One of the most common issues that patients present with at our office (and honestly, one of the easiest to correct) is Type 2 Diabetes. More than 29 million people are estimated to have it in our country, and it still remains as one of the top 10 leading causes of death. Which makes it even more surprising that more people don’t know that diabetes can be corrected and have actually taken the steps to rid themselves of the condition!
One area of fault may lie in our medical practices system. Patients are given a medication to “control” their diabetes (and sometimes a second… and a third… and possibly insulin…), but too frequently not given the proper tools to learn how to reverse it. Many of them begin taking the drug(s) with the belief that they will make everything better and then continue to keep eating and following the same lifestyle patterns that got them into trouble in the first place. Why would you want to “control” your diabetes (and still HAVE it) versus getting rid of it?
If that doesn’t make sense to you, or you don’t believe that diabetes can be reversed because you’ve been told you’ll be on medications the rest of your life, then take note of a new study published in August in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It showed that adding “intensive lifestyle management” to standard diabetes care (diabetes medication and usual lifestyle change advice) brought blood sugar into a nondiabetic range. And it even worked so well that half of the study group didn’t need blood sugar-lowering medications to maintain or improve blood sugar control! (Just like our patients experience…)
In a Denmark study following 100 people with non-complicated type 2 diabetes, the intervention group was prescribed exercise (endurance and resistance) five to six times per week for 30 to 60 minutes per session, in addition to a dietary program with focus on foods rich in fiber, low in saturated fats, lots of fruit and no processed food. The control group followed the standard care mentioned earlier. Average starting A1c level was 6.7 (greater than 6.4 = diabetes) and the participants were roughly half males and half females. In comparing the results for the intensive intervention group versus the standard group, their changes after a year looked like this:
- Weight loss of 13 pounds vs 4 pounds
- A1c dropped from 6.65 to 6.34 vs from 6.74 to 6.66 percent
- LDL and triglycerides were reduced more in the intervention group
- HDL’s increased more as well in that group
- 75% in the intensive group needed less diabetes medication, while only 25% of the standard care group lowered their medications
Good improvements all around! And with these changes would also come cost savings not only on diabetic medications and doctor visits, but also from likely avoiding future diabetes complications (vision issues, kidney problems, peripheral neuropathies, etc.) which add to the cost of treating diabetes.
Now, don’t think I’m not serious when I make this next comment, but I almost have to ask “That’s it?” when I see the A1c changes mentioned from the study. The reason being is that when we re-test blood work on our patients after their first 90 days, we’ve seen starting A1c levels in the 11-9 range drop all the way down to the 7-6’s, and even in the 5’s! And all without drastic interventions like gastric surgery, appetite suppressants, hormone injections or super-low-calorie diets that you won’t continue.
All it takes in most cases is a lifestyle-based approach, following sound advice and with proper guidance. And if there are any other complicating factors such as hormone imbalances or autoimmune issues, those will be taken into account and addressed as well. Yes, it does take effort and doing things differently than you likely have been for years, but in order to be that person you want to become (or become again) you have to be willing to make some changes. The benefits are too many to list, but the basics of better energy, lower weight and less stress on the joints, better blood sugars and improved quality of life are all well within your reach.
One simple study like this one just reinforces what we see every week in the office: taking proper action and control of your health will yield better and more lasting changes than relying on drugs to chase symptoms while not addressing the causes of our health problems. We provide the help, you just need to bring the willingness to change!