Although there is no cure, type 2 diabetes can be reversed through changes to diet and exercise.
November is designated as National Diabetes Month as a reminder of the impact of this pervasive disease. More than 10 percent of American adults have diabetes and another 30 percent are pre-diabetic; the number of children with diabetes is also on the rise. The good news is that, although there is no cure, type 2 diabetes can be reversed through changes to diet and exercise.
Types and of Diabetes and their Risks
There are two types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes often starts early in life and occurs in people who produce little or no insulin, so they must take in insulin, typically via injection or a port. People with type 2 diabetes have issues processing blood sugar and become insulin resistant. Most of the more than 100 million cases of diabetes and pre-diabetes are type 2. Because diet affects blood sugar, especially when extra calories are consumed, it is important for people with either type of diabetes to monitor what and how much they eat.
For people with type 2 diabetes, however, lifestyle changes to diet and exercise can actually reverse the disease. This is the goal because people with “diabesity” — combined obesity and diabetes — are at high risk. In fact, 90 percent of all cases of type 2 diabetes are people with obesity. This undesirable combination can lead to a range of health risks beyond diabetes including heart disease, nerve damage, kidney function deterioration, depression, skin issues, weakness and fatigue. No one wants that!
Type 2 diabetes can develop slowly so many people aren’t aware that they may have diabetes. Common symptoms to look out for include increased thirst and frequent urination, and some people experience a darkening of the skin around their neck and armpits. Hunger and unexplained weight loss are also symptoms. A simple blood test can be used to diagnose diabetes, so be sure to let your doctor know if you experience any of these.
What You Can Do to Control Your Type 2 Diabetes
In short, diabetes occurs because cells start to resist insulin and the pancreas can’t produce enough insulin to manage blood sugar levels. Diets that are high in added sugars are linked to type 2 diabetes due to their effect on the liver and because they cause weight gain. Weight loss reduces the diabetic risk.
Increasing the amount of whole foods and green, leafy vegetables can also help. If this sounds like an overwhelming change, take small steps and start with cutting out sweetened beverages as they are directly linked to development of diabetes. If you’re a coffee drinker, there’s good news: coffee may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes! (But remember: everything in moderation!)
Exercise is equally important because being sedentary doubles the risk of developing diabetes. Even 25 minutes a day is a good start to reducing risk, with the added benefit of lowering weight. Smoking also more than doubles the risk so it’s a good time to implement a plan to cut down and quit for good.
Diabetes is a chronic disease but can be managed with lifestyle changes. Take advantage of National Diabetes Month to educate yourself on the symptoms and potential health challenges of diabetes, and start implementing small, preemptive changes that can reduce your risk and have a long-term positive improve your well-being!
About the Author: Dr. Andrea Pampaloni has over 20 years of communication experience across corporate, academic, nonprofit and government sectors. She provides research and writing services on a range of business issues and industry-specific topics to prepare white papers, articles, proposals, presentations, technical content, and speaking points, as well as marketing-communications content such as blogs, website content, newsletters, news releases and award submissions. Dr. Pampaloni’s research findings have been presented at national and international conferences and published in peer-reviewed journals, and she is a ghostwriter for three books, a Forbes article, and several corporate blogs.