CVS Pharmacist Paul Magno answers questions about diabetes treatment and how managing medications can lead to a healthier life.

Q: What medications are commonly used to treat diabetes?

A: Medications used to treat diabetes include insulin and glucose-lowering pills. People with type 1 diabetes, which typically begins in childhood, cannot make their own insulin, so daily insulin injections are needed.

Type 2 diabetes, which typically begins in adulthood and is the most common form of diabetes, may respond to treatment with diet and exercise, as well as glucose-lowering pills and insulin. Different groups of oral medications are often combined or used along with insulin. No single type of medication works for all patients, so you should work with your doctor to find a diabetes medication regimen that fits your needs.

Q: Why is managing medications especially important for people with diabetes?

A: Diabetes is a leading cause of death in the United States. Keeping your blood glucose in the recommended target range can prevent or delay the long-term health problems caused by the disease.

Q: Is there any danger of interactions when taking diabetes medications?

A: Most people with type 2 diabetes take oral medications or a combination of oral medications and insulin injections. In general, diabetes treatments are safe and effective. But like other drugs, they must be used with care, and you should always talk to your pharmacist about all the medications you are taking before you begin any new medication or over-the-counter treatment.

Q: Are there any additional guidelines for taking diabetes medication?

A: Many diabetes medications should be taken at certain times of the day. For example, some work best if they are taken 30 minutes before a meal, while others should be taken with the first bite of a meal.

Taking the right pills at the right times in the right doses can be a difficult task, so it's important to get organized. A pill organizer can be a handy way to keep track of medications.

-- ARA

New study: Patients gain movement long after stroke

A new clinical study has found that even years after suffering a stroke, patients can show meaningful improvements in limb movement and have a better outlook on life.

The study, published online this week in the New England Journal of Medicine, provides the best evidence yet that stroke sufferers can regain limb movement long after an injury, through intensive therapy with specially trained personnel and newly created robotic aids.

The intensive therapy tested in the study takes advantage of neuroplasticity — the ability of the adult brain to "rewire" itself. Researchers say that when neurons die because of a stroke, other brain cells, prompted by assisted body movements, begin compensating for the lost function.

-- Brown University

Did You Know?

A recent study found patients who do not have health care insurance are more likely to delay seeking emergency care for a heart attack. -- JAMA

Health Tip: Exercising during pregnancy

Exercise during pregnancy can help ease a mom-to-be’s discomfort, boost her energy level and improve overall health. Exercise also helps you prepare for labor. Here are some tips to exercise safely:

- Get your doctor’s OK. You'll need to proceed with caution if you have a history of preterm labor, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease or placenta previa.

- Try these activities: Walking is a great exercise for beginners. Other good choices include swimming, rowing and cycling on a stationary bike. Strength training is OK, too, as long as you avoid lifting heavy weights. Remember to stretch and drink plenty of fluids.

- What to avoid: If you're not sure whether a particular activity is safe during pregnancy, check with your health care provider. As your pregnancy progresses, you may need to avoid activities that require you to jump or have a high risk of falling.

- Listen to your body: Stop exercising if you notice blurred vision, dizziness, nausea, abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding or other signs of illness.

-- Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com

Number to Know: 48 percent

A study of adults age 20 and older found that 48 percent of women and 40 percent of men with severe depression are smokers. Among people who are not depressed, 17 percent of women and 25 percent of men are smokers.

– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Children’s Health: When to suspect an allergy

Here are some common clues that could lead you to suspect your child may have an allergy:

- Repeated or chronic cold-like symptoms that last more than a week or two, or develop at about the same time every year.

- Recurrent coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, difficulty breathing and other respiratory symptoms may be a sign of asthma.

- Recurrent red, itchy, dry, sometime scaly rashes in the creases of the elbows and/or knees, or on the back of the neck, buttocks, wrists or ankles.

- Symptoms that occur repeatedly after eating a particular food that may include hives, swelling, abdominal pain.

-- American Academy of Pediatrics

Senior Health: Dancing can help improve balance

Two recent studies found that participation in dance-based therapy can improve balance and gait in older adults.

“Creative interventions such as dance-based therapy have the potential to significantly reduce falls in older persons,” said Jean Krampe, a registered nurse and doctoral student in the Sinclair School of Nursing at the University of Missouri. “In the studies, we found improved levels of balance, gait and overall functionality among seniors who participated in regular dance-therapy sessions.”

Researchers say improved functionality among seniors can decrease their risk of falling and reduce costly injuries.

-- University of Missouri

GateHouse News Service